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Reviewed by: Andrew Flynn PG Dip. L.M.H.C. MBACP. PCA.
Most people play with their hair. You may twirl your hair between your fingers when you watch TV, read, concentrate or when you are stressed or worried. Usually, the habit is harmless; but it can sometimes turn into a serious condition called trichotillomania1https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/trichotillomania/, NHS. A self-inflicted hair loss where hair ‘twiddling’ reaches the ‘pulling’ stage.
For people trying to grow long, healthy hair, Trichotillomania can be a terror.
Also known as hair pulling disorder, Trichotillomania describes a disorder in which someone can’t resist the urge to pull on (or out) their hair. The hair pulled out is usually hair on their head. Sometimes it is from other places including eyebrows, eyelashes, arms, beard, or moustache.
Knowing that you or someone you know has trichotillomania may or may not require a diagnosis. It can be safe to say that a person has trichotillomania once the intense desire to pull the hair out, a growing tension backs that urge, and a sense of relief that comes only after the hair has been pulled out, is established.
The cause(s) of trichotillomania is not entirely clear2Mary Sweeney, https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/trichotillomania, Healthline. For some, it is a way of dealing with stress or anxiety. For others, it is a type of self-harm to seek relief from emotional distress. Trichotillomania might also arise from a chemical imbalance in the brain, similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or it may even be a result of changes in hormone levels during puberty.
Whichever the case may be, trichotillomania can ultimately become an addiction; the more a person pulls their hair out, the more they want to keep doing it.3Amelia Santa Rosa, https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/living-with-ttm/, Mind
Antidepressants are no longer considered to be an effective treatment for trichotillomania which is commonly treated using a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT therapy aims to help clients to become aware of the behaviour or triggers associated with trichotillomania.
However, habit reversal training helps to manage the condition to mitigate its potential to destroy the quality of the patients’ life, and for our discussion, the person’s hair.
For treating trichotillomania, individuals may be encouraged to4https://trichotillomania.co.uk/how-we-can-help-you/, Trichotillomania Support:
By keeping a journal, there is a psychological effect that the patient can see their actions and how frequently they are pulling out their hair. It allows them to become more aware of the measures needed to manage the condition and the importance of needing help.
From the diary, you may observe a pattern of what triggers occur causing you to pull your hair out, so that efforts can then be taken to prevent or manage those triggers.
Sometimes, hair pulling is a response to anxiety. Instead of pulling your hair when you tensed, get a stress ball or fidget toy. This way, you get to release stress without damaging anything and distract your mind from pulling out your hair.
Patients are often advised to open up about their trichotillomania to people their trust. Hiding it can sometimes heighten and worsen anxiety. Many people who have successfully managed their trichotillomania say that speaking to people they trusted about the condition led to a reduction in hair pulling. Individuals may also join support groups.
If you can’t find a stress ball, you can always form a ball with your fist while tightening the muscles in that arm. The result is that you’ll have something else to channel all that energy to in the meantime.
Fidget toys are a particular type of toys that are designed to help individuals manage emotional stress. Get one you can always have around you. You can grip on it whenever you feel negative emotions are starting to build or when the urge to pull on your hair comes. You may even put plasters on fingertips.
Tight-fitting silk head covers do a whole lot. They can serve as reminders that you should keep your hands off your hair. They also protect your hair and scalp from the sun especially if you already have patches where have been pulled off. They also conserve hair moisture and promote hair growth.
Have a song or phrase or any saying that you can say over and over when the urge to pull on your hair comes. Controlling your mind is essential to managing or treating trichotillomania.
A soothing bath may also help especially where the triggers are stress and anxiety. Taking a bath will relax and distract you from outside noises causing the stress or anxiety.
Deep breathing and possibly meditation can help with controlling the urge to draw on the hair.
Trichotillomania may evoke feelings of shame, low self-esteem, and guilt. Please, do not let this be your case. Always know that Trichotillomania is just a condition and that it can be managed. Stay positive and focus on your goals and dreams. Confide in friends and family and remember there are support charities that can help. You are not alone.