Tackling Trichotillomania Head on
There are varying degrees of severity of trichotillomania, but in the severest of cases can cause significant balding and damage to the hair follicles, hindering hair regrowth. Emma Simonsen has suffered with trichotillomania since she was 13 years of old. It started when she experienced bad split ends and had to pull them, until she felt that she could no longer stop. Emma realized that she might have this condition when she already developed bald patches. Like many trich sufferers, the lack of awareness that the condition exists means that it often goes misdiagnosed and therefore untreated for many years. It is usually when the behavior causes real damage that the person is alerted to the fact that they may have a problem. With the advent of the information age via the internet, more and more people are starting to learn about trichotillomania. In the online news article featuring Emma's story, she describes that it was only when she looked down from her computer and was alarmed by the amount of hair she had pulled when she immediately looked to the internet for answers, "I went onto the internet and typed, 'Why can't I stop pulling out my hair?' The word 'trichotillomania' came up and I felt instantly relieved. I'd never heard of it before but I could see that this was a recognised condition."
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You are not Alone
Like any condition, knowing there is a name for your problem and that you are not the only one struggling with it, takes a huge burden off. However, acknowledging you have a disorder is only the first step to recovery. For many, the shame and guilt associated with trichotillomania prevents them from reaching out for help or support. Initially Emma kept the secret of her condition to herself until her hairdresser noticed the damage and revealed her concerns to Emma's mom. The support and understanding from Emma's mom was another important step in helping her manage her disorder, "She didn't judge me and wanted to help. It was such a relief not having to hide it anymore."
Facing up by opening up
Unfortunately the lack of awareness about trichotillomania and other body-focussed repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) among the medical fraternity found Emma left unsupported by her doctor.It was only after she started seeing a councillor on a regular basis that she started to come to terms with her condition and started to be more open about it. Talking openly about any mental health condition, let alone compulsive hair pulling is an incredibly courageous step for anyone, because inevitably there will be those who are less tolerant of difference and may harshly judge someone with an already vulnerable self esteem. Emma is one such courageous young woman who has decided to tackle trichotillomania head on and help other young people like herself by launching a campaign with the charity Fixers (an organization that supports 16 to 25-year-olds to tackle any issue that matters to them), to raise awareness about trichotillomania. For more information or to support Emma's campaign visit www.trichster.fixers.org.uk