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Trichotillomania - The hair pulling disorder

Trichotillomania is defined as the 'hair pulling disorder' but how much is really known about it and what are my experiences with it? In this post I open up about something that has been a part of my life for four years.

Everyone that knows me, or knows me well at least, knows that I have suffered with some form of anxiety since my early teens. Through various methods and support I have come SO far since then. I've overcome huge hurdles, like university and job hunting and I am able to tackle situations much better than I would have been able to even five years ago. However, this does not mean I do not still battle with my anxiety on a low level daily.

Four years ago I lost my dog, Rudie. He was a huge part of my life having wanted a dog since I could speak; he was my best friend and comforter from the age of 13 when I got him for my birthday. He was a constant in my life through the toughest times with my anxiety, from the harshness of secondary school, through college and my struggles with starting university. When he died aged only eight, I was devastated. A month later I started to play with my hair, having never touched it before. And so began my relationship with Trich.

Trichotillomania, or Trich, is a hair pulling disorder. According to the NHS website Trichotillomania is when a person can't resist the urge to pull out their hair. It commonly affects teenagers and young adults and occurs more in women than men. Most people pull from their scalp but people can pull from other areas too, such as eyebrows or eyelashes. People that have Trich are also likely to be 'skin pickers'. Similarly, there can be a number of causes for Trichotillomania, from a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety to changes in hormone levels during puberty. For me, it is clear now that it is a coping mechanism for my anxiety and stems from the trauma of losing Rudie.

The specific action can vary from person to person, for me, I try and find coarse hairs and then run them repeatedly through my fingers and nails. Which either causes them to split or break, or eventually come out altogether. This has meant I have actually developed patches of shorter hair and my hair is generally much thinner than it was. The more I do it, the more I can't stop and it has affected not only the condition of my hair but my self-esteem too. I feel the urge most strongly when I am stressed or anxious or deep in thought, as well as when I am bored, watching tv or reading.

But now, I have decided that after a few half-hearted attempts to stop, it is time to really hold myself to account. I read a really insightful article in the Sunday Times Style magazine the other day, fellow sufferer and Editorial Assistant for the magazine, Roisin Kelly, spoke about her experiences and it was like she was describing me. It suddenly hit me that I was not alone in this and I could do something about it. I also decided that if people do not speak about these things how can we possibly expect the stigma around any kind of mental health issue or anxiety change?

I have now gone two days without pulling my hair, although I have caught myself reaching for my hair a few times! Whenever I get an urge to pull I clench my fists and do a few deep breaths until the urge has gone, or distract myself with something else. I know that if I let myself do it even just a little, it will only be harder to stop. My case is not as bad as some, but I want to make a determined effort to stop now, before it goes further.

I plan on updating you on here how my progress is going and what I have found the most helpful in combatting Trich. But for now, know that if you are suffering, you are not alone and you can get help.

Lucy x

Please note: I am not professing to be an expert on this subject, I only write from what I have read and my own personal experience.

For more information about Trichotillomania see the links below:

NHS webpage for Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania Support


Roisin Kelly's article about her experience

BBC Four Women's Hour episode about Trich

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