Nov. 3, 2015

JCS 037: What In The World Is Trichotillomania and Do You Have It?

JCS 037: What In The World Is Trichotillomania and Do You Have It?

Chronic hair pulling can cause a lot of shame and isolation. Sadly, not many people even know what Trich is.


"I’m going crazy. I can’t stop. I’m the only one with this problem. I hate myself. I’ll never be normal again. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I’m too embarrassed to go outside.  There’s no hope. I can’t let anyone know. What’s wrong with me?"

These repetitive thought patterns plague someone who suffers from this condition.  This compulsive behavior transcends age, gender, culture and socioeconomic status.

It can hinder everyday living, lower self-esteem, and create anxiety and stress over a lifetime if not treated. Millions of people are affected by it everyday (about 4% of the world’s population), wow!

Little is known about it, and few mental health professionals have seriously studied the origin or treatment of it. 

What is it?  It’s a condition known as Trichotillomania or Trich – a compulsive hair pulling behavior.

The technical term is an impulse control disorder where people have a very hard time resisting the urge to pull their hair.

What is Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania [Trich-o-till-o-mania] is actually three words into one: Trich (hair) + till (pull) + mania (frenzy).

Trichotillomania is a compulsive hair pulling disorder that makes people feel intense shame for not being able to resist the urge to pull their hair.

Someone with Trichotillomania usually develop bald spots on their scalp, or have missing eyelashes or eyebrows.

The urge to pull hair is so intense that they often don’t even realize they are pulling. Often it is quite difficult for a Trich suffer to look in the mirror.

The emotional turmoil of how they look and feel about themselves often prevents them from going to school or work, or anywhere in public for that matter.

Sometimes they wear a wig or a head band to hide their bald spots to avoid embarrassment. Sadly, many children with Trichotillomania get made fun of at school. This in turn, make parents feel powerless.

As a therapist I have treated people with Trich and I have been able to help them resist their urge to pull hair, but it takes a lot of mental effort and motivation to do so.

The key is to realize that the urge has a definite start time and a definite stop time. Meaning that the urge only lasts for a short time. It’s during this “urge window” that’s critical to find something to occupy their hands.

Trichotillomania is not harmful and won’t cause actual physical harm unless the hair is swallowed, which will cause stomach issues.

But, for the most part, it is not physically harmful, but it can cause a lot of shame, guilt and isolation.

If you have Trichotillomania or if you know someone that may suffer from it, please seek professional help as soon as possible.

When looking for a therapist be sure to ask if they know what Trichotillomania is and how to treat it. There is hope for those who suffer from this impulse-control disorder. Don’t give up and don’t give in!

If you think you may have Trichotillomania check out this helpful website www.trich.org to learn more.

Thank you so much for listening!

Your Chief Encouragement Officer,

John

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