Trichotillomania is a psychiatric disorder characterized by the uncontrollable desire to pull out one’s hair that affects roughly 1% of individuals in the United States. According to Health of Children, “It is generally considered to be an impulse control disorder but is sometimes classified as either a subtype or variant of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).” Typically this is focused on hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. This list describes things that make life with trich, well, kind of hard.
1. Feeling sufficiently awkward at the hair salon.
I used to not even go to the salon. I used to cut my hair at home following a process of YouTube tutorial trial-and-error. I had no idea what to expect at my first trichy salon visit. The stylist ran her fingers through my hair, before shrieking and taking a step back at the sight of my bald spots. “WHAT HAPPENED HERE??” As much as they say stylists know about conditions like trich and alopecia, that hasn’t been my experience. What started as educating them, lead to me sitting in a chair for an hour and being scolded like a child with a bad habit. I know they didn’t mean any harm, but no one knows how vulnerable it feels to bear your weakness to a stranger over something so basic as a haircut
2. The temptation to just shave it all off.
In those deep dark moments, of course there is the temptation to go 2007 Britney and shave it bald like the day you were born! If I thought I’d look anything like Amber Rose then it would have been done yesterday.
3. People staring at you like you’re effing crazy.
Doing homework on the couch while ripping hair out, driving while ripping hair out, talking to people and ripping hair out. If I don’t realize that I’m doing it, I can’t realize when not to do it.Why don’t you just stop? Gee, I never thought of that. Before I was really honest with myself about trich, it would make me really emotional for people to call me out on it. You feel so out of control, and seeing the damage feels even worse. I could only imagine what it looks like to them, just talking to me as I’m nodding and yanking strands of hair out of my scalp.
4. Helping your family members understand.
It’s hard for family members to see you go through, and much more difficult to understand. My parents were actually able to help me piece together the full story once I explained to them what I had been going through. Strangely enough, they weren’t completely surprised. They brought up a string of tendencies from my childhood, all signs of Body Focused Repetitive Behavior, that made me feel like maybe I’d just been this way all along.
None of us would deal with the stress, the emotional pain, or the financial aspect of covering it up, if we could just quit. For some, it means wigs, fake eyelashes and eyebrow makeup as part of an everyday routine. There are many treatments that can help symptoms, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and medication, but there is no known cure. For many, this means a lifelong struggle. What works for someone is really as different as the individual. For me, the biggest lesson has been learning to forgive myself. For someone who usually has everything together, feeling out-of-control is an unwelcome emotion. It’s scary to realize just how much damage can be done in such a short amount of time, and how helpless it can make you feel. Know that it is not your fault. Take it one day at a time. Reach out to online forums, and make connections with people that know what you are going through. Take the time to take care of yourself, and know that you are never alone.