Written by: Skye McAdams
Having Trichotillomania, at first, is like living on an isolated island in the middle of nowhere – that even the idea of trying to describe such a metaphorical island is a tad pointless because no one will find or see it. Yet I guess that’s what it’s like trying to describe to people that you have Trich; it seems utterly pointless because people stare at you as if you are either a nutter, weird or someone making a fuss out of nothing. I mean, how do you tell people that you sit in front of a bathroom mirror, for up to an hour, strategically deciding which eyelash to pull out next to satisfy the anxious voice in your head because you’ve made a mess of trying to pull out that one particular lash for a long time now?!
For anyone who doesn’t know, Trichotillomania is a Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour disorder where the individual feels the overwhelming urge to pull out their hair. Yes, the saying that one is so stressed that they can pull out their hair is an actual, legitimate thing. Those affected by the condition, who some prefer to be called Trichsters, can pull from all over – from their scalp, to their eyelashes, to their legs, heck, even their pubic regions! That itself makes it hard to tell people because a minority of people will look down at you for openly admitting that you pull your pubes. What can we say – they’re the easiest to pull out!
But back to this metaphorical island – why exactly is it so hard to talk to people about having Trich? From personal experience and after talking to other Trichsters, the same thing seems to arise: our condition is immediately dismissed. The first time I told a professional about it, I was a sixteen year old girl on the verge of breakdown; yet this so called “professional” merely stated it was a bad habit that would go away after exams. Spoiler alert, it didn’t. I literally pulled out all my eyelashes. Plus, my eyebrows were quite bare too. In fact, both my lashes and brows still haven’t grown back yet and the last time I pulled was nearly two years ago! Having someone dismiss something I knew was more than just “a bad habit” was deflating and really lowered my self-esteem, which was pretty low to start with. I kept pulling and it became more frantic the longer it went unnoticed and untreated.
Something that is quite common are pulling sprees. This is when the urge to pull is too much to control and you can find yourself pulling out large quantities of hair in short to long periods of time. At my worst, I pulled out fifty eyelashes in less than ten minutes. I know this because each time I pulled it out, I would put it on my wall; mirror; poster – anywhere and anything I could see them on. It’s not surprising that some see this as a form of self-harm or OCD given how a person reacts in a pulling spree.
However, I want to conclude on something positive for fellow Trichsters! I have been pull free for nearly two years now and the urge to pull has continued to decrease each day! Some days all I want to do is rip out a hair, but that’s why we learn techniques to stop that from happening. I draw little doodles when I feel the urge to pull, like 3D boxes and I do it until I don’t feel so bad anymore. Or I tug on a piece of string, elastic band or any form of fabric – basically, anything that keeps my hands busy. If the hands are being used for something productive, you won’t be able to pull and the urge will decrease! Living with Trichtillomania isn’t easy, but you are NOT alone and the moment I realised that through online support (such www.trich.org) I soon realised that I’m not on that isolated island in the middle of nowhere. In fact, I am part of a large community who support me through lows and offer advice how to live with such an unknown condition. It’s time to change that though – it’s not just a bad habit and the sooner that is realised, the sooner we can support the 2 in 50 people who are diagnosed with Trich.
Image credit: Randi Boice
Skye McAdams, is an University student who is studying Drama. Keen writer and runs her own blog: http://thedailycomplains.blogspot.co.uk/ [When Life Hands You A Lemon…] Uses this blog to discuss daily life – from the highs to the lows; to promote musicians; discuss a variety of interests and to raise awareness for Mental Health. Loves to hang with friends and spend time with family. Also loves a good pun or two!
Skye thank you for writing about this. For some reason people are more embarrassed about pulling their hair out and picking than many other things. So bringing it out in the open is truly wonderful. Good for you.
Thank you for reading. It’s a shame that people feel embarrassed or ashamed of guilty for having this condition. I truly believe, though, that people will soon start taking notice in Trichotillomania and the stigma will be decreased.
I didn’t know there was such a thing as a condition characterized solely by hair pulling. Thanks for educating us. (I experience hair pulling as well, but only as part of other self-harming behavior when under too much stress.)
I’m very happy that I was able to educate someone on this and I wish you well. Stress is a key factor to pulling and can be hard to stop. Just remember: deep breaths and keep those hands busy!
As a severe OCD sufferer, I had never heard of this until my little niece was diagnosed with it. I have to admit I was ashamed to not have known anything about this. I wasn’t sure what it was or how it worked. I decided that I had to know more about it. I came to realize that I identified with it as an OCD sufferer because it is much like a compulsion is to an OCD sufferer. I watched videos. I read blogs. I did the research. Now I understand it. I think it has gotten more widely known because of people like you that have the courage to be open and honest by it. It helps others that suffer from it to find other people that understand them and what it is like. So I am absolutely certain that this post is helping way more people that you know. I am going to be sharing this with her. Also her mother has told me of the countless times she has had to tell doctors what Trich is and how it works and this has to change. All doctors need to be aware of this disorder and schools should be more aware as well. Thank you for this post it means a great deal to more than you know.
This truly moved me, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wish more people could understand this condition, especially health care professionals. I believe it will happen one day though and till that day happens, I will keep talking about it so people like your niece can know that they’re not alone in this!
Skye, thank you for sharing first hand your account of living with this distressing condition; so pleased to read you’re ‘pull free’.
I see so few sufferers of this specific condition that it concerns me many are likely not seeking help, or are – and the help isn’t doing it!
I really appreciate your lovely prose too!
Best wishes for your future.