Trichotillomania (trick-o-til-o-MAY-nee-ah), informally known as “Trich” (pronounced “Trick”), is a Body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) where people impulsively pull out their body hair, most cases uncontrollably. Trich doesn’t discriminate against any part of the body, but the main target areas most suffer from are the hair on their scalp, their eyebrows, and their eyelashes. Excessive pulling leads to bald patches in the affected area and, after a length of time, can cause long-term damage to the hair and hair follicle. Cases of Trich range from mild to severe; some can control their urges without needing treatment while others find it incredibly difficult to fight.
Who It Effects
Trich can affect any age, gender, and ethnicity, but it’s most commonly seen in adolescent girls and young adult women. Children as young as 4-years-old are known to have exhibited this hair pulling behavior. According to Trichstop, approximately 2.5 million Americans may be affected by this condition at some point in their lives.
How Trich is Diagnosed
Trich is a medical mystery. There isn’t a specific classification for this disorder, therefore making it difficult to formally diagnose. Trich is closely related to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Individuals who seek professional help are in most cases diagnosed as one of the aforementioned. Although the root cause of Trich is unknown, there are many catalysts behind this behavior – stress, trauma, abuse (physical and/or psychological), divorce, loss of a relative or close friend, and more.
Why Hair Pulling?
The hardest question to answer is “why”. Licensed specialists can’t confidently say why people begin to pull their hair over a variety of other methods that can relieve stress and anxiety in a healthier manner.
A common occurrence among those suffering from Trich is the strangely yet ever so present “ritual” behind hair pulling. It begins subconsciously when the person is either stressed, focusing intensely, or simply bored. The individual fixates on a hair that feels “out of place” and simply pulls until the hair successfully detaches. The process adds additional stress if the hair is not pulled at the first attempt which results in increased concentration on that hair. Once the hair is removed, along comes a huge wave of relief and euphoria followed by guilt and regret. This ultimately turns into an uncontrollable, vicious cycle that leaves the puller physically damaged and emotionally scarred.