This is a post I’ve been trying to write for a couple of weeks but have not known how to start it or what to say so I’m just going to come out with it. For many years now, (I’m not even sure how long, if I’m honest) I’ve suffered from a compulsive urge/habit that leads me to pull out my own hair.
It’s called Trichotillomania, or Trich, for short. Here’s a paragraph from a Trich Support site that explains it better than I could:
Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder, causing urges to pull out hair, eyelashes or eyebrows. Many people with the disorder feel unable to discuss their hair pulling. A large percentage of the population still do not understand what trichotillomania is; the difficulties which the condition presents or how best to help. Trichotillomania is not always an obvious disorder; it is often hidden. As a result, people with trichotillomania have to overcome numerous barriers to get treatment and support.
I finally went to see the doctor on Wednesday. It wasn’t until this week that I realised it was an actual condition for which you can receive help. I have Trev to thank – he saw an advert for a documentary on Channel4 which followed a few girls with the condition.
For a lot of people, the condition progresses to the point where you have bald patches. I’m relieved to say that despite years of pulling, I don’t have any of those (yet). I may have some slightly thinner bits, but I’m lucky to have a lot of thick hair, which hides most of the impact of my pulling.
Most of the time I’m not even aware I do it. It may start with deliberately wanting to pull out the thick, coarse, curly hairs – and it goes on from there, but most of the time it’s just an itch that needs to be scratched and before I know it, there’s a massive pile of hair on the floor. Sometimes you pull despite it hurting, other times because it hurts. It has been described in some instances as a form of self-harm.
For a lot of people (and possibly for me), Trich can be rooted in some kinda of past trauma and the pulling is an emotional reaction or way of dealing with it. There’s certainly incidents in my past that could qualify for this, but at the moment it would be impossible to try and pin it down to a single thing. Up until I moved out at 17, I didn’t enjoy the easiest of lives, but time is a wonderful healer.
I just wanted to let anyone know who may be suffering with something, who may be too ashamed or embarrassed to talk to someone, please do. I may have cried in front of the random doctor on Wednesday, but he was lovely – reminded me that conditions like this are more common than you may think and it doesn’t make you crazy. It’s the body and the mind’s way of dealing with other issues.
And there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been referred for CBT and hope to have an appointment within the month (I appreciate that timescale makes me extremely lucky in terms of the availability of such services here and I know not everyone is that fortunate). CBT is proven to help people with many mental health problems and can help deal with any other associated issues such as depression. Hypnotherapy is another option.
If you can, please try and confide in someone you trust. If that isn’t possible, then it is well worth summoning up the courage to try and see your doctor. Remember, they have seen it (and far worse) all before and they’re there to help.
I may update this blog periodically with how my treatment progresses and how I’m doing. I type this while fighting an uncontrollable urge to pull – having had a terrible day for pulling yesterday. Having admitted this in public will make me all the more eager and determined to do better – as I’ll now be accountable to the 4 or so sad people who read this blog too 😉 (You know who you are!)
On a final note, big hugs to anyone undergoing any kind of stress right now. Thinking of you x