Not many people have tolerance for anything outside of their “normal.” Most of the world lives within strict confines of a defined “normal.” Anything outside of that version of “normal” is considered “weird,” “strange,” “gross,” or “out there.” In the case of creativity, those who fit into the “out there” category are perceived as innovative, but when it comes to mental illness, most people do not have a sympathetic, empathetic, or compassionate response to things that are “weird,” “strange,” “gross,” or “out there.”
Anxiety is everywhere. The new buzzword. But what does it really mean and is it really the culprit it is made out to be?
Simply defined, anxiety is a sense of unease, nervousness, or worry. It manifests on a continuum of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms from the feelings of butterflies in the stomach before a performance, athletic event, or speech all the way to a panic attack. There is a biological basis for anxiety. It is our stress response system, or our fight, fight, or freeze response. When our brain senses any kind of imbalance or potential threat to the body system, the stress response is activated in preparation for “survival mode.” For example, walking to your car alone in a half-lighted parking lot, you feel uneasy. This is an appropriate signal to you to be alert for danger. Sometimes, however, it is activated when it doesn’t need to be or it is often activated, leading to anxiety disorders.
When we talk about behaviors in psychology, the word “trigger” is used a lot. A trigger, however, is not the same thing as the cause of a condition. They are two separate things unrelated to each other.
Let’s talk about triggers first. One of the first things addressed in therapy for compulsive hair pulling is identifying what triggers someone to pull. The inclination may be to assume that question is trying to figure out the cause of pulling behavior, but it’s not. Think of it more like identifying the internal or external cues that occur right before pulling. Internal cues are things such as emotional states, thought processes, or physiological sensations. External cues are people, places, or situations. When any of those cues happen, someone with compulsive hair pulling may respond to those cues by pulling hair. The pulling serves a purpose in dealing with those cues, which is something addressed in therapy.
One of the things that make human beings amazing is our metacognitive abilities. Meta-what? In fancy psychological terms, it means humans have higher-order thinking that allows us to analyze and control our thinking processes and our memories. We can think about how and why we think as well as how and why we have memories. We are aware of our abilities to think and form memories, we have thoughts and feelings about those abilities, and we evaluate them in the past and for the future. We are not born with this ability; it develops over time.
People who suffer from trichotillomania struggle with more than a disorder that carries stigma. There is a lot of guilt and shame felt because of the disorder itself. Trich is not experienced by many and few people understand what it entails. All someone knows or sees is that someone pulls out their hair. In addition, the behaviors are magnified by the visual consequences of pulling out hair. Once the hair is out, it takes a long time to grow back. If it does, it will probably be weaker and look different from other hair. And sometimes it doesn’t grow back at all. Try explaining that to someone who doesn’t get it.
The wearables market is booming and this wave reached the mental health fields too. What is significant to our readers is that some of those companies are focused specifically on BFRB disorders such as excoriation disorder and trichotillomania. We decided to reach out to all vendors who are creating devices for the BFRB market, and put their products to the test. This is going to be the first post in a series of reviews dedicated to such devices. This following is a thorough review by a member of our team:
Hello – Slightly Robot
“The Slightly Robot Bracelet tracks your hands and vibrates when you forget what they're doing, whether it's pulling your hair, biting your nails, or something else.”
Trichstop.com has developed a free self-monitoring and tracking app available to anyone to download on both android and apple stores. Tracking hair pulling is a mindful practice that can help in many ways.
A mindful practice
What do we mean by mindful practice? Mindfulness is the process of being present in the moment, aware of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment. Practicing mindfulness can help you separate of the behavior of hair pulling from your identity and objectively evaluate where you are and where you want to be.
The world is full of stimuli that affect your five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. Every person is unique in the way their brain processes that stimuli and sensory overload can occur for anyone.
What is sensory overload?
Some people feel increased stress when stimuli gets to be too much. Think of that fingers-on-the-chalkboard sound and the sensation you feel when that happens. Now imagine that feeling happening when there are too many people around or when someone touches you or when there is too much noise. When someone has a sensitivity to outside stimuli, the body’s stress response can activate in such a way that the nervous system becomes overwhelmed. Some people experience panic attacks when the nervous system overloads and some people experience physical pain. When that happens, the natural response is to search for a way soothe ourselves or to make it stop.
Compulsive hair pulling is a stressful disorder often hid from family and friends. A cycle of negative emotions goes with the behavior including guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Many people who suffer from compulsive hair pulling prefer isolation, withdrawing from social interaction for fear of judgment. A person is left to deal with the disorder alone, internalizing negative emotions and often struggling with depression and anxiety.
For many people with Trichotillomania, wearing a wig can provide the confidence to go out, it can even sometimes reduce pulling. However good wigs are costly, and with daily wearing they can become worn out so requires special care. Proper care of wigs is important for them to look their best and maintain longevity. First, take care of your own hair. Even if you wear a wig to hide damage from hair pulling, it is important to keep your hair and scalp clean and moisturized. This helps keep you healthy and keeps the underside of the wig clean. Some people choose to wear a wig cap over their hair before putting on a wig, and that should be kept clean as well. The procedure for maintaining your wig will depend upon whether it is synthetic or natural hair. In some ways, synthetic hair is easier to care for than natural hair, but the point is not to treat a wig like your own hair.
Online Test for Trichotillomania
Find Out The Severity of Your Hair Pulling With This Free Online Test