If I said to you that I was pulling my hair out, you would probably think that I was using an expression to describe how stressful my day had been. But what if I told you that life’s stresses literally had me pulling my hair out? I suffer with a fairly unheard of mental illness and form of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) called Trichotillomania. After researching online and seeking advice on social media about this odd hair pulling habit of mine, which I had never even heard of anybody else having, it became apparent to me that it is not as uncommon as I once thought and that it did have a medical name. Although many of you have probably never heard of it, I am sure this article will be relatable to some of you.
It is believed that around two percent of the world’s population has at some stage in their lives suffered with this condition, which is more commonly referred to as Trich.
Trich, which predominantly affects women, sees me pulling my hair out, sometimes tens of strands at a time. At its worst I will run my fingers through my hair constantly, searching for coarse out of place hairs to effectively, yank out. The urge to do this intensifies, similar to the urge felt to move your legs with restless leg syndrome, until a sense of relief is felt once the strand has been pulled out. “Why don’t you just stop doing it?” is something I’m frequently asked. “Stop pulling it now I’ve told you that you are doing it,” is another. The truth is, although I’m sometimes aware that I am pulling it out, it is, as most forms of OCD are, an uncontrollable habit which is thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Some sufferers will pull eyelashes or hair from their eyebrows out, however for me, I primarily pull from my scalp.
Trich is something I have suffered with for many years, since I was around 17 years old. It’s not something I really gave much thought to in my teenage years, but one memory that sticks in my head is being on holiday at the age of around 20 and getting up off my sun lounger to discover a huge pile of hair on the floor next to me. Why was I doing this to myself? My friend mentioned to me that she saw me pulling my hair out over and over and it would ring true to me that this was something that I should probably seek help for, eventually.
Many years passed by without me addressing this illness I had, mainly due to being embarrassed of this thing that so few knew about or understood.
Three children and many years later, I finally sought medical help this year by visiting my GP, who immediately recognised that it was indeed Trich and that I wasn’t alone in doing what I was doing.
Unfortunately, my hair pulling has resulted in me having a number of bald patches on my head, which thankfully I can conceal fairly well but it has restricted me with how I style my hair though. Sometimes it sticks up in the wrong direction due to regrowth and new hairs often grow back grey too – I can’t just blame those on having children! I also sometimes have frequent headaches which I have put down to the constant hair pulling irritating the nerve endings.
Although Trich never completely goes and there is a definite correlation between stress and my hair pulling, I have found a number of self-help tactics such as using a Fidget Cube to occupy my hands when I am not busy and by wearing a big headband so that my hair is not as easy to pull out!
Whilst waiting for a referral for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I will continue to spread awareness of Trich, in the hope that anybody reading this who can relate to it will know that they are not alone in doing this and that it is something that needs to be talked about more, however embarrassing.
You can find a wealth of advice and support on www.trichotillomania.co.uk