Do you pull out your hair? Your eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic, arm, leg or head hair? You are not the only person who does this. It isn’t just a bad habit, it’s a recognized disorder called “Trich-o-till-o-mania”, a word which basically means ‘hair – to pull – unhealthy impulse’.The diagnostic criteria for Trichotillomania is as follows:
A. Recurrent pulling out of one's hair.
B. An increasing sense of tension immediately before pulling out the hair.
C. Pleasure or relief when pulling out the hair.
D. The disturbance is not better accounted for by another mental disorder and is not due to a dermatological condition.
E. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress.
I haven’t been ‘officially diagnosed’ with trich, but I’ve been pulling out my hair since my early teenage years. I probably started by pulling apart my split ends. I remember sitting in Maths class when I was 12 or 13 and cutting off my split ends with a pair of scissors. I think this progressed to pulling out darker coloured, thicker hairs from my head. At some point I started pulling out my eyelashes, eyebrows and pubic hair, especially when I was stressed or bored. I usually pulled hair when I was alone, for example when doing homework before bed, but I also remember tugging at my eyebrows during university lectures.
Trich can be an embarrassing problem. At times I’ve pulled a couple of centimeters from each end of my eyebrow, so it looks like I’m just awful at plucking them. Trich has always been a secondary problem to self harm for me, as pulling out hair seemed less serious than cutting myself. Yet since I stopped cutting, I have become more obsessed with pulling out my hair. I see the disorders as somewhat related – they are both physical ways of relieving tension and are difficult to control. Though pulling out my hair doesn’t hurt like cutting did. It’s also easier to find yourself absentmindedly pulling at your hair, whereas self harm is a lot more conscious and planned.
Trich is often regarded as related to obsessive compulsive disorder. Trichsters often have steps or rituals that they must perform to feel ok. I used to always touch the pulled hairs to the skin above my top lip. This is because the skin there is really sensitive and it’s easy to feel how ‘sharp’ and tough the pulled hair is. I also often find myself drawn to the mirror several times a day, where I examine at my eyebrows at great length.
I am unable to share any tips for recovery when it comes to hair pulling, as I still have a problem in this area. One of the reasons I got my eyebrow pierced was that I hoped I would play with the piercing ring, rather than the hair. This worked for a short while but wasn't a long term solution. However there are several excellent trich sites listed below, which provide information and support:
Amanda's site is an excellent friendly personal website with so much information. She is a recovered trichster with a strong Christian faith. Definitely visit her website by clicking on her banner.
Helen's Trichotillomania pages (UK) - a helpful, well design page with a friendly personal feel. Includes a pen pal list, personal stories & help for parents / friends / family members.
Brenda's Trich Page - an msn support group. You have to apply to join but it's worth the extra hassle.
Trichotillomania Library - The ABCs of compulsive hair pulling. A very interesting and informative website.
Trichotillomania Resources - information, message board & book recommendations.
Trichotillomania Learning Center, Inc - a national nonprofit organization devoted to advancing understanding of trichotillomania.