Are you someone who feels the need to pull out your own hair? Whether it is your eyelashes, eyebrows, or the hair on your head, these urges are known as Trichotillomania. You are not alone in feeling this way, but you should not be ignoring the fact that you have these urges. This post is going to explore what exactly Trichotillomania is, its causes, and how the symptoms can be treated.
What Is Trichotillomania (Trich)?
People who experience Trich feel an intense urge to pull themselves out and experience significant discomfort until they do. Once they pull their hair out, they experience a feeling of relief. Trich tends to be exasperated when an individual is stressed or anxious, however, it can also occur without the person even thinking about it. Those who experience Trich typically pull out hair from the following areas:
- Pubic area
- Arm/leg hair
Those who are affected by the condition tend to keep it to themselves, and it can trigger feelings of low self-esteem, shame, and depression. This can be a highly sensitive topic, and so if you have a friend, child, or relative who is showing signs of Trich, approach it carefully and avoid saying unhelpful things, such as “Why don’t you just stop picking your hair?”.
What Causes It?
Nobody is sure what causes trich, however, there are a few theories that doctors think are the likely reason behind it. The first likely cause is that it is a coping mechanism adopted to deal with stress and anxiety. When people find themselves in high-stress situations, the hair picking increases, sometimes without the individual even being aware of it. Another possible explanation for Trich is that it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, this imbalance is also linked to anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can occur at any age, but teenagers are especially prone to it due to their hormone changes.
Some people have described the act of hair pulling to be addictive, and that the more they pull their hair out, the stronger the urges are to keep doing it. The addictive feelings associated with Trich have not been explored in-depth, and this is likely because it affects a small part of the world’s population.
Things You Can Do To Help With It
If you are reading this and feeling like you can relate, do not worry, as there are ways plenty of things that you can do to help with it. Firstly, take comfort in knowing you are not alone as it is estimated that 1 in 50 people will experience Trich in their lifetime. An online support group at GROW offers an online community with support and coaching for people with trich. Being part of a community of people who understand you and who are going through exactly what you are going through can be comforting. You will always have someone to turn to because sometimes it’s easier to open up to someone online as opposed to your family and friends.
If joining an online community is not enough for you, or you just want a bit extra help with it, you can try and swap out picking behaviors with behaviors that are not harmful to you. Recommended treatments include the following.
- Keep a diary that tracks when the urges to pick hair happen.
- Understand your triggers and learn how best to avoid them.
- When urges arise try flicking an elastic band or squeezing a stress ball instead of picking your hair.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – this is a type of therapy that aims to undo your current negative cognitive thinking patterns.
When Should You See A Doctor?
If you are or a loved one is struggling to cope, or experiencing an increase in hair pulling, you may want to contact your doctor. There is no shame in doing so, and they will be able to provide you with the necessary means you need to be able to overcome this obstacle. If you have a child who you can see might be struggling with Trich, taking them to the doctor sooner rather than later is strongly advised. This way you can get in early and help to undo negative patterns before they get cemented over time.
Ultimately, you should never ignore having the urge of pulling out your own hair. It is not a healthy habit, and the sooner you try to tackle this problem the better.