Trichotillomania - The disease of pulling your hair out
When most people talk about "pulling out their own hair" they use the phrase figuratively. We've all done it; when we get frustrated with the computer for example, we will later describe the problem saying it "had me pulling my hair out". But trichotillomannia (or "trich" as it is commonly known) is not a figurative disease, it is literally a disease where the sufferer will pull their own hair or eyelashes out. Trichotillomania affects about 2 people in every 100, and though it is little studied, for those who suffer from it, it can be a deeply embarrassing problem; after all, nobody likes to have great clumps of hear missing from their head, and a full head of hair is, like it or not, one of the things people will notice about your appearance. Women are considered more attractive if they have long shiny locks of hair, and men are considered more virile if they have a good head of healthy hair. Like many behavioral diseases that are triggered by depression or emotional upset, people who don't suffer from it simply don't understand why someone would pompulsively pull out their own hair, and will often look down on those who do suffer from trich. Lets look at the disease; what causes it and what can cure it.
Trich; anxiety and depression
Like any disease, this one has milder and more severe cases. Mild sufferers pull out a hair or two when their symptoms are triggered, and you probably wouldn't notice them ore be able to pick them out from the average person walking down the street. But more severe cases of trich can result in ripping out large clumps of hair that leave you with bald patches, or plucking out all your eyelashes. Some sufferers even end up eating the hair that they have pulled out; which simply leads to more problems as their digestive tract takes a beating as well.
Trich is largely thought of as an anxiety related disorder and can be a symptom of depression. It is, in some ways a form of obsessive compulsive disorder as well, and as is common with diseases that are triggered by anxiety and stress, tends to work in a vicious circle - stress causes you to pull your hair out and the fact that you pull your hair out causes you stress. It's easy to say, just relax, but we all know in our modern world, relaxing can be tricky. It can also be very difficult for friends and family to relate to a trich sufferer and often people might just say "stop pulling"; but it isn't that simple and that's really not helpful to someone who can't stop it. You might as well tell someone to stop breathing.
Great books to help with trich
Help for Hair Pullers
Complete Guide to Trichotillomania
Behavior Therapy Aprroach
What works for treating trichotillomania
The usual treatments for trich take the form of medication or counselling. Medication can be prescribed by your doctor and will depend on your symptoms but some of the common drugs prescribed are Prozac, Paxil and Valium, essentially antidepressants. Psychotherapy and hypnotherapy have both been shown to work wonders in helping people stop pulling their hair out. Many people who have run through the gamut of western medicine with little or no help have turned to complementary medicine to try to address their trich, and Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Acupuncture all have reportedly helped many people with their trichotillomania. For an immediate topical relief if you are a puller though, try some aloe vera - it is very soothing to itchy scalps. Many people with more severe cases and large clumps of hair missing will also turn to a wig maker so that they at least don't have to suffer the stress of going out in public with large clumps of missing hair - that alone can reduce your anxiety levels tremendously
One of the keys to beating trich is forming a good support network - there are many forums on the internet that you can get on and chat with people who have the same problems and it can be very comforting just knowing that you aren't the only person in the world who is suffering. from the problem. There are lots of books available from Amazon that offer lots of good suggestions on how to understand and cope with trich specifically and also anxiety in general. Why not try a meditative CD?. It is important to learn what the triggers are for you that make you want to pull your hair out - and this is where a good hypnotherapist or psychologist can help you, because they can point you towards your triggers and help you find them more quickly. Once you know what makes you pull your hair out, you can start formulating ways of dealing with the urge. Habit reversal and stimulus conrol techniques as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are all areas worth exploring.
Homeopathy and Aromatherapy can both help in keeping you calm and homeopathic remedies like Belladonna or Cuprum can help ease away anxiety and depression which will in turn help keep your hair pulling to a minimum. Acupuncture is such a vast subject that it could be a whole bunch of articles itself, but for trich and anxiety disorders in general, a good acupuncturist will find the imbalance in your body and bring it back to harmony so you don't want to pull your hair out anymore
Relaxation and Meditation CDs
As we can see, this is a very unpleasant disease, and one that really leaves embarrassing visible marks on the those suffering from it - huge clumps of hair missing from your head is not something any of us would want to suffer from. Anxiety and depression based disease are often the most difficult to treat because, unlike diseases caused by viruses for example, each case is unique and can't simply be cured by a pill or drug. Everyone hase their own unique triggers that will set them off on hair pulling, and when traditionaly antidepressants don't work, many trich sufferers seek counselling, hypnotherapy or try out complementary medicines like homeopathy or acupuncture to good effect. Many people also benefit amazingly well from simple relaxation CDs that are available online; just finding that moment of calm can be a life saver.
At the end of the day, finding out what works for you is the most important thing; everyone is different after all and what works as a remedy for one person may not work for another, so don't give up because there is a cure for your trichotillomania.