National Trichotillomannia Awareness Week 2006.
October 1, 2006 5:52 PM   Subscribe

October 1 through till October 8 is National Trichotillomannia Awareness Week. What is Trichotillomania^ (or Trich, for short), you ask? Put simply, Trich is a compulsive hair pulling disorder that causes people to pull out their own hair from the scalp, eyebrows or pretty much anywhere on the body. Because they often pull repeatedly from the same spots, they may develop bald spots that are difficult to disguise and which sufferers are often very ashamed of. Sometimes they may even injest the hair, which is sometimes fatal. It is unknown exactly how many people suffer from it, but it is known that the vast majority of those afflicted are female. But for those few people who suffer with it, help is at hand! There's a documentary about it which you can watch, a website devoted to helping people learn how to deal with it, blogs and even an anonymous AskMe question. For those interested in learning more about what National Tricotillomannia Week entails, check out this page.
posted by Effigy2000 (30 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
smartass answers by people claiming frustration in 3...2...1...
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:14 PM on October 1, 2006

Man, there's a disorder label for every bad behavior.
Oddly enough, I actually do have a compulsive hair-pulling habit. Certainly not on the level of a disorder, but I do often yank at a small patch of hair just above my forehead. It's not a disruptive habit, no worse than people who compulsively grind their teeth or crack joints. I am never really concerned that I'll pull the hair out though, that's just crazy. :)
posted by nightchrome at 6:19 PM on October 1, 2006

I thought this was a joke, but I actually feel like I sometimes do this kind of thing. Not to the level of mania, but when I get two eyelashes tangled or something.
posted by parmanparman at 6:24 PM on October 1, 2006

Wow, I definitely used to do this when I was little. I would take a hair out from somewhere on my head, or occasionally an eyebrow, and bite the very end of it off, and then throw the rest in the garbage. I have no idea where I developed the habit. It never reached compulsion/disorder level, thankfully.
posted by danb at 6:27 PM on October 1, 2006

i think their statistics might be smaller if they didn't count all those people who go in for bikini and back waxes all the time...

...seriously, i think appeals for awareness of more rare conditions should be reserved until that time when we implement some reasonable awareness of the basics--silly stuff like personal health maintenance, informed citizenship, and critical thinking...
posted by troybob at 6:28 PM on October 1, 2006

Hey, I do that with my beard hair, freaky.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:28 PM on October 1, 2006

posted by sourwookie at 6:33 PM on October 1, 2006

These off-beat psychological conditions--did they always exist, or are they somehow a symptom of the modern era? Anyone know?
posted by LarryC at 6:33 PM on October 1, 2006

For a psych class I took, my friend, who has this disorder, did a report on it. Actually by researching about it and reading methods used to stop it, she managed, for a little at least, to quit the habit.
posted by hopeless romantique at 6:42 PM on October 1, 2006

Sometimes they may even injest the hair, which is sometimes fatal.
At least they die laughing.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:58 PM on October 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Nah, trachtillomania's real. I had a friend recover from it and dated a women who was very embarassed when she told me about it. Both have some rather thinner hair now. Not enough to make you say "damn, what happened?" but "oh, I can kind of see that, yeah".
posted by jmhodges at 7:00 PM on October 1, 2006

I was close to someone who suffered from this. Sad to watch. It was so bad she finally resorted to wearing wigs, to cover the baldness, and also to try and keep her from pulling the hair. No, her wigs didn't go bald.
posted by The Deej at 7:07 PM on October 1, 2006

My sister did this compulsively, especially when she was stressed. She didn't have eyelashes for years.
posted by moira at 7:14 PM on October 1, 2006

I first learned of this affliction in a throw-away line from Mark Leyner's novel Et Tu, Babe:
Immediately after completing principal photography on "My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist" I outlined a new film about people with trichotillomania--people who compulsively pull out their hair. There are 2 million to 4 million Americans who have trichotillomania. That's a lot of tickets, video rentals, etc.! (That's a lot of hair, too!)
posted by maxwelton at 7:14 PM on October 1, 2006

I suffer from trich. This is a serious illness for some people. The jokes about it are what make it so serious: it destroys self-esteem. Some people pull their hair out until they have huge bald patches, or are almost completely bald. For women, whose beauty is based a great deal on their appearance, and hair being a large part of that, trich can be a self-esteem destroyer.

I have had trich since I was 12 or so. Most people start pulling their hair around puberty. I am 34 now. I pull mostly from my eyebrows and eyelashes. I have at times had no eyebrows, no eyelashes. Currently, I have a decent amount of eyebrows but almost no eyelashes. During high school, I was teased mercilessly about it.

I think it's important that people are made aware of this disorder because it is so damaging to self-esteem. It's not something I can "just stop" doing. Ask anyone with those huge bald spots if they can "just stop" - certainly they would if they could! It affects their lives in more ways as well. They have to wear a wig, or arrange their hair so it's not obvious - big bald spots, especially on women, are not really accepted in society. Thus, riding a bike, or swimming, or many other normal activities are limited. Admitting to people, even friends, or even your partner, that you pull out your hair, is a huge shameful step. Most people who pull their hair, especially if they then eat it, feel crazy, and thus feel ashamed.

There is no known reason for it yet, though a gene was recently found that may explain a small number of cases, and some people seem to find relief by following special diets. I think this awareness is extremely important, to rid people of the shame they have surrounding this disorder, and increase understanding.
posted by veronitron at 7:22 PM on October 1, 2006 [4 favorites]

Neato - an awareness week devoted to something that I actually have to deal with on a daily basis with myself. At my worst, I had a baldspot the size of my hand across the back of my head. At my best, I just have a wider-than-natural part in my hair.
posted by chickygrrl at 7:23 PM on October 1, 2006

From the blog: My hair is looking okay. The top part is growing in pretty awkwardly. You can tell the new hair from my normal hair, since it's a pretty large area and it takes up most of the top of my head. Ah well. At least it's HAIR, and not hair drawn in the an eyeliner pencil.

My kiddos are getting better but Jamie had to get some shots and it was awful. Whoever invented shots for infants...GRRRRRR. Had to be a man, I'm sure.

No comment. (male person tears hair in frustration{metaphorically})
posted by longsleeves at 7:34 PM on October 1, 2006

a male friend of mine has trich.
posted by brandz at 7:53 PM on October 1, 2006

I had it during my childhood, worst of all right before and after one of my brothers was born. We eventually figured out that I'd completely stressed myself out about the responsibilities of being a big sister; my mother had to come up with creative hairstyles to cover up my bald patches. For whatever reason, it became a coping mechanism; maybe because I could have total control over it (I had a very particular way I pulled the hairs out). Luckily, it hasn't been a problem for a long time.

Good post, thank you.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 7:59 PM on October 1, 2006

Whoever invented shots for infants...GRRRRRR. Had to be a man, I'm sure.

Simple hatred.
posted by longsleeves at 8:26 PM on October 1, 2006

Ah, the Barbering Gene.

Y'know, there is a profound satisfaction to practicallyholdingyourbreathpickpickpicking at a hair and then f i n a l l y getting it to come out in between your fingers. I'll do this repeatedly, maybe twenty hairs at a clip, and then be fine and not feel an obsession or compulsion to do it for a while.

I wouldn't say that I have trichotillomania proper, but I have a lite- version.

It was certainly worse when A) I was younger, and B) When I had less healthy coping-skills/mechanisms. But it still feels really good.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:51 PM on October 1, 2006

As veronitron points out, they've recently discovered that mutations in a particular gene are linked to trichotillomania, and interestingly enough, the same gene is also linked to Tourette's syndrome.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:51 PM on October 1, 2006

Veronitron, thanks for that very personal post. A lot of people don't get it. I know it was hard as hell to see my sister - a beautiful, spirited person - given a hard time for something she couldn't control, particularly when the criticism came from those who should have been supporting her.
posted by moira at 10:02 PM on October 1, 2006

I shave myself all over to stop trich. Head, face, legs, chest, and genitals. I can go for weeks this way without a problem but if I let my facial hair grow in just a few days I'm back to pulling like I never stopped. It's more than just a bad habit. Try being a man with this disease. Nobody understands.
posted by kjh at 10:02 PM on October 1, 2006

Awesome post. It's amazing how many people have Trich and how many people have no idea. My girlfriend has a fairly bad case of it, but it doesn't cause her too many problems (except for the embarassment of bald patches--but I think she's sexy with a shaved head anyways). I wasn't aware of it at all before we started going out, but nowadays, I see people everywhere who have it. It's usually subtle--people who have it get totally freaked out that it's really noticable, but you can't see it unless you are looking for the signs. But once you look for it... there's a lot of people out there who probably are very stressed out by their inability to stop pulling.
posted by freedryk at 10:09 PM on October 1, 2006

The jokes about it are what make it so serious...

My previous comment was a play on the misspelling of ingest, not on the disease. I sympathize with those who have Trichotillomania, and find it surprising and enlightening that so many have contributed to this thread. Good post, Effigy2000.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:59 PM on October 1, 2006

well if gays can change then you can too ( this message is brought to you by the same sanctimonious assholes who think anything having to do with human behavior can be solved by praying harder and pretending to be normal...and if you fail then you werent trying hard enough in the first place)
posted by duality at 8:03 AM on October 2, 2006

I've suffered from trich for 15-20 years. Introspection has revealed that over the years the behavior has increased. What started out as pulling stray hairs on the backs of my forearms increased to the hair on the back of my hands, my eyebrows, and my sideburns. My continued self-observation has also shown me that it is directly linked to feelings of anxiety. These experiences and observations were confirmed by some research that explained that trich is an obsessive compulsive anxiety disorder. I suppose that some people wash hands, some people lock/unlock doors, some people pull hair, etc.

I'm getting ready for my first trip to Europe this year and a few weeks ago had a moment of emotional realization that I absolutely HATE seeing myself in vacation photos without any eyebrows. So, I made it a goal to not pluck my eyebrows anymore. I've been successul for two solid weeks now, which feels rather like a triumph.

My methods have been:
*Go ahead and allow the pulling of hair on my arms and hands (for now.)
*Try to sleep more each night, as I seem to feel less anxiety when I am better rested.
*Work to develop better responses to stressful situations. Address issues head-on, rather than just worry and fret about them.

I am not a clinical psychologist, nor am I consulting one currently, but I feel strongly that trich is a learned behavior, and that for individuals who might be prone to compulsive behavior it is one of many that might be "latched on to". I also believe strongly that these behaviors of extreme attention focus (hand washing, hair pulling, etc.) are fueled by anxiety; in that if a person doen't manage their anxiety the hyper-focus of compulsive behavior serves as a (temporary) escape from panic/discomfort/emotional suffering/etc.
posted by digibri at 8:53 AM on October 2, 2006

I think some people have it and don't realize. I've known more than one woman who compulsively removed the hair from their legs -- I'm not talking about daily shaving, but going after each individual hair with tweezers. If you're removing hair that it's normal to remove anyway, you don't get "caught." (I don't know if it really matters, other than the wasted time, if you're just doing hair that society suggests should be removed anyway.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:12 PM on October 2, 2006

My mother-in-law has this, she's worn wigs for years because of it. When we're annoyed with her we joke about yanking her wig off, though never to her face. It's a big secret around her - we're not supposed to acknowledge that her hair is not her own, even though it's very obviously a wig. Thanks for this post and the many links.
posted by etoile at 4:33 PM on October 2, 2006

« Older 12-pound folding bicycle   |   Next up: BME for BMWs? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments