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I'm new here and I really need some advice and opinion from people who also suffer from trichotillomania.
I have been pulling since I was around 3 years old and I am now 26. I have no idea what triggered my hair pulling because I was so young but related disorders seem to run in my family, a few of my family members can't stop biting their nails or picking their skin. I could never hide the pulling from my family and when I was a kid none of my friends knew about it - it was always relatively manageable and sometimes I wouldn't pull for weeks or months. Even when I went to high school and met new friends there I got complimented all the time on my 'great, thick, shiny hair'. I took a year off after high school before going to university and managed to quit pulling for a year and a half.
However, during my second semester at university I started pulling again when under pressure to write essays and I couldn't stop. I've never been able to stop since, not even during my summer holidays. At the same time I developed anxiety and with each year at university it's become worse and worse and I've been pulling more and more. Also, at the same time, I've become more and more of a perfectionist.
In 2014, I got hyperthyroidism for a few weeks due to an infection (my doctor thinks) and suffered severe hair loss, losing around half my hair. I became very depressed and more anxious because of this and my relationship with my boyfriend suffered. I've never been able to gain my confidence back since, even though my hair grew back. Soon after I started pulling my hair again, a lot.
I graduated with very good grades in 2015 but while studying for my finals my hair started falling out again and I got this massive bald spot at the back of my head. I still kept pulling and pulling. Straight after graduation I got into a world-top-20 university in the UK to do my masters degree. I started it in September 2015 but felt miserable the whole time and couldn't focus on my studies even though I quite liked my courses. My relationship was hanging on a thread and I was very shy and felt depressed because of my hair which didn't start to grow back until November, still only a small part of the bald spot grew back. I wanted to quit the degree and go home but decided to power through. After returning to the UK following the Christmas break I started feeling worse and worse even though me and my boyfriend had fixed the relationship and were happy again. The degree I'm doing is very high demanding and stressful so I started pulling so much that the bald spot got much larger. I ended up taking a break from the degree for 9 months and went back home.
I didn't manage to fix my problems over that time though - I was so ashamed of having trichotillomania that I didn't even tell my psychologist about it. I did manage to get to know myself a bit better though and felt very little to no anxiety. I still pulled my hair a lot and the bald spot became larger, at this point i can't even put my hair into a ponytail. Now my hair is very, very thin and I can only have a low ponytail and then even a small part of the bald patch is showing.
I went back to the UK in January this year to finish my degree and felt fine for the first few weeks, studied and didn't pull my hair that much. However, when pressures about essays crept in I started feeling extremely anxious, I couldn't get myself out of bed to go to classes, make dinner or anything. I started waking up every day with an upset stomach and lost around 5-6 pounds in one week, I felt so devoid of energy that I could barely walk for 10 minutes to class. I decided this degree, even though I've spent around 30,000 pounds on it, wasn't worth it, so I decided to drop two classes and go for a Postgraduate Certificate instead to have something.
But now, I feel almost just as anxious about these two essays I have to write now, even after dropping the other two. I keep pulling and pulling my hair and I can't stop. I'm on anxiety medicine now and seeing a psychologist but I don't feel anything is really helping that much, I have also been meditating around 2 or 3 times a week but that hasn't been working very well either. I'm hoping the anxiety medicine starts working soon (I started it two weeks ago). For the last week or so I've been feeling increasingly depressed - it's difficult to get out of bed and I've been isolating myself in my bedroom for the past few days becaus I don't feel like going out after pulling my hair so much.
At this point I feel like quitting the degree altogether, I don't feel like it's worth this much, I just want to feel happy again and beautiful (even though that's a bit vain). I keep thinking about the money though, even though I'm starting not to care about it anymore, it's just gone and I can make money again. Plus university in my home country is very cheap and flexible and I could do another degree if I needed to whenever I wanted to. I just feel like I'm going to be a lot happier taking care of myself at home and actually having hair on my head than getting a degree and lose much more of my hair, lose my confidence and feeling depressed about it. On top of that I'm not fully enjoying my degree, I hate writing essays and do not like the academic environment, I'm more of a creative person and I like working and I always feel like I should be doing something else.
I still keep thinking about the money and whether it would be stupid to just quit. I just really want to stop pulling my hair, get my hair back and feel like myself again. I can't control the pulling when I'm under such pressure, I never have. I'm sorry about the long post but I thought I should say everything. I hope you can give me any advice, has anyone here quit university, college or something else because of trichotillomania?