Trichotillomania Treatment Options
Trichotillomania can be a devastating disorder to have. From a physical standpoint, the issues that relate to the condition are obvious, as they are marked by patchy bald areas on the scalp, sparse eyebrows, or missing eyelashes. Yet the hidden emotional damage that is caused by trichotillomania can be rather rough, as they can take on the following manifestations:
- Low self-esteem
- Social withdrawal
Fortunately, for those who want to find out how to stop hair pulling, there are plenty of trichotillomania treatments that are available to aid in curbing the condition and its powerful grip. Methods range from medical to therapeutic in nature.
Treating Hair Pulling with Medication
It is thought that some medications can help to alleviate trichotillomania. However, the results that have stemmed from the use of this method have been mixed. For example, some studies concerning the tricyclic antidepressant Anafranil have yielded positive treatment results, while other studies have shown inconsistent outcomes. Additionally, other medications such Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have exhibited some limited aid, but have also displayed some significant side effects. In some cases, the medications have been determined to increase hair pulling depending on the individual. It should also be noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve a single medication for trichotillomania treatment. That being said, there are some prescribed medications that have shown an ability to lower the feelings or sensations that can cause the urge to pull hair.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The highest rate of treating trichotillomania is through psychotherapy. On occasion this method has been combined with medication to aid in the treatment of the disorder. Most common methodology used is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) -it is by and large recognized as the preferred method of trichotillomania treatment. The reason for the overall effectiveness of this treatment stems from its ability to be shaped and molded to fit the individual, which enables the techniques to ideally sync up to each person’s particular symptoms.
In a nutshell, Cognitive Behavior Therapy is an approach to therapy that hones in on an individual’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and works with the individual to alter these touchstones through techniques that have proven effective for people to meet their goals. In essence, Cognitive Behavior Therapy represents an umbrella term for a host of different treatment subsets that are designed to treat an individual.
Habit Reversal Training (HRT) for Trichotillomania
One of the earliest of these subsets used for trichotillomania treatment is known as Habit Reversal Training (HRT). Developed in the 1970s, this method of treatment is a package that contains a varying amount of components. In the case of the treatment of hair pulling, there are three essential parts to using Habit Reversal Training effectively. The first part, known as awareness training, assists the person on zeroing in on the circumstances where hair pulling is most likely to happen. The reason behind this part is to allow people that suffer from the condition to become more cognizant of the probability that the hair pulling behavior will take place, which in turn could provide opportunities to introduce therapeutic techniques designed to discourage the negative behaviors. The second part, known as competing response training, encourages the person to substitute another response that is not compatible with hair-pulling. For example, this could translate into the person balling up their hands in to fists and places their arms in a locked position, which would make pulling the hair impossible. The final part to this therapy is social support, which involves the introduction of loved ones and family members into the therapy session so that they can provide positive feedback and reminders as to when the individual is in a circumstance when the urge to pull hair can happen. While this method has shown short-term success, using it to achieve long-term improvement has proven to be difficult.
A Comprehensive Model of Treatment
Another method that can be used is Comprehensive Behavioral Treatment. In essence, this method takes all of the existing treatment options that are available and modifies them to be more individualized. Comprehensive behavioral treatment consists of four different components. With the first component, assessment/self monitoring, the therapist and the individual go through a thorough evaluation of problematic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that occur before, during, and after the hair pulling incident as a means to learn about the functionality behind the person’s trichotillomania. The second component is to implement the use of a sensory substitute as a means for the patient to satiate the urge to pull hair. The third component involves addressing the environments where the hair pulling occurs, and figuring out ways to alter it in a way that makes it less conducive for the patient to partake in the unwanted behavior. The final component revolves around identifying and working through the negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions that typically surround the behavior.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is another form of therapy that can be deployed as a trichotillomania treatment. This process involves asking the patient to experience the urges that are associated with hair pulling and accepting the urge without acting on it. The purpose behind this is to allow the patient to experience the negative emotions that surround the act of pulling hair so they can understand that they do not have to respond to the urge. Once this understanding has been established, the patient must then commit to working on the acceptance and tolerance of these urges rather than giving into them.
Trich and Hypnosis
Some patients have experienced therapeutic results by using hypnosis. Through this process, the hypnotherapist is able to enter the patient’s unconscious mind in order to draw out ways to help the patient cope with the urges that come with trichotillomania. This method could be successful in discovering and dealing with traumatic events or incidences of stress that could have initially triggered the need to begin the hair pulling process.
For those who want to figure out how to stop hair pulling, yet do not want to go about treatment alone, group therapy has been shown to be a viable alternative. By joining a group therapy session, the patient can surround themselves with other people that suffer from the same disorder, giving them the sense of belonging as well as the assurance that they are not the only people combating trichotillomania.
While behavioral therapies are the well-documented means of assisting a patient to treat trichotillomania, there are several alternative or holistic methods that exist as viable options on how to stop hair pulling.
One of the natural ways that has been suggested to treat trichotillomania is through the use of aloe vera. The plant’s natural soothing abilities can be applied to the affected hair pulling area, which is thought to quell the sensations associated with trichotillomania. In this case, the use of aloe vera can be used either by rubbing the plant on the affected area or by applying the gel that is naturally secreted from the plant.
Another alternate method is through drinking chamomile tea. It is said that ingesting the substance will give the person suffering from trichotillomania an overall calming effect, as well as a soothing effect on the eyelashes and scalp. This soothing effect will in turn lessen the urge to pull hair.
The native Pacific Island plant Kava Kava is another suggested alternative remedy to combat hair pulling. The plant is said to contain natural calming abilities which could lead to cutting down the urge to pull hair amongst trichotillomania sufferers. This treatment can be applied by either chewing on the leaves or by taking capsules that contain the plant.
It is also said that chewing Marjoram leaves can alleviate the urges associated with hair pulling. The perennial herb has been used as a means to calm nerves and bring relief during times of shock or grief. The treatment is thought to bring relief to trichotillomania sufferers who developed the disorder as a coping mechanism for stress.
Aromatherapy has also been used as a treatment for trichotillomania. Some of the oils that have been suggested for this technique are made with some of the ingredients that have been used as alternative therapeutic remedies on their own, such as aloe vera. The only drawback to this particular alternative treatment is that it is not recommended for people whose hair pulling tendencies present through the pulling of eyebrows or eyelashes, as the aromatherapy oils tend to be harmful to a patient’s eyes.
Coping with Trichotillomania
Regardless of what method is used to combat trichotillomania, one of the biggest steps of the overall treatment process is learning how to deal with the disorder. There are many mechanisms that can be deployed as a means to cope.
The first step in coping with trichotillomania is to recognize the behavioral and physical signs that accompany hair pulling. This step is especially important for people who pull their hair without realizing what they are doing. This step also cultivates a deeper sense of awareness regarding the disorder.
The next step in coping with hair pulling is to analyze this recognition and awareness and realize that there is a problem. From there, the person can further analyze if the hair pulling is not tied to another issue, such as chronic depression. Once this is determined, the trichotillomania suffer can observe what type of environment triggers a hair pulling episode
A person can then further cope with trichotillomania by immersing themselves with research. Learning about what trichotillomania is and what may be causing it will give person suffering from the disorder a more complete understanding of their behavior. They can in turn use this understanding to try to resist the urge when it strikes.
The final step in the coping process is to speak with trusted people about the condition. Opening up to family or close friends will give a person suffering from trichotillomania the type of support that they need in order to deal with the issue in a confident manner. This last step is ultimately the most important part of coping with trichotillomania, as the disorder is difficult to deal with without love and encouragement.
Dealing with Relapses
Even in the aftermath of successful treatments, a person that has a grasp on how to stop hair pulling can still relapse. When a relapse does happen, it is crucial that the person suffering from trichotillomania deploy a few maintenance techniques in order to get back on track.
The first maintenance step is to accept that the lapse happened, and to re-engage in the same kind of problem solving techniques that were used to initially treat trichotillomania. From there, it is important for the person to take on a non-judgmental perspective to accept that the urge to pull hair may come back periodically. Another maintenance step that can be used is to have a willingness to contact a therapist in order to gain an appropriate level of support and encouragement. A third step can be to willingly re-employ a few self-management techniques and, if deemed necessary, look to add a few new ones.
All of these methods, from engaging in therapy to initially treat trichotillomania to deploying maintenance techniques to remain in control of the condition, are underscored by the notion that the hair pulling disorder is not something that should be faced on an individual basis. By seeking help from outside sources, the person suffering from the condition can gain the kind of confidence and support that is needed in order to deal with trichotillomania properly and effectively.