TRICHOTILLOMANIA – AN OBSESSIVE COMPULSION TO PULL OUT HAIR

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A couple of my best buddies have trich, so for me its relatively normal. It didn’t seem to cause them much distress and was just part of who they are. But recently I have been wondering how a compulsion begins? And also, more importantly, what are the ways we can help those who ‘pull’ try and stop.  Really glad Bryony Davy came forward to write this enlightening account of her Trichotillmania:


  • I have been pulling my hair out (literally!) for as long as I can remember. I think I was about school age when it became noticeable.

  • I know my mum considered sending me to “see someone professional” because of it.

  • It was so bad that I had large noticeable bald patches and this led to my parents deciding to have my hair cut pretty short (and pretty terribly!!)

  • My dad tells me that he used to lean over my cot so I could twiddle his beard/hair as it was the only thing that would get me to fall to sleep!

  • It wasn’t until I was a teenager that my mum read up about it and discovered “it” (my hair pulling) had a name – Trichotillomania.

  • She’d come across it in a book by psychologist Pamela Stephenson and so I read the small section about trichotillomania (or trich as it is sometimes referred to).

  • It said that it could be a form of self-harm which made me feel terrible as I’d never ever thought of it in that way. I’m still unsure now as to whether my trichotillomania is self-harm. I see it as a comfort but am also fully aware that it’s a bit unusual and not the best way to get comfort!

  • Pamela Stephenson also said it was usually linked to anxiety or possibly trauma in childhood. Although I was fortunate enough not to have had a traumatic childhood whatsoever, I have always been a worrier and, although I can come across as really confident and laid back, I now recognize, at the age of 37, that I am pretty anxious about a lot of things in my life.

  • I’ve never sought professional help for it or have ever spoken to a doctor about it but I would like to have some therapy/CBT to discuss it more and to help me stop.

  • Having said this, a big part of me doesn’t want to stop. It can really soothe me and, I am embarrassed to admit, does feel as though it’s relieving stress when I pull that twiddled chunk of hair out, leaving my scalp sore but my tension eased.

  • I can go through phases where I do it less often – I don’t think I pulled any hair out when I was on holiday with my family this summer in Portugal for example.  However, I know I will have twisted and fiddled with my hair as a comfort.

  • The difference is that there isn’t anything shameful or “odd” about simply playing with your hair.

  • Some of my closest friends don’t know I pull my hair out.

  • I also always have a lump of pulled out hair in my dressing gown pocket. The idea is that this stops me pulling more out and that I just fiddle with this when I’m watching tele or working in the evening.

  • Often though, particularly at the moment with work stress, I’m pulling out more to add to the usual clump of hair.

  • My husband and few friends that do know about this, think it’s a mixture of funny/odd/interesting and have asked me more about it as time has passed.

  • My husband Louis would tell you how cross/anxious I get when I lose a “good” clump. One that I’ve been adding too and “using” in the pocket of that delightful purple M&S fluffy dressing gown that I was bought as a Christmas present 7 years ago.

  • If my husband could burn the bloody thing (he calls me Barney when I’m wearing it), along with all the clumps of hair he regularly finds in the carpet/bed/washing machine he’d be a happy man!

  • I often worry that my hairdresser might comment on the stubbly bits of hair near my scalp from where I’ve pulled bits out, but she never has.

  • My trichotillomania is much more under control than it was 33 years ago so that’s something I suppose.

  • I do feel ashamed of it though and if I was with a new friend or at work and a clump fell out of my cardigan pocket, for example, I would be really embarrassed and probably pass it off as ‘fluff.’

  • If I do ever have some in a pocket and I’m at work it’s not ideal. This is because I find it such a calming thing to play with, that if I start ‘fiddling’ with the pulled out hair whilst teaching, I feel I’m drifting off and not fully focused on what I’m doing anymore.

  • I think my trichotillomania isn’t too much of a problem as I don’t have visible bald patches (although I know years ago my husband would tell me that I was making a small bald patch in certain areas and when I checked in the mirror I’d see he was right).

  • I panicked when my eldest son started pulling his hair out. He was about 3/4 years old and he’d wake up every morning for about 6/12 months with small clumps on his pillow. Thankfully it’s not continued. In hindsight I wonder if this was to do with his frustration at finding talking so difficult. He’s amazing now and doing really well at school but he didn’t talk ‘properly’ until he was nearly 4.

  • My other ‘embarrassing-thing-to-admit-to-as-a-37-year-old’ is that I suck my thumb and this sometimes coincides with my trichotillomania. And pretty much all of my friends and family know I still suck my thumb when I’m tired. I do this MUCH less now than when I was a child.

  • I also sometimes think about a lovely boy I used to teach whose trichotillomania was so bad that he had awful, uneven bald patches all over his head. This was always when he was going through stressful times or under a lot of pressure and he would look partially bald.  This makes me think that it is something that at some point I should speak to a counsellor/therapist about.

  • I think the reason that I haven’t even sought out therapy for my trich is for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, I don’t think it impacts on my life massively but when I’m physically pulling hair out and making my head really sore, I can see that others, like my husband, view this as quite concerning behaviour.

  • I also have to say that I would worry that, as someone who’s not much of a public crier, unless I’m at the cinema watching A Star is Born or Children in Need on the TV obviously, it would open a whole heap of other issues/past events that I might not have the desire/need to explore.

  • I’m someone who’s all for talking about mental health and have close friends and family who are, to varying degrees, affected by depression/anxiety/stress.  HOWEVER, I don’t find it easy to talk about when it comes to me. Hence me doing this list as I know that talking/opening up is healthy and a positive thing to do.

  • I think it’s been instilled in me that you always answer ‘how are you?’ with ‘I’m fine’and grin and bear even the hardest of times.  I’m making myself sound like someone who’s been really hard done to and always ‘puts on a brave face’, neither of which are true but I think I’m conditioned to always be ‘OK.’  And sometimes I’m not, like when I’m going through a bad patch of hair pulling.

  • I have never been on any online trich support groups but I know there are some out there and I’m sure they could be worth a visit.  I have also never knowingly met anyone who has the condition and would love to talk to someone about when/why they do it.

  • Whether my trich is related to my mental health or just an idiosyncrasy that I have I’m not sure as I’ve always had it.  I definitely think it’s a way that my stress manifests itself. But sometimes can do it when I’m feeling cross or anxious too, so surely in some way this is proof that it absolutely relates to my mental health.  Whether it did when I was a child though, I don’t know.

  • I will end by saying that I would love to see MORE online information and blogs/articles/TV documentaries that cover the topic.  Whether I find it easy to discuss or not, there’s no getting away from that fact that trichotillomania is part of who I am and I have had it for as long as I can remember.

  • P.S.  As I read over this list for the umpteenth time, I sat twiddling a strand of hair which sits next to my computer keyboard as I type this…

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