Trichotillomania has long been considered a disorder that primarily affects women. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) alone cites an overall female dominance in adults suffering from Trich at a staggering 10:1 ratio. Personally, I can attest to this statistic; aside from being a women myself, I see countless opinions, forms of advice, different treatment options, and beauty product recommendations pertaining to Trich every day in my support groups, all from women. However, while the condition has an epidemiological female bias, the community does not. The men are there, and I wanted to hear from them.
Among many volunteers, I was fortunate to sit with 4 men (virtually) to hear their stories and ask their opinions about Trich. For men and women alike, their responses are surely ones you can relate to. Albeit lengthy, I encourage you to read each and every one. (Note: a special thank you to Eddie for providing additional resources. Please read about the documentary “Trichster” here.)
Q: For starters, what’s your experience with Trich (when it started, where you pull, and any events/conditions that triggered it)?
Dave UK – I’ve had Trich since I was about 8 or 9 (now 27). I pull from my scalp, facial hair, and pubic area. The one event I remember happening around that time is my parents splitting up.
Eddie – I started when I was 8, in 3rd grade. Supposedly, I came back from my ELA test and my mom noticed a bald patch on my head. I pull from my scalp, usually the sides and top. I recently discovered the front takes the longest to grow back. I’m not sure how connected to Trich my OCD is, but I have that too.
JC – I’ve been pulling since I was 5. I remember the exact day: my mom left me with my new step-dad, while she went with my brother to a baseball tournament. I’m sure I felt abandoned, that must’ve been the trigger. I started with my eyelashes and head, now I pull from everywhere except head, legs/arms and armpits.
BD – I always had a small tendency to pull hairs from my beard since I was a teenager. The condition came to light 2003-2004 in my earlier 20s. I started picking hairs like crazy from my goatee, specifically the left corner of my lip. It’s since migrated to my eyebrows and wasn’t that bad until my mom died in 2014. Since then I pulled them like crazy and haven’t been able to grow my eyebrows since. I suffer from depression and anxiety, probably stemming from my mom’s substance abuse which caused her to leave for hours to weeks at a time.
Q: How has Trich affected your day to day life?
Dave UK – It affected me quite badly as a child. I was the only kid to wear a cap in class, so straight away that singled me out. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned to cope with it better. It doesn’t affect my day to day life too much.
Eddie – The way it affects my everyday life is that I talk about it more. I try to spread awareness. Pulling is one of the ways I relieve stress, although sometimes I try to see how long I can do without it.
JC – It keeps me insecure and full of anxiety in public, not to mention I hate mirrors and myself.
BD – I feel extremely ashamed of myself. Not only has my confidence hit an all-time low, but I can no longer maintain eye contact.
Q: Have you/do you struggle with the same physical insecurities that most women do?
Dave UK – I do have insecurities: I worry people look at my patches. Some people at work comment that I’m going bald already, but I don’t worry because they don’t know.
Eddie – I don’t suffer with the physical insecurity anymore, I got that out of the way in middle school (those kids were straight-up evil back then). Being a guy goes a long way with Trich. Sometimes I feel guilty about that, but I use this unique position to spread awareness.
JC – I think there’s an increased level of physical appearance that puts additional strain on females’ need to feel physically attractive. However, there are wigs, fake eyelashes, and the ability to draw on and cover up facial flaws that the typical male simply can’t utilize, therefore keeping males stuck showing the world that we have an obvious problem.
Q: Do you believe there are significant differences between Trich affecting men vs. women?
Dave UK – I personally think Trich affects women more than most men, as women worry more about personal image than most men. Women seem more keen to post on the Trich Facebook page, not sure whether men are more embarrassed.
Eddie – I’m sorry to say, women have it tougher because of societal beauty standards. I’ll openly admit that when it comes to dating I have my own preferences, and I feel kinda guilty about that.
JC – I do, because females have an expectancy from society to look “perfect” and flawless. Although males are affected and deal with the low self-esteem, I don’t believe it affects them as much. Then again, females are able to cover it up much easier than males.
BD – I believe men are stigmatized as “not being a real man” for having any mental illness. Women, I feel, are stigmatized to have something wrong with them mentally. I wonder if that comes from the days when women supposedly suffered from “Hysteria”. I think it’s bad for both genders in different ways but I will say that it is much more normal for a woman to wear a wig or pencil in their brows and such than it is for a man. Women can camouflage it on a level that is “normal” to others.
Q: Many women feel they’re able to cope and/or begin to heal through acceptance, not by weighing the amount of days or years being pull free. What’s your ultimate goal?
Dave UK – I personally don’t think I’ll ever be pull free, and I’ve come to accept that. Since accepting Trich, I’ve noticed that I don’t pull so much, because I’m not stressing as much, which used to cause me to pull more. So I guess my goal was acceptance.
Eddie – I can’t do pull free. If I don’t pull, I’ll deal with stress in some other way, and pulling seems like the better option (again, a benefit of being a man). My goal, for the last 1-2 years has been to spread awareness.
JC – I used to think being pull-free was the ultimate goal. I’ve had less anxiety since I’ve allowed myself to just pull and enjoy the sensation. Realistically, the ultimate goal would be to find a way to end the urges and to not have all the stress and anxiety associated with fighting the urges.
BD – To stop, I don’t know if I’ll ever accept it.
Q: What advice would you like to give other men with Trich?
Dave UK – Accept it and be happy with who you are. Try and keep yourself busy at times you feel the urge to pull, and talk to someone about it. It was a big weight off my shoulder when I told my partner, so talk to your wife, partner or friend.
Eddie – For those who are open about it, please keep being open about it. For people who aren’t open about it, do whatever you have to do to get by. Be open about it when you’re ready to be. If you want to try and pull less, fidget toys and putting moisturizer in your hair is very helpful. For little kids with parents and friends (and enemies) who just don’t get it, introduce them to the online community. We’ll talk to them on your behalf, if you want us to. We’ll do our best to explain it. For anyone who still feels alone with Trich, you are not alone at all.
JC– You’re not alone. Don’t be ashamed. There are many others just like you who understand your struggles.
BD – Biotin and sensitive aftershave gel is a must!
Once again, it was wonderful for these men to share their input, and I hope to hear more from them in the future. However, it doesn’t stop there! Comment below with your own insight. Until next time!