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helena1028 , 23 Dec 2021

Can I help my sister?


I am new to this message board and am grateful there are others here sharing their stories.

I first learned about trichotillomania many years ago when I noticed my older sister liked to pick at her skin. Then I realized she was pulling out hair from her knuckles. She also began to pull out hair from her scalp, usually when she was relaxed and watching TV. This started probably when she was in her mid-20s.

She's 44 now and I still see her pulling. I believe that the pulling has increased. In the past couple of years, I have observed that she also pulls her pubic hair. The first time I saw her pull her pubic hair, I felt grossed out because we were eating dinner. When I said something to her about it, she seemed very embarrassed, possibly hurt. She stopped for 5 minutes, then went back to pulling. So then I realized that it seems that she cannot stop pulling. I have not said anything to her about it since then. However, part of me wants to say something because it is becoming a hygienic issue (she pulls, then handles or serves food to the family, but does not wash her hands or clean the pulled hair from the table).

I want to be supportive of my sister, but I am not sure how to broach the topic. She has some other OCD behaviors and perfectionism as well that make it very difficult to discuss anything that can be construed as criticism. If she feels anything less than an unachievable standard, she will instantly shut down to feedback from others. We have encouraged therapy for her, but only attended one session and she seems unwilling to commit to the process.

I have seen her discarded to-do lists lying around over the years. For the past 2 decades, "stop pulling" is usually written on the list. I feel this is something that she wants to stop doing, but is probably "stuck" or doesn't know how. As someone who does not pull, I don't personally know what this feeling is like so that I can better understand it.

Sometimes I read many articles about trich and want to forward them to her, but I feel this would only make her embarrassed again.

If anyone has any advice, I would appreciate it. I only want to help.

Thank you.

3 Answers
January 06, 2022
I would say to continue to be supportive. Meet her where she is at. Her hair pulling may not be her most significant issue at this time and she is trying to work thought something else or just to survive. People will change when staying the same is too hard. Good luck - you are a good sister.
May 20, 2023

I am exactly like your sister.

My mom prepares hair treatments and brings them to me while I shower and I just wanna scream and pour it down the drain out of spite. 

My dad asks me why I pull my hair after doing it for 6 years and I wanna burts into tears.

My sisters tell me to stop pulling when we're watching a show together and I can feel myself shutting down instantaneously. 

You see, us hair pullers are already filled with so much shame and embarrassment and it turns into boiling self-hatred, so to be caught by someone who knows what we're doing and is asking us why or suggesting we do something about it, it makes us so angry. So unbelievably angry. It's hard to explain but it just feels like an invasion of privacy that only WE should know about. Plus, it puts into perspective the large amount of damage we're doing to ourselves. 

I am glad that your sister has you because you clearly seem very concerned about her well being and condition. I highly recommend that you maybe write her a letter where you express your concern in the softest way possible and maybe suggest that you could accompany her to a counseling appointment if that is something within the means of both of you. Also expressing your love for her in this letter and your wish for her to get better would be of great help.

It's been a while, but I very much hope that things have gotten better for your sister and your relationship with her.

January 22, 2024


Thank you for reaching out and expressing concern for your sister. It's clear you care deeply about her well-being. Addressing trichotillomania can be delicate, given your sister's sensitivity to feedback.

The advice offered in the other comments are great, and may be helpful in your situation and can provide additional insight.

You may also want to consider expressing your support and understanding without judgment. Let her know you're there for her and that you've come across helpful information about trichotillomania. Instead of forwarding articles directly, you might ask if she'd be open to discussing the topic together. Encourage open communication about her feelings and experiences, emphasizing that your goal is to support her, not criticize.

For your own well-being, it's crucial to prioritize yourself in this process. Caring for someone with trichotillomania can take a toll, so don't forget to seek support for yourself. You are commendable for wanting to help her, and she is fortunate to have you. Trichstop has excellent resources and Facebook online groups where support and information are offered—this can be beneficial for both you and your sister.

Private Facebook group page:

Wishing you strength and your sister well on her journey.

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