Trichotillomania is a condition which causes sufferers to compulsively pull out their hair. One reader shared her experiences for our mental health appeal
When she was younger, Roseanna Bentley would always find herself pulling or twirling her hair – and by the time she was in college, she did it so often, she had extreme hair loss and bald patches.
But it wasn’t until around six months ago she was able to put a name to her condition: trichotillomania. Sometimes shortened to trich, it’s an impulse-control disorder where a person feels compelled to pull out their hair.
After she got in touch with the appeal via Let’s Talk Mental Health, our mental health-themed tumblr, we asked Bentley to tell us a little about the condition and compiled this list for those who may not have heard of trichotillomania before.
1. Trich sufferers feel an “overwhelming” urge to pull their hair
According to NHS Choices:
You will experience an intense urge to pull your hair out and growing tension until you do. After pulling out your hair, you will feel a sense of relief.
2. Symptoms often start at around 11 to 13 years of age
Bentley says has pulled at her hair since she was young. By the time she was 14, she was pulling it out regularly and when she started college, her condition got more severe. But she was only formally diagnosed around six months ago.
3. Sufferers often have extreme hair loss and bald patches
Recently, Bentley says she got to the “the point of no return” with her condition:
Up until a year or so ago trichotillomania never really infringed upon my life, but in the last year it has impacted a lot. I’ve had extreme hair loss and lived in bobble hats, but it got to the point of no return where the best thing to do was to shave my head. So that is what I did. Some people have been more understanding than others, but that’s natural, and up until very recently (around a month ago) I decided to become open about it, if people asked my I’d just tell them, I went to college without a wig on. Most people were very accepting, I’m very lucky.
4. No one’s sure what causes it
Some experts say it’s a type of addiction. Others say it can be a reflection of a mental health problem like stress or anxiety.
5. Treatment can include therapy and hypnosis
The Trichotillomania Learning Centre has some information about treatment options here. In the UK, Trichotillomania Support Online offers emotional support for people with the condition.
6. Sufferers can initially feel quite alone
Trichotillomania affects up to four in 100 people. It wasn’t until Bentley saw Youtuber and blogger Rebecca Brown, who writes and makes videos about the condition, on BBC News in a piece about the condition that she realised there was a name for her hair pulling habit.
Until very recently I had no idea what it was or that it was a ‘thing’ anyone else did. After I was diagnosed I was a little relieved that it wasn’t just me, and that others do it too.
7. The condition doesn’t often get a great deal of coverage
In this video, Brown speaks about the difference it made after she was interviewed by a number of news outlets last year:
8. And as for any other mental illness, more coverage can do wonders
As Bentley herself says, if it wasn’t for BBC News’ item on trichotillomania, she may not have been brave enough to go to her GP.
9. Social media has meant more awareness
Inspired by Brown, Bentley decided she needed to write about her condition and raise awareness on Tumblr.
I thought if people with the condition don’t stand up and tell people who’s ever going to hear about it? We can’t always rely on others, and so I thought I’d give it a bash! Those with trich, from experience can feel quite alone, when in reality they aren’t, I wanted to change that. since speaking about it openly, I have come to terms with it more, and social media can bring so many people together, so i also get to talk to people who have the condition – which I’ve never ever done before.
10. Most importantly: there is a community out there who knows all about this condition
If you’re dealing with trich too, Bentley has the following advice:
1. You aren’t alone, there are so many others with this condition 2. If you do have trich and know about it and are trying to stop, know that it’s ok to have slip ups, we’re all on a learning curve so it’s alright if you have a set back, it doesn’t make you any less wonderful.