Why You Need To Know About Trichotillomania

hair pulling

by Charly Suggett |
Published on

I never thought of it as a serious problem, something I would need to tackle. It was just something I’d started after I lost my Dad at 11 and would probably be part of me for the rest of my life. It was only when the patches began to join to create one and cover the top of my head that I realised I needed to do something.

This is trichotillomania, a condition which causes you to pull out hair on your body as a coping mechanism, a way to wind down, a stress reliever if you will. It’s still very much a work in progress but over the years I have tried things like wearing a hat indoors, clenching my muscles every time I felt the urge to pull, marking down a tally system each time I pulled (my hair) … the list goes on. Some people pull out their eyebrows or lashes amongst other places, however I have only ever pulled from the scalp. Some of it I am aware I’m doing, sometimes I even allow myself a couple at times of high stress as a release but half of the time I don’t even know I’m doing it and I’m then faced with a thinning or bald patch, sometimes in a matter of hours if I’ve been particularly violent with it.

One strategy I’ve used for the last five and a half years which does help is using an Intralace system from a specialist consultancy, Lucinda Ellery. After I moved to London I’d felt stressed after the breakdown of a relationship and new money worries and the perils which came with the new city. The separate patches had now joined forces to create one horrific bald stripe all the way down the top of my head and there were less and less ways I was able to hide it. Lucinda offered a system which was able to cover the patches and create a defence in the hope that I would stop. The best thing as that I was able to have a centre parting for the first time since I was about fourteen - I’d had a comb over until then and I was then twenty two, that’s a long time. This new hair gave me life.

It doesn’t affect me too much day to day, swimming can prove tricky as I have to control the way my head comes out of the water so that it doesn’t scrape back and reveal the connections/join. The main concern is with romantic dalliances, imagine someone feeling the connections in your hair or trying to run their hands through it (doesn’t happen as much as I’d like though). I usually approach the issue with honesty from the start, as a way to ‘beat them to the punch’ because I would rather lay the cards out on the table instead of someone perhaps noticing something is different about my hair and making up their own mind.

I’m still in the process of trying to tackle it and finally stop tearing my hair out after doing it for more than half of my life. I am currently working on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to work out why I do it, when I do it and any other issues which can lead to it. Some can stop within a matter of week and became pull free for the rest of their life, I’m hoping that will be me some day too. With all of my own hair, which I can scrape back any time I like and have my own centre parting. One day.

Can trichotillomania be cured?

Yes, some find help through Hypnosis, others CBT (mentioned earlier) or simply their own at home methods eg. diaries, hats and preventative thoughts.

Can it cause permanent hair loss?

If pulled enough then yes. The hair follicle only has so many lives and eventually some may never grow back. The stress caused to the follicle can cause a lot of the regrowth after a while to come back white or grey also.

Why does trichotillomania happen?

I can link mine back to a specific time in my life but some people can just start one day. They may claim that they’ve never suffered a significant trauma that they can pin point. Sometimes through therapy they can work together to try to find out what exactly did cause it. Tricho has similar traits also to that of Compulsive Skin Picking in the ways that you get this huge sense of relief and pleasure from the picking even though often the damage you are doing to yourself is right there in front you.

Is trichotillomania OCD?

Trichotillomania is not directly an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder however it is a disorder which involves actions and urges which do co-exist with OCD. Before you pull you usually have a high level of stress or tension and afterwards you have a sense of gratification and relief.

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