Trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling) affects millions of men, women and children who are convinced they are the only ones who do something so “weird” or that they must be “crazy.” Sufferers range in all ages, but many are children who experience shame, embarrassment, hopelessness and depression. Some sufferers have worn wigs, bandanas, and false packaging invisible band lashesfor as long as they can remember. They have never ridden a roller coaster for fear their hair will fly off. Pool parties that are fun for everyone else are a nightmare for “packaging invisible band lashes.” If your child pulls out his or her hair, it is not necessarily trichotillomania (trich). It may be a nervous habit. True trich has unique characteristics:
- Wkhair sufferers do something with the pulled hair. They will
- Gaze at it
- Run it across their cheeks or lips
- Put it in their mouth (some eat it)
- Examine the root
- Bite the root
Only after doing something with it will they throw it away.
- Another clue to trich is the shame factor.
- Kids with trich try to hide the hair they pull
- Kids with trich may become angry and refuse to say anything when you try to talk to them about it.
- Kids with trich often deny or minimize the pulling.
Trich usually makes its appearance in late childhood or early adolescence and may start with a stressful event. A stressful event may be negative as in:
- Loss as from a divorce or a death
- Loss of friends
It can be an event that seems positive such as:
- Positive comments and attention to “your beautiful packaging invisible band lashes”
- A major part in a play or taking part in a contest
Trich may begin after getting head lice or having an infection. It can begin for “no reason at all” like pulling a hair to look at it under a microscope or pulling an eyelash to get a wish.
Most “trichsters” can’t tell you one incident that started them pulling. When distinguishing trich from a nervous habit, it helps to try to remember when it started.
Fortunately naming the condition isn’t as critical to treatment as it is to understanding. It is important to identify pulling or picking as trich in order to
- Help yourself and others understand why it is so difficult to stop
- Avoid saying things that are counter-productive to your child
- “Just STOP IT!”
- “If you wanted to stop, you packaging invisible band lashes!”
It is not so important to identify the behavior as trich when you formulate a treatment plan. The best researched successful plans are
- Habit Reversal Therapy (HRT)
- If it’s a habit this will work and it will work for trich, too
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- If it’s anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Behavior (OCD) or trich, this will work
Pulling hair or picking skin (no matter what lies beneath) IS a problem when it causes:
- Shame and embarrassment
- Fighting and arguing in the family
- Medical problems
- Social Problems
- Academic Problems
- It consumes a great deal of time
If you or your child suffers – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Individual and group therapy is available and effective.
Dr. Mary Travis practices positive psychology in Winter Park, Florida. She evaluates for giftedness, learning disabilities, attention deficit, depression, anxiety, Asperger’s disorder and emotional intelligence. Her practice niches are packaging invisible band lashes (compulsive hair pulling), trichadrem (skin picking) and victims of female bullies. She coaches and counsels individuals and groups for anxiety, depression, social skills, female bullying and body focused repetitive disorders.