Living with a Hair-Pulling Disorder: What Can You Do?
Whether it’s to relieve stress or is habitual, hair-pulling is a mental disorder that involves irresistible urges to pull out hair from parts of your body, including scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, genital areas, beard, or mustache. In more specific terms, this hair-pulling disorder is called Trich (short for Trichotillomania), a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB), previously known as an impulse control disorder.
Did you know that Megan Fox, the Transformers movie co-star, reported that she too suffers from the compulsive urge to pull her hair? Trich can happen to anyone, but you don’t have to be ashamed of it. Like the beautiful Ms. Fox, you can also overcome your condition by staying positive while going through stress and hardship and come out stronger and more beautiful. Other than her, Olivia Munn, Charlize Theron, and Justin Timberlake have all been diagnosed with hair pulling disorders.
Trich is common in teens and young adults. It develops between ages 9 and 13 and reaches a peak in prevalence at 12-13 years. Trichotillomania is estimated to affect approximately 1% to 4% of the population. With a 1% prevalence rate, over 2.5 million people in the United States may encounter Trichotillomania at some point in their lives. According to a college study, 6 out of 1000 individuals indicated signs that they may develop Trichotillomania in their life.
What Can It Do to You?
Trichotillomania, in severe instances, can result in permanent hair loss or skin damage. Hair follicles have been proven to be damaged by frequent hair pulling. Because Trichotillomania is a repetitive compulsive disorder, individuals who suffer from it frequently encounter damaged hair follicles. As long as Trichotillomania remains untreated, it will enormously impact your mental well-being.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Anxiety and stress
- Self-esteem issues
- Noticeable hair loss
- Skin irritation and tingling
- Inability to stop pulling hair
- A sense of relief after pulling out hair
- Unconscious hair pulling
Patches of baldness that result from hair pulling from the scalp can be unpleasant and disrupt social or occupational performance. Trichotillomaniacs may go to considerable efforts to hide their baldness. For some people, the impulse to pull their hair is so strong that they can’t help but do it. However, many people have found relief from their hair-pulling habits given the various treatment methods.
Tips to Manage Trichotillomania
In simple words, you can either consult a professional doctor to provide you with a therapy treatment or take on the challenge on your own. Either way, treating Trich is a little complex but not impossible to do.
Medical and professional treatments proven to show an effective result can include:
· Habit Reversal Training (CBT Treatment)
This treatment is the most effective way to get rid of your Trich condition. It involves in-the-moment tracking and recording your hair-pulling urges, including their date, time, location, thoughts, and feelings, recorded before and after the behavior. This helps identify patterns and suggest strategies to reduce the likelihood of pulling hair.
Your therapist may ask you different questions about your condition, and if you remain open to them, this treatment will work for you. But remember that everyone is different, and you may take some time to work around the techniques to find ones that help you out.
· Cognitive Therapy
This therapy involves diagnosing and evaluating where your Trich situation comes from and helps you identify and examine the biased beliefs that you may have about hair pulling. Once your therapist figures out the sensory factors, they help you reduce and eliminate those situations and sensory aspects. You learn more about your emotions and how to manage them to stop the urge to pull. Understanding and accepting them may be complex, but once you do, it’s effective.
Things that you can try yourself to help you reduce the urge to pull your hair:
- Squeeze a stress ball or pop some plastic wraps when you feel the urge to pull out hair.
- Wear a bandana or a beanie to avoid touching your hair more often.
- Take a soothing bath to release your anxiety.
- Start using a fidget toy.
- Practice deep breathing until that urge fades away.
- Avoid caffeine before bed because it keeps you up longer and heightens anxiety.
- Brush your hair instead of pulling them out.
- Distract yourself as soon as you see your hand going up to pull hair.
- Look in the mirror every day with hands behind your back until the anxiety pull lessens. This is a type of exposure therapy.
- Take good care of your hair to realize that pulling it out will damage them, and you’ll get the courage to grow more.
- Pet an animal. If a pet’s fur runs through your hands, it’ll stimulate the senses and ease your anxiety.
Many other ways can help you manage your Trich situation, but everything won’t work for you. You’re different, and your solution to this problem will be too. Try out things and see what’s the best of them all!
Seek Professional Help
If you or anybody you know has these urges, contact your medical professional, behavioral healthcare professional, or a trichotillomania support group. Don’t compromise your social relationships, academic performance, job performance, or any other aspect of your life. Having Trichotillomania doesn’t just go away on its own. It’s a mental illness that has to be addressed.
At Houston OCD, our counselors have years of experience and training in OCD and anxiety disorders. We can offer you the most effective therapy treatments to treat your condition, and that too at an affordable cost. Please get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to help.