My Life With Trichotillomania

August 5, 2016
This is an extremely hard post for me to write. This is a topic that I've wanted to talk about on my blog for such a long time but I couldn't find the right words or the courage to talk about it. For me, this is an embarrassing topic to talk about. I am very open about my life on my blog. I talk about my anxiety and other mental health related problems, my family life, my relationships and my life in university without haste but when it comes to this particular topic I just feel very exposed, and that is not a feeling I particularly enjoy.

I do, however, feel like I should share this part of my life as it is a disorder that lacks awareness, and hopefully by me sharing this on my blog, more people can see how important it is that this disorder gets the recognition it needs. 

Let's talk about Trichotillomania 

So firstly, I should explain Trichotillomania. Trichotillomania (also known as Trich) is an obsessive compulsive disorder where the sufferer has a strong urge to pull out hair, one by one, from the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes or anywhere on the body which has hair.  For me, and many other sufferers, it can be embarrassing and shameful because my hair has become thin and, depending how bad my Trich is, at certain times, can look like I'm balding. It makes me feel so ugly and I feel as though my bald patches is all people can see. This makes it very hard to meet new people.

I can't pinpoint the exact moment I started pulling my hair. Many sufferers aren't actually aware they are doing it so I could be doing it a lot longer than I think. Roughly, I've been suffering for about 18 months to 2 years which is a long time. However I always do remember pulling out my eyelashes as a child (maybe this was because I thought they gave you wishes, I don't know..) but now, I mainly pull out the hair on my head, or my legs. This has left me with scars on my legs where I've pulled the hair follicle out, and a thinning patch on the back of my head. This obviously makes me very self conscious. I hate it. 

Trich is a strange disorder in the sense that I tend to do it when I'm nervous or anxious but that doesn't mean I won't do it when I am completely at ease. Pulling my hair gives me a feeling of relief and enjoyment HOWEVER, after an episode of pulling, I feel a huge amount of guilt and anxiety which in turn leads to more pulling. Like any mental illness, it is a viscous cycle. 

Trichotillomania is extremely hard to diagnose and to overcome. What starts as a disorder can quickly turn into a habit which you rely on anytime you feel anxious, upset or alone. When I went to counselors I told them about the hair pulling because I eventually did become aware of it and it really worried me. The strong urge to pull out my own hair was strange to me and something I didn't think anyone would understand. I had never heard of this disorder before and to be frank, I don't think many of the therapists I saw did either. I told three of the counselors I saw over the course of about 2 years. The first two completely ignored this problem and pushed any questions I had to the side. Finally I got referred to student counselling in NUIG and I met with one of the counselors and he told me all about Trichotillomania (which at this stage I had researched and was well aware of but it was nice to have a professional finally recognise it). Finally I felt like I was getting somewhere! However, as I mentioned, there is no cure for Trichotillomania so it's mainly up to the sufferer themselves to overcome it. I have seen that there is the option of hypnosis which I may try in future but I need to read up about it first. 

For now though, I'm stuck with the daily struggle of resisting the urge to pull out vast amounts of hair. It is a horrible thought but it is something I live with every day. It makes my life very difficult because my self esteem has been knocked and I feel ugly because of it. What's worse is when other people call it 'disgusting' and tell me to stop. BELIEVE ME I'M TRYING. I guess people don't understand why anyone would do this and that's what I'm trying to put across here: treat trichotillomania like any other mental illness. Telling the person to simply 'stop' is just going to make them feel frustrated, ashamed and alone. The best thing you can do is to be there for them. Make them feel like you understand. Show them that you're there for them. Don't make us feel ashamed for something we can't help. 

Helpful links and websites:

And finally, if you feel like talking or you have any questions you can DM me on Twitter (@aillyx) or email me: and I'll do my best to help!

**This post is just related to my own experience with Trichotillomania. There are a lot of other symptoms and problems that arise from this disorder that I may not have covered as they are not relevant to my experience**