Trichotillomania and Hair Loss

Hollie Shirley / Hair & Skincare Editor

Most people play with their hair. You may twirl your hair between your fingers when you watch TV, read, concentrate and also when you are stressed or worried. Usually, the habit is harmless, but it can sometimes turn into a serious condition called trichotillomania – 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 or trich, Trichotillomania describes a disorder in which someone can’t resist the urge to pull on (or out) their hair. The hair so pulled out is usually the hair on their head and sometimes, in other places, such as their eyebrows, eyelashes, arms, beard or mustache.

Knowing that you or someone else has trich may or may not require a diagnosis. In reality, once the intense desire to pull hair out, a growing tension that backs that urge, and a sense of relief that comes only after the hair have been pulled out, is established, it can be safe to say that a person has trichotillomania.

So is there a treatment for trich?

The cause(s) of trich is not entirely clear. 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. Trich might also arise from a chemical imbalance in the brain, similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or that it may even be a result of changes in hormone levels during puberty.

Whichever the case may be, trich can ultimately become an addiction; the more a person pulls their hair out, the more they want to keep doing it.

Antidepressants are no longer considered to be an effective treatment for trich which is commonly treated using a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) called habit reversal training. This training aims to help the patient replace the bad habit (trich) with something that’s not harmful. As we see, there is no hard and fast route to treating trich as other disorders probably would be treated.

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 trich, individuals may be encouraged to:

  1. Keep a diary of hair pulling

By keeping a journal, the psychological effect is that you can see your actions and become more aware that measures are needed to manage the condition

  1. Work out the triggers for hair pulling and learning how to avoid them

From the diary, you may observe a pattern of what triggers you to pull your hair, so that efforts can then be taken to prevent or manage those triggers

  1. Replace hair pulling with another action, like squeezing a stress ball

Sometimes, hair pulling is a response to anxiety. Instead of pulling your hair when you tensed, get a stress ball and press it. This way, you get to release stress without damaging anything

  1. Involve loved ones to provide emotional support and encouragement

Patients are often advised to open up about their trich to people their trust, as hiding it can sometimes heighten and worsen anxiety. Many people who have successfully managed their trich say that speaking to people they trusted about the condition led to a reduction in hair pulling. Individuals may also join support groups

  1. Form a ball with your fist and tighten the muscles in that arm

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

  1. Use a fidget toy

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

  1. Wear a silk head wrap

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

  1. Come up with a saying that could be repeated out loud until the urge to pull passes

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 mind is essential to managing or treating trich

  1. Take a soothing bath to ease any stress or anxiety

A soothing bath may also help especially where the triggers are stress and anxiety

  1. Practice deep breathing until the urge to pull goes away

Deep breathing and possibly meditation can help with controlling the urge to draw on the hair

  1. Love yourself

Trich may evoke feelings of shame, low self-esteem, and guilt. Please, do not let this be your case. Always know that Trich 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.

Hollie Shirley
Hair & Skincare Editor

Hollie Shirley is SILKUP’s hair and skincare editor. She’s obsessed with all things hair care and results-driven skincare, that is kind to the environment and your wallet. She has a weakness for limited edition eyeshadows and is always testing out the newest and greatest deep conditioners. Hollie has a passion for hair and is studying Trichology, working towards becoming a Member of the Association of Registered Trichologists.