Meet Emma Garcia, a young vlogger since 2013 who shares intimate feelings and experiences about living with trichotillomania. In this vlog, Emma talks about the two sides she experiences with having trichotillomania and particularly when she has had a bout of compulsive hair pulling. She talks about the guilt and anger she feels toward herself, but at the same time she feels like she doesn't want to let this behavior to take control over her life. She talks about not wanting to be "that girl" who mopes about and is "obsessed with [my] hair". This dilemma that Emma feels is one that so many people struggling with body-focussed repeptive behaviors experience.
The road to recovery can be long and full of setbacks. So how do you know it's getting better? The Trichotillomania Learning Centre (TLC) created a video with the theme “I knew it was getting better when…." to capture the important role a supportive community plays in the rocky road to dealing with body-focussed repetitive behaviors such as trichotillomania and excoriation disorder. TLCplays such a significant role in the lives of those living with these conditions. They have always been at the forefront of research and advancement in knowledge about the disorder and work very hard at trying to find the treatments that work. But most importantly TLC provides the support that those sufferring with BFRBs and their loved ones so desperately need to keep them going on this extremely difficult journey.
There is hope
As some of the participants in the video describe, they knew they or a loved one was getting better when:
In 2014 Ms Reneta Slikboer, a PhD candidate from the Swinbourne University of Technology in Australia, embarked on her Doctoral research with a focus on understanding trichotillomania. The aim of the study was to understand the psychological mechanisms that contribute to maintaining trichotillomania and how they predict symptom severity. Previously thought to be a rare condition, it is now estimated that about 1% of the population experiences this disorder. Recognized for the first time as a clinical condition in 2013 in the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM5), researechers are now sitting up and taking notice of condition that can be severly debilitating for many sufferers. According to Reneta:
This year, the annual Trichotillomania Learning Centre (TLC) Body-Focussed Repetitive Behavior (BFRB) conference was held 10-12 April in Arlington, Virginia. The conference aims to highlight new research, challenges and advancements in the field of BFRBs such as trichotillomania. The conference entails a jam packed program of inspirational speakers, lectures and an opportunity to meet others with the same condition. The conference is aimed at all ages and even younger children and teenagers are welcome, with special programs specifically for this group. One of the highlights of the conference is the closing session open mic. This is when these young attendees are welcomed up on the stage to share spontaneously any message they would like to convey to the audience.
Trichotillomania or compulsive hair pulling disorder, is often thought to be an unconscious or automatic behavior, whereby the individual may be unaware he or she is pulling their hair until they have already started. Once the action has been initiated, the person finds it difficult to stop, despite feeling ashamed or guilty and being aware of the potentially damaging effect it might have on their hair follicles. This can then perpetuate the cycle whereby the person may then further experience the urge to pull in response to the shame and guilt that goes with this condition. When hair pulling is done in a compulsive manner which the person is unable to stop, it is no longer considered a bad habit, and is referred to as trichotillomania - classified as a form of impulse control disorder.
When you just have a habit of pulling at your hair, you can choose to stop at any time. But when the urge to pull becomes too irresistible, it is possible a clinical condition has developed. One of the criteria for diagnosis of compulsive hair pulling disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM5) is that the individual is unable to stop despite one or more attempts to resist engaging in the behavior. So if having trichotillomania means you have not been able to stop pulling does this means you will never be able to stop?! No it doesn't. We outline a few basic tips from other hair pullers on how to stop pulling:
Like any other mental or physical condition, what we eat plays a significant role in our risk factors, our prognosis and the severity of our symptoms. Anecdotally society has always recognised the link between food and emotions, linking certain foods with love and romance, comfort food, foods that give you a pick-me-up and even celebratory foods. So intuitively we know that what we eat is more than just nourishment and should therefore come as no surprise that what you eat may have an impact on hair pulling. Of course there is no one shoe fits all ideal diet, but we let's take a look at some of the general guidelines to consider that may help you reduce your hair pulling:
Compulsive hair pulling, although common, is still little known within the medical profession. As such there is a lack of resources for those suffering with the condition. In addition, traditional face-to-face therapy can be very costly, thereby making it inaccessible to most people.
Although trichotillomania is a little known disorder and is fairly newly recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM5), those suffering from this condition have been instrumental in creating awareness through various forms of media. One such media format is the age old medium of books. Self-help books have been around probably as long as there have been books, their purpose being to instruct or impart knowledge or skills to the reader that will help him or her solve personal problems. In modern times you can find self-help books and literature on almost anything, so it is no surprise that you will find books on trichotillomania, particularly with the severe lack of professional help and services available to people suffering with this disorder.
Online Test for Trichotillomania
Find Out The Severity of Your Hair Pulling With This Free Online Test