Meet Jillian Clark, an award winning editorial and portrait photographer and an advocate for people with Trichotillomania. Like many trich sufferers, Jillian struggled with this disorder for many years in silence, not knowing that her daily struggles had a name or that there was help available for her. Fortunately we live in the age of technology where we have access to information at our fingertips. Jillian found answers when she searched the term "pull out my hair" did she come across the term trichotillomania.
Women who suffer from Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs) such as trichotillomania or dermatillomania may find it strange to discover that there are a number of men who are also afflicted with these conditions. Doug Shorts, one such sufferer, has come forward in his you-tube video titled Men Speak Up to encourage men who are suffering from BFRB’s to share their hair pulling and skin picking disorders so that other men, especially the youth or those who have just started engaging in these compulsive behaviours, do not feel so isolated in their compulsion.
As a young woman, Lucinda Ellery suffered a condition called Alopecia Areata (AA), a condition that resulted in hair loss and was the source of physical and emotional turmoil. In a bid to prevent others from experiencing this same torment, Lucinda set about to find more permanent hair loss solutions. She wanted to find a solution that would offer women something that looked natural, could be looked after like your own hair and could be worn 24 hours a day. At first Lucinda worked with extensions, which also offered women the option of adding more volume to their hair. But it is only after meeting her first client with Trichotillomania that Lucinda created and developed the revolutionary Intralace System™ which is now used by ladies managing various hair loss conditions, including those with trichotillomania.
Thanks to the efforts of research and advocacy groups such as the Trichotillomania Learning Centre have made huge strides in growing awareness of body-focussed repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) and encourages those suffering in silence to come forward and seek help and support. More and more we are seeing stories of individuals suffering with trichotillomania featured in mainstream media.
People have been suffering with trichotillomania in silence for years, but with increased awareness and acceptance of the condition, more and more individuals are coming forward with their experiences. In the technological age, we live in a generation of sharers. The millennial generation take to social media to share everything they experience and trichotillomania is no exception. The rise of the blogging culture has largely contributed to the increased awareness of the disorder and has led to more people and seeking and accessing help.
The onset of compulsive hair pulling ranges in age from childhood to late adulthood. We still do not know exactly what causes trichotillomania, and the trigger for onset differs for everyone. Studies have pointed to genetic predisposition to the chemical processes in the brain as a possible cause. However, one thing is clear is that compulsive hair pulling is not a condition that just occurs overnight. Many people pull at their hair out of habit, but do not necessarily have a hair pulling disorder. However what starts out as a habit can evolve into a clinical condition in some cases.
While we don’t know exactly what causes trichotillomania, studies have shown that there is a link between anxiety and hair pulling. Many hair pullers report that the urge to pull often occurs at times of high stress, tension or anxiety. However, despite the fact that the act of hair pulling brings short term relief, the situation gets worse as one gets anxious when large portions of his or her hair that get lost due to the pulling. This creates a cycle of hopelessness as the sufferers try to resist the impulsive behavior without success. Overall, despite hair pulling being a way to relieve anxiety, it also creates more stress to the sufferers. The most effective form of treatment for body-focussed repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Although awareness about body-focussed repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) such as trichotillomania is still very poor among health professionals, this is slowly changing, thanks to the efforts of advocacy and support organizations such as the Trichotillomania Learning Centre (TLC) and the Canadian BFRB Support Network (CBSN). TLC in particular has been and remains at the forefront of BFRBs research, and the development and training of professionals. This is achieved not only by disseminating important updates on research in the field, but also conducting or facilitating their own research, as well as the training if health practitioners.
An itching or tingling sensation in your fingers is a precursor to the urge you have to pull out the hair from your own head or other parts of your body. You use your fingertips to seek out the perfect hair, rubbing it between your fingers and sometimes smelling it or chewing on it before pulling it out. Whilst it may seem that you are the only person afflicted with this strange disorder, globally there are thousands of people suffering from Trichotillomania, also known as Hair Pulling Disorder.
There are five criteria for a person to be diagnosed with Trichotillomania, as set out in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM5)
1. Repetitive pulling resulting in noticeable hair loss.
2. Tension prior to pulling or when trying to resist the urge to pull.
Although trichotillomania seems to be more common in children than adults, severity of presentation appears to be higher in adolescence and prognosis becoming poorer as onset age approaches adulthood. This means that adolescent to young adult sufferers usually has a more long-lasting form of the disorder and do not respond as well to treatment. The transition between adolescence and being a young adult is a very stressful time as there are many life stage transitions that occur during this period, one of them being the transition into college. This can be particularly stressful if you are moving away from home to attend college and are living in shared accommodation such as a dorm environment. These sentiments were shared by a trichotillomania learning centre (TLC) member and DC areas trich support group facilitator, Ellen.
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