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Twirling your hair around your finger, feeling stubble on your legs, looking for loose eyelashes – all of these Behaviors are perfectly normal. But what if these habits involve a compulsive urge to rip out? A little DIY "pinch" may look like NBD, but it could be a sign that you're a little more serious at: Trichotillomania.
What is Trichotillomania?
Trichotillomania (Trick-o-till-o-may-nee-uh) is a hair-borne condition characterized by a recurrent, irresistible urge to pull your hair out from your scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes or other Areas of your body. It often leads to bald spots or noticeable hair loss.
"Hair p ulling is an obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder under the category of body-oriented repetitive behavior," explains clinical psychologist Jenny Yip, a staff member of the American Board of Professional Psychology and an OCD and anxiety specialist.
Body-oriented repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) are self-care behaviors in which people forcibly pull, scratch or bite their hair, skin or nails on their hair, skin or nails until they cause damage to the body. Other body-oriented, repetitive behaviors (in addition to trichotillomania) include skin picking (excoriation) and nail biting (onychophagy), and more rarely cheek and lip biting, nailing nails, and scab eating, The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior.
Drawing hair is not just a "bad habit" or a tic: "We all have our preferences and our habits, but they do not cause any disruption," says Yip. "However, if it interferes with your way of working or your work, school, social interaction, family interaction or daily activities, it becomes a disruption." (See: Why You Should Stop Saying You're Afraid If You're Not Really Afraid)
The symptom criteria for trichotillomania according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition) are:
- Repeated Hair pulling, resulting in hair loss
- Repeated attempts to reduce or stop the behavior
- Clinically significant suffering or impairment in social, occupational or other functional areas
- Not due to substance abuse or a medical condition (eg. Dermatological condition)
- Not better blamed for another psychiatric disorder
"The best way to describe it is if you've ever had a scab and he's half falling off and you just can not help, but pick it up, "says Yip. "Or if you have a hang nail: how many of us would leave the hang nail and how many of us would like to pull it?" "You feel the hang nail and can not stop touching it, and you better just pull it or if you shaving and feeling that the stubble is regrowing, and you want to pull it out ̵
actually quite normal, says Yip. Studies suggest that trichotillomania affects between 0.5 and 2 percent of adults – according to research conducted in The American Journal of Psychiatry .
four times more women than men are affected. You may think: Why do you want to pull your hair out? But it's a lot more complicated than that.
"Trichotillomania is not just a learned behavior – there's a biological component of hormonal or neurochemical imbalance," says Yip. "People who have trichotillomania have more relatives, so you can partially blame genetics." In fact, trichotillomania can occur in children and infants at the age of 12 or 18 months.
The urge to pull often starts with a kind of stress or anxiety. "You have the urge to pull because you feel tension, and pulling your hair will ease that tension," says Yip. "Then the behavior is negatively amplified by this relaxation." It is akin to drinking in a social environment: If you are socially anxious and go to a party and have a drink, you will probably be more relaxed, your social inhibitions will decrease and you will feel better. Therefore, drinking is intensified in social situations. Hair pulling can work in the same way, explains Yip. (Negative reinforcement also works if you need movement motivation.)
However, this is often not intended: "Most people do not even know that they are pulling their hair," says Yip. "They do it when they get bored, maybe they're sitting in front of the TV or computer, in bed or at traffic lights." (This also differentiates them from some more targeted behaviors, such as body examinations or body dysmorphic disorders.)
Because trichotillomania falls into the OCD category, some people with trichotillomania also have OCD, says Yip. And since BFRBs can severely affect social interaction and potentially cause embarrassing baldness, social anxiety disorder may also be present in people with this disability disorder.
It is important to note that "there is no cure for mental disorders and trichotillomania is a mental disorder," says Yip. This means that although most skin and hair diseases are associated with the expertise of a dermatologist, it is best to consult a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist for trichotillomania and other BFRBs. However, Yip says it's important to find someone who suffers from these specific conditions as he needs medication, education, and a certain kind of therapy called habitat training.
"Habitual reversal training is about learning what triggers are pulling hair so you become aware of it," she says. "Once you're aware of it, it's about giving yourself a competing answer, that could be something else that bothers you (like a spiky stressball) or something that feels like hair (even a string) – or The third part is about teaching how to relax so that you do not bother with hair pulling to cope with anxiety or stress. "(Related: Anxiety-reducing solutions to common problems)  Although Trich is common, few people know about it: "I think most people do not know it's a condition," says Yip. That's why Lucinda Ellery, founder of London-based hair extension studio Lucinda Ellery, founded the International No Pulling Week, which takes place every October to raise awareness of trichotillomania.
Ellery offers a solution for women who choose to lose their baldness Perhaps you are looking for a more complete psychiatric treatment: Your salon offers a hair replacement that has been specially developed for women with moderate to chronic hair loss. "The Intralace system consists of a breathable mesh and is integrated into the existing hair of a customer," says Ellery. "It leads to a physical barrier that prevents them from pulling, and with a solution that obscures the problem, they can feel more relaxed and happy."
If you think you have trichotillomania or any other BFRB disorder, first go to The Dermatologist just to make sure it's not a skin or scalp condition, says Yip. To find a properly trained therapist, visit the TLC Foundation website.