Trichotillomania (trich) is a mental health disorder where a person repeatedly and recurrently pulls out their hair which causes hair loss and significant physical and psychological impairment. The disorder’s symptoms usually show up between 9 and 13 years of age, coinciding with the onset of puberty. Not much is known about the cause of the disorder, but research using brain imaging has provided evidence that trichotillomania results from impairment in response inhibition. Primarily, a person experiences an urge to pull their hair, but they cannot resist the urge or stop the behavior even when the response is inappropriate. Some research shows that the part of the brain that tells the body to stop a movement is impaired in people with trich.
Compulsive hair pulling affects 1-2% of the population, mostly female and usually starts during puberty. Pulling behaviors can take many hours per day. Not only does pulling hair interfere with daily functioning, but many people who suffer from trichotillomania spend many hours covering up or disguising the damage. The manifestation of the behavior is different for each person; however, it often results in hair loss on the face or scalp. Many people who suffer from compulsive hair pulling also have other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Many people with mental illness find comfort when they find out their condition related to structural or chemical issues in the brain. Providing an explanation based on something physical can reduce the self-stigma associated with mental illness. Self-stigma is like perceived stigma, where someone expects poor treatment because they have a mental illness. A physical explanation for a disorder can also improve self-esteem because perspective can change from “I don’t know what is wrong with me, I must be bad,” to “My brain works or is structured differently.” Not everyone feels this way though.
This is a guest post submitted by a mom of a child with trichotillomania.
PARENTING A CHILD WITH TRICH
What would you do to prevent people from staring at you because of a disability or disfigurement? Would you put yourself in situations where people could ask you why you are the way you are? How comfortable would you feel being put on the spot?
Dealing with questions about skin picking!
People with trichotillomania deal with these questions all the time. Will people stare? Will they ask questions? What will I say if they do? Trichotillomania is a mental health disorder where people compulsively pull out their hair. The most frequent locations are the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes, so someone may not have any eyelashes or eyebrows. They may have strange bald spots on the scalp, areas where hair won’t grow anymore, or areas where hair grows back, and it looks different from the rest.
Mindful running serves multiple purposes for people with compulsive hair pulling disorder. First, as an aerobic physical exercise, running keeps stress low and anxiety at bay. Second, running is a full-body activity. And third, it helps develop mindfulness skills for use at other times.
Exercise benefits everyone. Research shows it positively impacts stress, anxiety, memory, sleep, mood, and self-esteem. For people with compulsive hair pulling, anxiety and stress can act as triggers for pulling behaviors which instigates the cycle of shame and embarrassment as a result of pulling. A lot of time goes into pulling with a lot more going into taking care of oneself afterward. Consider exercise as a way to reduce stress and feel better.
This is the second post in our series of reviews of BFRB tracking & monitoring devices (you can read the perevious post here)
Some background about the company
We’ve been following HabitAware since its inception in early 2016. This company was founded by Aneela (herself affected by trichotillomania) and her husband. In an attempt to help Aneela’s personal case they came up with an idea for a device that will track the hand’s movement and will alert the user with a light vibration once a problematic movement is identified. And so the idea for Keen was born.
We’ve been eager to test it ever since they started shipping early this year, and finally we got our hands on a Keen device. We put it to everyday use, and here are our impressions.
A recent study evaluated the effectiveness of inositol in reducing pulling behaviors in people with trichotillomania. While there is no definitive medication for managing trichotillomania, there are some that can help with aspects, of the condition such as stabilizing mood that end up reducing the severity of symptoms.
Researchers try to understand factors that contribute to body-focused repetitive behaviors like pulling hair to develop more effective treatment strategies. Because many people pull due to urges or compulsions that increase with anxiety and stress, one question was whether family functioning styles impact hair pulling behaviors for teens.
The short answer is yes. For a variety of reasons, many people with trichotillomania do not get treatment. Those who do sometimes have negative experiences which causes them to stop treatment. Internet-based therapy and support is a promising way to reach those people with trichotillomania who do not have access to face to face therapy or who do not feel comfortable sharing their experiences face to face. A recent study showed that no matter the symptom severity or treatment history internet-based treatment is still effective.
Online Test for Trichotillomania
Find Out The Severity of Your Hair Pulling With This Free Online Test