Trichotillomania, also known as compulsive hair pulling disorder, has no known cause, but is linked to a variety of things. It is believed that some people with the disorder have a neurologically based predisposition to do it. It works as a self-soothing mechanism, helping to keep them calm when they feel stressed or anxious. While estimates differ, about 1 in 50 or 2% of the overall population has trichotillomania. This makes the disorder more common than Schizophrenia and Bipolar Depression. Unlike anxiety disorders (e.g. panic disorder, social anxiety, PTSD) where the fundamental symptoms are stress and fear, trichotillomania has a significantly more complex and heterogeneous set of symptoms.
Trichotillomania, difficult word to pronounce and even more difficult disorder to live with. A lot of people don’t have a clue on what hair pulling disorder is. It wasn't even officially labelled a disorder until 1987 but studies show that it has existed since evaluation of humankind, unfortunately scientists still aren't sure what causes trichotillomania. But even though there aren’t clear effective ways on how to cure it, there are many who have found ways to manage the behavior and break the cycle.
Break the Stigma
Educate yourself, then educate others, and finally, don't act weird when and if someone "comes out" to you about having the disorder. The more we talk about it the less strange it will seem, and the less isolated sufferers will feel. A lot of disorders are still overlooked and it is up to individuals who understand the disorder to take a stand and let their voice be heard.
Trichotillomania or "trich" is a disorder on the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Spectrum and is portrayed by the overwhelming desire to pull out one's hair and is normally persistent and hard to treat. This usually leads to hair loss or baldness (contingent upon the affected area of pulling), pain and in many cases, functional or social isolation. Epidemiologic studies for trichotillomania have been sorely lacking in the field of scientific research, but there is a growing recognition of the need for prevalence studies to understand how often trichotillomania occurs in different groups of people and why.
Anu Elizabeth Roche is a Mumbai based poet, mother, wife, and member of spoken word poetry band Mental Heads who suffers from trichotillomania. Anu Elizabeth’s poem titled “Hair” was recently discovered by “Mind of India” and has gone viral since. Her motivations behind writing the poem were simple, she wanted to raise awareness of the compulsive hair pulling disorder.
I want to destroy the silence and ignorance surrounding this condition, and spreading awareness is a viable solution”.
Hair pulling from the scalp often leaves patchy bald spots, which causes significant distress and can interfere with social or work functioning. People with trichotillomania may go to great lengths to disguise the loss of hair. For some people, trichotillomania may be mild and generally manageable. For others, the compulsive urge to pull hair is overwhelming.
3D printing - a new hair technology!
Trichotillomania is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM5) as a Body-Focussed Repetitive Behaviour (BFRB), within the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Spectrum. This suggests that while the behaviours of compulsive hair pulling are related to OCD, it is not an OCD in itself, but is better defined with similar conditions in its own category. BFRBs are characterized by repetitive, direct body-to-body contact, which unintentionally causes physical harm to the body. While the urge to engage in these behaviours are defined as compulsions, some have described the inability to stop picking and the irresistable nature of the urge to be similar to addiction. An estimated 25% of people suffering from a BFRB are also addicts.
Last month we shared a video about a technology product called Slightly Robot, a device that tracks your hands and vibrates each time you do certain movements. We think this is a great device for developing awareness, an important aspect of Habit Awareness Training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The founders and creators of Slightly robot, Matthew and Joseph Toles graciously took the time to answer some of our questions about Slightly Robot. This is what they had to say:
Online Test for Trichotillomania
Find Out The Severity of Your Hair Pulling With This Free Online Test