Trichotillomania. It’s a disorder that causes people to pull their hair out.
“Literally, pull your hair out?” Yes.
“Does it hurt?” No. It’s similar to nail biting. I don’t realize I’m doing it most of the time.
I’ve had Trichotillomania since I was about 11 years old. For years, I received embarrassing questioning from peers. “Why is your hair so thin?” or “are you anorexic, is that why you’re balding?” questions I had no way of answering. I went for years with patches missing from my hair, not even realizing what I was doing to myself. It wasn’t until I was about 15 years old after scouring online one day; I discovered that hair pulling was a real thing. About 1% of the population suffers from Trichotillomania, and I was apart of that statistic.
“Why don’t you just stop?”
If I could, I would. I visit a psychologist every couple weeks. I’m on a variety of anti anxiety medications. They help lesson panic attacks and I have a better grasp on stress. But in times of high stress, I resort to pulling out my hair. Some days are better than others. I can go for hours with out pulling, or I end up in hair pulling fits where next thing I know, I have a handful of hair piled next to me.
I will pull out any hair I can get my fingers on. If it feels funny, has an odd texture, seems too long, seems to short, or is just there and I feel the urge to pull; consider it gone. I’ve gone through phases of sporting a “Friar Tuck” look with a bald spot on the top of my head to having a receding hairline hidden under my bangs creating a “5-head”. Since starting college, I keep my hair short, covering up my bald spots (I currently have 2, one on each side of my head) with trendy headbands and hair wraps to discourage me from pulling.
I’m incredibly envious of all of you with long, beautiful hair. You can wake up in the morning and are ready to go. I spend a good amount of time covering up my bald patches with hair clips, headbands, and hairspray and drawing on my eyebrows to cover up the patchy parts in order to avoid awkward questions as to why I’m 21 and balding.
A hair appointment to get my haircut is a whole different ordeal from the daily routine of getting ready. I don’t let other people touch my hair. Most hairdressers have no clue what Trichotillomania is, or as to why I have bald spots and uneven hair. I’ve had stylists tell me how pretty hair I’d have if I just didn’t pull it out…. No shit, if that was an option in my control, trust me, I’d have a full head of healthy hair.
My Trichotillomania seems to be linked to anxiety and increases during times of stress. I am most likely to pull my hair out in situations I don’t want to be in (bored in class, stressed studying, or listening to somebody talk when I just don’t have the patience anymore). I’ve found it’s my way of, rather than verbalizing my fears and anxieties, I internalize it and take it out on myself.
It’s something I’m working on and I know others have it worse. Like I said, some days are better than others. My goal right now is to have more pull-free days by limiting stressful activities. But we’ll see how that goes.
So next time you ask a Trichotillomaniac “Why don’t you just stop?” remember that it’s not something we have any control over and probably don’t even realize we’re doing it. And people dealing with Trichotillomania, you’re not the only one.