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lunabean's avatar

Trichotillomania advice?

Asked by lunabean (630points) June 10th, 2011

Does anyone have any advice on managing this without medicine or therapy? I will consider therapy and/or medicine but I just wonder if anything else would be an option as well. I have been pulling my hair out since I was about 12 and I’m 23 now. I don’t really know what brought it on. I feel like it’s putting a strain on my relationship with my family and my significant other. I wish there was a quick fix for this problem but I know there isn’t.

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14 Answers

raven860's avatar

when do you do it? Is it anywhere & anytime? or only under certain circumstances?

lunabean's avatar

@raven860 I tend to actually pull out my hair when I’m at home. I will still touch my hair a lot when I’m out somewhere but I won’t pull it out excessively in public, only a little for fear of people noticing.

Vortico's avatar

I started this at 10–12 but rarely do it now at 18. I found that I was able to transfer the desire of pulling eyelashes, eyebrows, and head hair to my legs and arms gradually over about 6 months. For each hair that would have been pulled from my face, I substituted this desire by pulling from these new locations. This was a great accomplishment since the lack of arm and leg hair is much less noticeable and the act did not require bringing my hands to my face.

The second step was to stop “feeling” the hair with my lips (the most sensitive part of the body responding to touch). Many people do this after pulling, but it unfortunately encourages the hand to pull more hair from the face. Instead, throw the hair on the ground. If you don’t have this problem, great!

Once these habits are broken, most of the difficult work is over. You can then move on to pulling the hair on just your hands and knuckles. This is almost not noticeable, and you only have a limited supply, preventing long periods of hair pulling.

Today, I am an excessive hair-biter and occasionally put my hands to my face without a purpose, but I think I have come a long way from having no facial hair.

Good luck.

raven860's avatar


Do you think you do it more when you feel stressed? I am not a specialist in any sense about this. If I had to challenge this however it would be based upon my mental strength. Each time I’d find my hand raise up towards my head, I’d try to stop myself and then put my hand down. It would be purely based on inner-motivation for me. It is a lot harder said than done however my inspiration comes from my grand-father. My grandfather used to be a chronic smoker. He smoked cigarettes a lot! Once he was visiting my parents and felt very ill because of it, ( I forget what happened to him), however, his sudden illness (related to smoking) caused my parents a great deal of trouble. He saw their suffering and promised to never smoke again. And I swear I never thought my grandfather ever smoked was I not told this story.

Basically inner-motivation and self-determination is key. Apart from that I am not sure of what works. Think of it as you are running a marathon and you don’t give up with each step.

I know this is a very cliche answer and something you have been probably told about earlier but its up to you to make it work and not want it. ( I understand tricho isalong the lines of OCD.)

Vunessuh's avatar

If you haven’t already, work on identifying not only what triggers this behavior, but the specific locations and time of day you typically engage in it. That way, you can develop strategies to modify your actions and have a heightened sense of knowing when you really need to distract yourself from the impulse.

When you feel the urge, try to find other things to do that will really keep your hands busy. Squeeze a stress ball or play with some Silly Putty. I don’t know what your hobbies are or if you’re male or female, but you could knit, paint your nails, do some bead work and other arts and crafts like origami or scrap booking.

Try taking up a few new hobbies that will need your attention and last a while – gardening, for example. Trichotillomania and other forms of self-harm are coping mechanisms generally in response to stress, anxiety and/or depression. You need to find a healthier way to deal with the emotional distress (I’m assuming) that is causing this compulsive behavior.

If you explore and experiment with new hobbies and projects to take on, there’s no doubt that you’ll find something you love that will help lesson your urge to pull out your hair. Cooking, sports, writing, exercising, meditation, etc. You can find some links online about meditation and breathing techniques that might help you when you’re stressed or anxious.

I know everyone values alone time, but for now, put yourself in scenarios where you’re not alone, just for the sake of not wanting to pull out your hair in public. For example, study at the library rather than at home. Watch tv with the family rather than in your room.

Try setting goals for yourself. I don’t know how often you pull, but tell yourself that this week you will only pull five times. The week after, you will only pull 4 times. And so on and so forth.

Anyway, I wish you luck and I hope things get better for you! (hugs)

Vortico's avatar

Whoops, I assumed you were male. I guess the knuckle hair method won’t work in that case.

lunabean's avatar

@Vortico I’ve tried pulling from other places but it just doesn’t have the same feeling or impact as pulling from my head. There have only been a few times when I like the feel of my hair against my lips or face. I must admit that I like the feel of the follicle.

@raven860 I do find myself doing it more when I’m stressed. It’s more frequent for sure. I’ll try self motivation, but I’ve never really been good at it. I’ll always start something but almost never tend to finish. I’ve been thinking of trying yoga, so maybe I could try that along with meditation.

@Vunessuh I should probably pick up some hobbies I’ve tried in the past. I recently got knitting needles and yarn, but I found it difficult and gave up! I have tons of unused clay I could sculpt as well. Too bad reading doesn’t distract me enough. I should probably invest in a stress ball too.

asmonet's avatar

Pssst, some people who can’t get the hang of knitting can become excellent crocheters.

As for your problem, I have no personal experience. I used to have some compulsive issues with my nails, biting them to the bed. When I ripped them back from biting so much, I’d intentionally rip up the other side to make them even so when they grew back they wouldn’t be damaged in jagged obvious ways. At least two of my fingers were out of commission on any given day as a kid from swelling, and open wounds. My plan worked, my nails look like a person who has never bit – but how I got there wasn’t normal. I was lucky, my issues with my nails kind of disappeared on their own over time.

Most people with compulsive behavior don’t get better on their own. From what I understand those with these behaviors if not dealt with can have their symptoms get FAR worse following traumas, especially if the behavior is a stress response to begin with.

Talk to you doctor. It isn’t normal, and it sucks but if this is at a point where your relationships are being hurt it’s affecting your life far more than it should.

Picking up a hobby isn’t going to help.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve not thought much about this in years but there might be something in learned behavior from watching others because there are things similar I’ve done since childhood that I notice now when watching my mothers which triggers memories of seeing those things done by my maternal grandmother. All three of us are compulsive face touchers, hair strokers, tuggers and yes, I notice we all have pulled eyebrows, eyelashes, strands of hair.

This isn’t something that I’ve ever done to the extent of thinking it was strange or noticeable in the way of bad patches, that sort of thing but other people sure notice it as odd behavior. It’s got to be stress related because when I stress then I feel my skin is crawling, my own body hair itches me to where the strands touching my face make me scratch and get hives. I’ve always thought it was allergies causing the hair thing but maybe it’s something much different. I’ll admit to shaving all the body hair I can do without in order to keep from breaking out in hives. It seems to work but probably just in my head.

Find some order and security to your life to cut down the stress, it’s worked for my “allergies” to a great extent.

raven860's avatar


I am not sure how self control works (psychologically), but I think you can try this. Try improving your self-control on other things first. Like running or weight lifting or anything that you are required or want to do but push it off because you feel too lazy for it. It can be as simple as taking the trash out on time or not delaying taking out groceries from the car or something or making your bed every morning.

It should be anything you get “too lazy” to do and put it off for later. I think this will help you to add more discipline and strengthen your self-control so you can control more compulsive behaviors.

Vortico's avatar

The trick is to willingly develop a habit triggered by the habit you want to break. For example, when your fingers grip the hair you are about to pull, make yourself open your fingers and pull away instead of pulling the hair. Not only does satisfy your desire somewhat, but it gives your hand a “muscle memory” of releasing before pulling.

This will not work if you read this and train the habit occasionally. You cannot expect your habit-changing motivation to be on your mind 100% of the time. This is where training a new habit comes in. You must dedicate five minutes of your complete attention to this, take a break, and repeat. During the breaks, if you find yourself pulling away involuntarily, you are progressing.

lunabean's avatar

@Vortico good idea, I’ll try that :)

atarah09's avatar

Hi, everyone! I know that this question is about 3 years old, but I have a good friend that has her own website. I suggest you all take a look:

She is 95% pull-free.

I, too, have Trich and we both run a Christian group on Facebook. All of our members are on the road to recovery!

sufferkate's avatar

I’m 33 and have been pulling from my scalp and eyelashes since I was 14. I tried to substitute pulling with smoking, and ended up doing both. Now I pick scabs all over my bald scalp and forced myself to go see a psychologist. I grew up in a household which was very violent, but thought that was normal. My dad would make me pull down my underpants and whip me with a belt and he would whip my privates. Up until last month I seriously thought disciplining children this way was normal. Thank God I don’t have any. He always hit me in the face and left welts all over my body, mom never protected me from him. I moved out after turning 18 and my stepdad and I went from this hate relationship to friendly, but then he made me stroke his penis when i was in my mid 20’s when i was married to my first husband. Ever since then if him and I were alone he would give me creepy hugs, pulling our privates close and grinding us together and kiss my neck. My therapist said my parents literally twisted my brain, keeping this secret to keep the family happy. I told my family one month ago I needed serious mental help and not to be mad but alot came from my stepdad beating me up, pulling my hair, and spitting on me. They all refuse to talk to me. I have to clean up this mess of a life. I have replaced pulling with cutting and sticking needles down to the bone, not to hurt myself, but I just get curious as to what I can pull out. So far Im on xanax and 40 mg prozac, and i will probably have to admit myself to hospital. I feel like I lost my parents and my sister. My parents allso had sex in front of me when I was 8–12 and when I would ask about it they would yell at me. I just didn’t get it… they messed me up so bad. My therapist said people who pull out their hair have either had a bad childhood, as abusive or sexual. I have been off work for one month trying to get better, and I am so sad and confused. I wear gloves so I cant feel the texture of my hair, I gave my fiance all tweezers to put in his lockbox with all my medications that I try to numb myself with. It is a long road to recovery, I think everyones is different. But gloves help me, and I wear hats, tons of hats., all the time. Wind is my enemy. lol.

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