Trichotillomania, colloquially known as excessive hair-pulling, is one of a group of body-focused repetitive behaviors, or BFRBs. Body-focused repetitive behaviors include skin-picking (Excoriation), nail-biting (Onychophagia), or biting one's lips or cheeks (Keratosis).
It's important to understand that BFRBs don’t include these behaviors as we usually see them; for example, someone chewing their nails in a moment of nervousness is probably not experiencing Onychophagia, and someone who tugs their hair now and again does not have Trichotillomania.
Instead, these experiences are relatively rare and involve repeating these behaviors to a noticeably harmful degree. Trichotillomania, for example, affects approximately three percent of people at some point in their lives; eighty to ninety percent are women. Its symptoms include:
- Recurrent hair pulling, resulting in hair loss.
- Pulling hair out from areas other than the scalp, including eyebrows and eyelashes.
- An awareness of the problem, resulting in resistance or attempts to stop the behavior.
- Distress when in situations where other people may notice where hair has been pulled out.
In some cases the behavior is accompanied by Trichophagia, or hair eating. In addition, there is not always a conscious need to pull one's hair; the behavior can happen automatically, even when sleeping.
If you think you may be experiencing Trichotillomania, please know first and foremost that this is treatable, but if left unchecked it does not often go away on its own. Seek medical assistance at the first opportunity.
While there are solutions to Trichotillomania, they are generally not quick. While you're looking for or receiving treatment, here are some ideas you can try in an effort to curb your hair pulling.
- Pay attention to how you're feeling overall when the urge to pull your hair is at its highest. For some people, there is no consistent pattern, but others use hair pulling to distract themselves from feeling tired, hungry, angry, and so on. If you notice one of these patterns, make an effort to deal with the underlying emotion quickly, and see if the need to pull your hair decreases.
- If you're pulling your hair during sleep, wear a bandana or other comfortable headgear to bed. Think of it as similar to someone who grinds their teeth at night putting a mouthguard in. There's no shame in it; you can't stop what you do in your sleep, so this is the type of preventive action you need.
- Stay busy. In the same way that people experience hair pulling as a way to distract themselves from other emotions, remaining constantly active can distract you from hair pulling.
- If you own tweezers to pull at eyebrows, eyelashes, and other small hairs, get rid of them. This can be difficult, especially if your Trichotillomania expresses itself largely through this method. However, it may be worth trying to force yourself to find different answers to the feelings that drive you to pull.
- Find a support group. Most likely this will have to be online; if you live in a more populated area, it's possible you can find a group locally, or enough people to start one, but even then the Internet is almost certainly your best option. Isolation drives this type of behavior; find peers who can make you feel less isolated, and for whom you can do the same.
- Always keep a brush handy. Brushes pull out a bit of hair through normal use; even if you brush hard and remove more than normal, brushing rather than pulling will leave you healthier overall.
We know that the effects of Trichotillomania can be difficult for you, but remember, there are treatments available. At Hair Transplant & Restoration Center, we can assist you with the after-effects of Trichotillomania or any other type of hair loss, contact us for a consultation. We want to help you feel better about yourself again.