Trichotillomania – Definition
Trichotillomania (TTM), also known as hair pulling disorder, is an impulse control disorder characterized by a long term urge that results in the pulling out of one’s hair. This occurs to such a degree that hair loss can be seen. Efforts to stop pulling hair typically fail. Hair removal may occur anywhere; however, the head and around the eyes are most common.
The hair pulling is to such a degree that it results in distress. The disorder may run in families. It occurs more commonly in those with obsessive compulsive disorder. Episodes of pulling may be triggered by anxiety. People usually acknowledge that they pull their hair. On examination broken hairs may be seen. Other conditions that may present similarly include body dysmorphic disorder, however in that condition people remove hair to try to improve what they see as a problem in how they look.
Treatment is typically with cognitive behavioral therapy. There medications that may also be helpful. It is estimated to affect one to four percent of people. Trichotillomania most commonly begins in childhood. Women are more commonly affected than men.
Now That You Read What It Is
Trichotillomania is a word that we had never heard of, until it happened to our daughter. It was another one of those “What The Heck” moments in our lives. I had heard of “hair pulling” before but didn’t give much thought to it except for the, “Wow, I feel so bad for them, how awful.”
That all changed one day, in a single moment.
In that single moment, I noticed that our daughter had “holes” in her usually beautiful, thick, full eye lashes. She sadly told us that she had pulled them out. She was so distraught – we were so shocked and heart-broken at the site of her eyelashes. And the realization that she was suffering this alone!
I am not sure if I can express what that moment was like. To say I was devastated is putting it lightly. Since this event was around 3 years ago and I still have a hard time writing about it, says a lot. At the time of this event, I was still under the impression that Trichotillomania fell into a self-harm category. I quickly learned that this is not so. The mental-health community re-classed it into a body focused impulse disorder. (Somehow, that made me feel a little better. The thought of her self-harming was just too much to bare!)
As the disorder and time progressed, the pulling got worse and it became harder and harder for her to stop when she had an attack.There is different therapies for this disorder including medication and cognitive behavioral therapy but there is always challenges with any therapy and/or treatment. At the toughest point, my beautiful daughter had no eyelashes and no eyebrows. Luckily, the pulling never progressed beyond her eye area. We are truly grateful for that.
Now, 3 years later, our daughter has a gorgeous set of eyebrows. She still has no eye lashes, but that is our next big goal and she is doing wonderful controlling the attacks! It makes it difficult to combat such a disorder when there is a lot of media out there where Trichsters say they can’t stop and they have tried for many, many years. I know these people are not trying to be negative, they are just expressing their pain and being real, which I respect. But as a mom trying to desperately pull her beloved child out of this ugly place, it can be very, very frustrating. Happily, there are also the people out there posting that they are being successful at controlling this urge.
The truth is, Trichotillomania is one of the hardest BFRB (Body Focused Repetitive Behavior) to stop, but it can be done and I think our daughter is well on her way! We are very, very proud of the progress she continues to make!
(Our beautiful daughters are stronger then most people could ever imagine!)
Till Next Time,
Rebecca & The Gang
Finding Our New Normal