Trichotillomania: More than a bad hair day.

Have you ever heard of Trichotillomania? If not, it’s not that surprising.

Trichotillomania (TTM) is a type of impulse control disorder where people pull hair from their scalp, eyelashes and eyebrows. People suffering from this disorder generally know that they are doing damage (pulling hair for long periods of time) but they feel they have no control.

TTM is caused from stress and can be related to those with anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance abuse disorders and even personality disorders.

A lifetime of bad hair days

Because hair-pulling is such an intimate experience (it feels great to sit, tugging on the annoying strands of hair, for hours) people can suffer in silence for years. Hiding their habit and lying when people ask ‘Why do you have a bald spot?’ Those who have TTM are terrified of this question. This is probably their deepest insecurity, and it’s not hard to see the pain as it crosses their face before covering with a fib that feels better than the truth.

‘Lying aided in making the monster on my back that much bigger, that much scarier’

I’ve experienced this moment- on repeat, for years. I grew up, trying to avoid this question at all costs. It took years to realize that this question, is what would save me, in the long run.

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My story

I started pulling my hair out at the age of 14. I remember being scared to go to class because I thought my peers would judge me. I remember lying about my eyebrows and telling people I had shaved them because that was less of an embarrassment than admitting that I had spent days pulling my eyebrows, till there was little-to-nothing left.

My experience with this disorder is not exclusive. I found that lying aided in making the monster on my back that much bigger, that much scarier.

The thing to understand about TTM, is that it is exceptional in the damage it does to the psyche. I am still suffering from daily pulling that seems to highlight the fact that I am not coping, or that I never will.

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When I started to feel completely alone and out of control, I tried to resolve the pulling through what others had said on TTM forums. I wore an elastic band around my arm and snapped it, leaving a pulsating red line across my wrist, every time I wanted to pull. I remember the skin on my wrist burning, sometimes to the point where I wanted to cry. But come the next day I would be back at it.

I wore beanies to hide my hair from my friends and family. I tried implementing positive consciousness by repeating to myself in the mirror how beautiful I was…. Nothing changed.

I felt so ugly. Who could love someone who pulled their own hair out?

Fighting the urge to pull

The most terrifying part of this disorder, is the limited research done to help those suffering with the disorder on a day to day basis. We still don’t know the cause. Research that has been done relating to TTM gives little support to those trying to overcome the urge to pull.

Therefore, in order to help those who pull their hair, we have to start by educating everyone on the disorder, so we can start researching the change that so many of us need, desperately.

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Above: Monique wearing a wig she bought this year. ‘The confidence that comes with long hair did wonders for my disorder.’

Not alone

After I finished High School I began talking openly about this disorder, sharing pictures on Facebook to show how far I had come. Once I shared my experience on Facebook, people began messaging me to share their experiences of living with Trichotillomania. For the first time in my life, I realized I was not alone.

‘Now I can accept that even with TTM I am loved, by myself and those around me’

Now, for my own sanity, I would tell you everything there is to know about TTM, if you asked. I discovered that honesty helped me accept my disorder… and that’s the first step to beating it.

I wish I could share a pretty success story with you: That I had beaten the addiction to pulling my hair out. But that would not be the truth. I still have good and bad days, but now I can accept that even with Trichotillomania I am loved, by myself and those around me.

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“I thought it’s about time to show some positive progress. I’m beating TTM ♥️ and I’m loving how it looks!” – Via

1000 bad hair days

My advice to those who are still suffering in silence is TELL YOUR FAMILY. They can see you are stressed, don’t hide it. The vicious cycle of pulling thrives off lies and secrecy.

I’ve experienced a 1000 bad hair days in my life. I know the pain of not wanting to show your face in public. I can promise you that if you allow yourself the time to heal, everything will fall into place.

Just keep on going, every hair you don’t pull, makes you stronger, and your beautiful hair, longer. Once you accept your inner beauty, your outer beauty can begin to shine through.

https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/trichotillomania

Words: Monique Hollis

Feature image: Via 

Post images: supplied