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Trichotillomania – Chronic Hair Pulling

Trichotillomania, or trich, refers to a compulsion to pull hair from areas of the body, like the eyelashes, eye brows, and scalp and sometimes from other parts. A person with trich may pull out the hair on the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or other areas of the body. They will experience a sense of relief or satisfaction after pulling, or use the behavior as a way to cope with uncomfortable feelings, like stress or anxiety.

As with most disorders, my first suggestion is to see your health care practitioner to make sure there are no physical causes for your pulling. Things like allergies, lice, or other problems can lead to hair pulling, and their treatment is very different than hair pulling that is strictly behavioral. Also, if you are concerned that you have anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or any other mental health issue, see a qualified practitioner in person to get a complete evaluation and treatment plan that fits your needs.

Video here: http://youtu.be/snaOhexQ1fQ

Now, let’s talk about some ways to reduce and eliminate hair pulling.

Tips to Stop Pulling:

  • Keep track of your pulling on a chart or in a journal. This will serve a few useful purposes – it keeps you accountable for how often you pull and for how long, it can help you notice any patterns, such as pulling more when things are stressful at school or work, or when you have not had enough sleep, or too much sugar or caffeine. It can also help you notice progress as you begin to pull less.
  • Wear a bandana, scarf, or headband to bed to avoid pulling hair on the scalp while you are asleep.
  • Set small goals and reward yourself when you meet them. For example, your goal may be to go one day without pulling. Once you meet that goal, reward yourself and then move on to the next. Baby steps are fine. 
  • If you feel the urge to pull, stop for just a moment and ask yourself what you really need. Are you hungry, thirsty, bored, sad or tired? Pulling your hair isn’t an answer to any of those needs. Once you identify what if really going on with you, try satisfying the real need. The compulsion to pull should lessen once you begin to listen to what’s underneath those urges.
  • Talk with a person you trust about the disorder, or join a support group. Knowing you are not alone can be a big help.
  • Wet hair is not as easy to pull – if you feel like pulling and you’re able to, wet your hair with a spray bottle. If you can’t, another similar technique is to use hand lotion or gel – this can make it more difficult to pull.
  • Keep your hands busy with activities other than pulling your hair. Keep a pencil so you can doodle, play a game on your phone, learn to knit or crochet. Buy a fidget toy, a spinner ring, a bracelet – something you can wear and easily touch and fidget with to keep your hands occupied.
  • Diet can affect your pulling habit. Limit or eliminate things like caffeine and white sugar. Replace them with nutritious foods, and try to have healthy snacks nearby.
  • Brush your hair and keep it clean and conditioned. Remember, for some people, touching the hair is fine. It’s pulling that is the problem. However, for others this can be a trigger, so follow your feelings and do what is best for you.
  • Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Use the journal as a safe place to vent or process events of your day, goals, and progress.
  • Make a vision board – all you need is a piece of paper, some glue, scissors, and old magazines. Cut out pictures and words that represent what you want in your life and glue them onto the paper, like a collage. Put your vision board up where you can see it often.
  • This is not one of my favorite techniques because it hurts, but for people who describe zoning out when they pull, some use a rubber band around the wrist – they snap it when they feel the urge.

Trichotillomania is not always easy to treat, but if you are ready and willing to take the steps needed to recover from this disorder, my suggestion is to find a therapist who understands trich or join a trich support group. Be gentle with yourself as you progress through recovery, and give yourself credit for every hour you can go without pulling.

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1 thought on “Trichotillomania – Chronic Hair Pulling”

  1. Some real helpful tips right there, thanks! I really think that keeping track of the pulling can go a long way. People often underestimate this, which is pity. You can learn so much about yourself and your behaviors just by keeping a journal.

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