Trichotillomania: Things That Help

How to stop pulling your hair or picking your scalp

Trichotillomania is a compulsion to pull your hair or pick your skin, sometimes with the added complication of eating the pulled hair.

Although the actual health dangers are few, except for those who eat their hair, the behavior is compulsive, socially awkward, and a little contagious-- trich sufferers with dogs are more likely to have dogs who obsessively lick or scratch flea bites and other hot spots.

I have had this compulsion since early adolescence, and I certainly come by it honestly-- my mother is a scalp-picker, too. I probably learned it, but now I can't unlearn it. Because my lifestyle precludes ongoing care for any health or mental issue, I pretty much have to take treatment into my own hands. This Hub is dedicated to the tools and resources I've found that help, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in really big ways. 

Trich's Causes

Trich can be caused solely by mental issues, but there seems to be a connnection to an allergic reaction to a particular oil produced naturally in the skin. The allergic reaction may not be a typical histimine reaction, but there does appear to be a tie between inflammation from this oil and the practice of pulling or picking. 

Cleanliness

Hygiene is one way to combat this skin oil. Now, you don't want to replace compulsive skin-picking with compulsive skin-washing. But you do want to carefully evaluate whether or not a skin product is contributing to your behavior.

Products containing sodium lauryl sulfate (which includes almost all shampoos), alcohols, cetearyl, cetostearyl, and cetyl may contribute to hair pulling or skin picking. Select products that are low in oils and have mild natural astringents, like witch hazel and tea tree oil. 

Diet

Because trich can be caused by diet, avoid foods that trigger it. Caffeine, sugar, and oils are the big offenders, of course, but also corn products (including high fructose corn syrup), MSG, Nutrasweet/aspartame, and legumes.

If you're a hair eater, be aware that your own hair contributes to this reaction, so the less you eat, the less you will feel a compunction to do it. 

Alternative Behaviors

As a temporary or transition measure, it can help to substitute the picking/pulling behavior with other behaviors. Generally, the behaviors that are good choices are repetitive hand motions that don't cause a detrimental effect on your body (like eating):

  • knitting or crochet
  • embroidery
  • juggling
  • typing
  • playing a console video game requiring 2 hands 
  • playing cat's cradle
  • whittling
  • playing a guitar
  • fingerpainting
  • painting your fingernails (though this can lead to cuticle picking or nail biting)
  • solving a rubik's cube 

In short, choose an activity that requires both of your hands and which fits well into the times when you are most likely to pick. A common time is when watching TV, so developing a quiet rubik's cube addiction at that time may be very helpful. 

Blockers

I call it a "blocker" when I do something to physically prevent myself from picking. I wear a hat a lot. In fact, I became known at work as "the hat lady" because I wore very colorful and interesting hats every day. People thought it was a style choice, but really, it was because I didn't want to be known as "the hair picking lady."

  • wear a hat 
  • get acrylic nails (they're so thick, it's hard to pick or pull)
  • wear gloves
  • wear glitter in your hair (who wants glitter on their fingers?)
  • wrap a scarf or shawl around your head
  • wear headphones 

Underlying Cures

Without a definitive cause, it may be impossible to ever fully cure trichotillomania. However, a number of behavior modification therapies have worked, including alternative therapies like Emotional Freedom (EFT, or tapping), hypnosis, support groups, and supplements like inositol.

What doesn't seem to work very well are pharmaceutical drugs. While drugs can be effective in easing anxiety and treating other disorders, and medications may make a hair puller feel better about pulling, they frequently do little to actually stop the behavior itself.

If you're a hair puller, skin picker, or hair eater, do try to find professional help or a support group to help deal with the problem. Even if all you can deal with right now is handling the social anxiety related to this "bad habit," that's a good place to start. And remember, not every therapist is right for every patient, so don't be afraid to shop around and find someone you can really work with. 

Comments 27 comments

Jenny 6 years ago

Hey, thanks. That helped. My sister has this, and I think I can talk to her now without sounding like an idiot.


Heatherlee 6 years ago

Shampoo??

You have no idea how much sense that makes to me. Ive had trich and scalp picking for 12 years or so, and have tried everything...medications...vitamins...therapy..nothing works. But this is the first time ive EVER seen this 'allergic reaction' to oil produced by the body...it makes so much sense because I only pull when my hair is greasy/dirty and when my hair is clean I never touch it!

Id love to talk more about this, feel free to email me.

nicholson.heatherlee@yahoo.ca


Leslie 6 years ago

CAFFEINE! no wonder!! i just had a big cup of coffee and almost all of my eyelashes are gone. thanks for the tips!


loulagrenouille 6 years ago

very helpful tips, thankyou soo much. It makes sense to do something that keeps your hands busy...


monroe 6 years ago

thank you! this has helped more than anything i've read so far!


Yonus 6 years ago

My daughter has trich. It pains my wife and me so much to see her head go bald. Please help us. How do we find out why she is doing it? How do we know her skin is producing this hostile oil which is making her do it? Please help us...

You may write me to yonus47@gmail.com


boo 6 years ago

thankyou! this is the first time i have read it might just be something normal like shampoo, and not that i am a psycho. what shampoos do you recommend?


Lmendel530 5 years ago

I use Arbonne's Intelligence tea tree oil and it combined with their stimulating treatment leaves my scalp w/ a cooling effect try getting it at holistic.myarbonne.com Its my favorite new website!


mortaine profile image

mortaine 5 years ago from United States Author

@Lmendel530: Can you post the ingredients list?


joelj 5 years ago

I bite and pull out mustache hairs with my teeth. I know when I'm doing it but have trouble stopping. When it starts showing, I stop until it grows back, the it starts again. The shame of being found out is my only deterent. I already keep my hands busy. I need to find something nasty tasting to put on my mustache so it will help remind me to stop. I used to pull head hair out when I was 10 through 12. I don't know how or why I stopped. Why can't I stop now?


Karrie  5 years ago

Can you please help me, I'm have a bad habits by picking my own hair head. It's it a bad habit, I want to be beauty for my wedding for 2 year now.


rhiannon 4 years ago

i know this is helpful. BUT these are called safety procedures, and you need to drop them all to start getting better, for example not wearing your hat out, you get anxious because your anxious your pull, so you think by wearing your hate you won't pull, and will never go out without it (not very good at explaining) i suffer too, i pull my eyelashes and eyebrows and arm hair and scalp. and im trying to stop, yes its hard but these won't help. xxxx


SouthernGirl17 4 years ago

I suffer from Trich and I have no one who will believe me that I have a problem so to everyone in my family its my fault. I just feel so useless and stressed, its not like I don't try to stop....I do. I want to stop but I can't find a way to keep myself from pulling.


me 4 years ago

Im suffering this since 12 year old, and im 26 now, still haven't got over my problem. Anyone would like to talk about it or just find soneone with the same problem, feel free to email me - maybe we could help each other.

Divuzee@yahoo.com


web optimization 4 years ago

Hello there, I love your blog mortaine.hubpages.com . Is there something I can do to receive updates like a subscription or some thing? I am sorry I'm not acquainted with RSS?


cecilia 4 years ago

I've had this problem since I was 13 or 14, and I notice I only start pulling out my hair when my hair is dirty/greasy or when I'm bored.. if anyone has advice, please share.


KyGirl 4 years ago

I've had this problem for a long time, My mom say's its my fault and I could stop whenever I want but I can't. I've tried everything but nothing works. It went away for a while but then it came back. What can I do to keep it away?


Haley 4 years ago

Hi there,

My names Haley I never met anybody who has the similar problem as me and I've honestly never had the courage to talk to anybody because I always feel so ashamed and embarrassed and strange for doing this when I actually can't control it.

It's actually reassuring knowing there is other people out there too with the same issue, as I always feel I'm on my own and can't speak about it. 

Please write to me barker.h@hotmail.co.uk

 

Sent from my iPhone


Kate 4 years ago

I have trichotillomania....it is so tough because I don't even know why I do it. I am 13 and have quite a few mental problems including anxiety...big time. I think that is the main reason, not really diet or other things like that. I do it without noticing: reading, watching tv, on the computer, even eating (not the hair) ect. I finally came out to my parents about all my mental problems like...2 months ago. I am going into 8th grade and have had all my stuff since 4th grade. To parents reading this, understand your kid and help them without you hovering over them. I don't do it on my scalp. I do eyebrows, eyelashes, and armpit hair, as weird as that sounds. It is really tough because if I go to far on my eyebrows, I have to tell my friends that the lady at the salon messed up on waxing them. I need help with stuff, especially trichotillomania. I don't think I can stop :(. It stinks the medicine I take for depression apparently helps with trichotillomania...but it doesn't. Is there any cure!? ehhhhhh


quittrich 4 years ago

If you have trichotillomania make sure you check out my blog, http://www.quittrichotillomania.com


amy 3 years ago

try the Trich Stop Kit. Worked for me. www.trichotillomaniastop.com


Adam 3 years ago

hey, great post thanks so much! Also, you should add http://www.dermatillomaniatreatment.com to your list. that's my site and I have dermatillomania. thanks so much for sharing!


Breezy Rules profile image

Breezy Rules 3 years ago from Kenmore, New York

Your hub was very inspiring to me. I have had trichotillomania for over 3 years and its gotten to the point that nothing really stops me, and I haven't found things that worked, but now that I know more about it and new ways to work through it I feel hopeful about it. My biggest problem is that I feel weird admitting that I do it, at least to other people, so I don't even talk to my counselor about it, even though I've meant to for a while now but I just feel awkward bringing it up. I'm trying to deal with it alone but I don't think I can, but now I think I have the confidence to try new things to stop the pulling. Thank you for the hub


Lisa Keatts profile image

Lisa Keatts 2 years ago from Virginia

Great hub! My daughter suffers from this and for years I didn't know about it. It took a lot of courage for her to finally tell me. I felt I had caused it in some way for a long time but now know that there is nothing I could do or not do that would cause it. People need to know about this.


emily 17 months ago

Stop using shampoos


AlterEgo 9 months ago

I've had trichotillomania virtually all my life. I pull from just about everywhere. Though I have joined various trich boards, this is the first time I've heard of someone having an allergy to their own body oil. It makes perfect sense! That explains hot spots!

I tried all the techniques you describe. What finally cured me was MENOPAUSE! That proves trichotillomania is hormonal!


Say Yes To Life profile image

Say Yes To Life 9 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

Aha! More good news about menopause!

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