Bullying and Trichotillomania
Trichotillomania affects all people at all ages. There is evidence of onset varying from childhood to late adulthood and for varying reasons, from genetic predisposition to comorbid mental health conditions such as Obessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety Disorder. One thing that is certain about this condition, along with all the other Body-Focussed Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs) such as Dermatillomania and Trichophagia, is that it has a harmful impact on the body, which is a cause of tremendous shame and embarrassment for the sufferer. The world has always been preoccupied with aethetics, with human value and worth often being judged in society by our conformity with what is viewed as attractive or beautiful. This is particularly significant in the preteen and teeange years when self-identity is still being developed and social conformity and belonging is of great significance. Unfortunately this is a time when bullying behaviour is also rife, and with the advent of the cyberworld and therefore the increased access for bullies to their victims through social media communication, bullying has become an increasingly worrying behaviour in recent times. For people suffering from any condition that marks them as 'different' to their peers, bullying can be a very real reality, and a condition like trichotillomania is no exception.
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The Target of Bullying
Repetitive hair pulling can lead to baldness. The negative impact on the person's appearance often leads to the individual going to great lengths to cover up their hair loss. While covering up may hide bald patches, dressing in a manner that is not inline with the latest fashion trends or is frowned upon within the individual's peer group can also be a target for bullies. Trichotillomania sufferers often also withdraw from social environments where they feel their appearance may be harshly judged such as going to the beach, public pools or parties. This can lead to the individual being labelled as nerdy, socially awkward, or introverted. These labels are also popular targets for bullies.
Dealing with Bullies
There are numerous websites and support programs worldwide trying to tackle bullying in schools. One website lists a few simple strategies offered by students who have been bullied on dealing with these situations:
- Reach Out: Tell an adult. Sometimes you may have to tell more than one trusted adult. Ask your friends to help you. There is safety in numbers. Practice what to say the next time you're bullied with your parents, teachers or friends.
- Be Cool in the Moment: Stay calm and confident. Don't show the bully that you're sad or mad. Ignore the bully and walk away. Remember: Fighting back can make bullying worse.
- Change the School Community: Work with others to stop bully behavior; your whole school will benefit.
Of course these are general strategies that do not address the specific issues that someone with trichotillmania may be dealing with. If you are struggling with Hair Pulling Disorder and are being bullied, the most important step you should take is to seek help and support for your condition first. Having someone you trust who can support you in dealing with this condition will have a positive impact, while simulataneously providing you with support on issues of bullying. One young woman named May Brown decided to break free from the silence of this condition by uploading a video confession expressing what she had been going through. May Brown had been nicknamed by her classmates as baldy because of her bald patches.To hide her bald patches, she’d wear hair slides or hats. Since her video confession, she has received messages from different sufferers around the world asking for some pieces of advice on how to cope with this condition. Others would also share their trich stories. May has found that this new found strength in this new found support system and her openness about her condition has also helped her deal with being bullied in a more assertive way.