After struggling with this disorder for 17 years of my life (I am only 20), I haven't managed to be completely pull-free. While I haven't rid myself of this 'disease' (that is what it feels like), I have learnt ways to cope with it. Here are my top tips on how to cope with TTM, manage it, and hopefully go pull-free.
1. The first battle is within your own perception of yourself. You ARE worthy, you ARE a human being, you DO deserve to take your place amongst others in this world and you DEFINITELY DO deserve to be pull-free. Don't let anyone tell you you are less than worthy, or that you don't deserve respect just because you have Trichotillomania.
2. You are not a freak. Yes, the illness may seem unusual to people who have never seen a sufferer before, but you are not alone in your suffering. There is a huge online community that you can talk to about your problems, and don't be afraid to approach them for help.
3. Counselling or psychiatric treatment may help if you strongly believe the illness was triggered by emotional stress or trauma. Just because you go to seek help from a professional, it does not mean you are weak. It may cure you for good.
4. Take a trip to the docs. If it is strongly anxiety related, doctors may be able to prescribe anxiety pills to help you manage your stress, and stress-related illnesses. Even if they do not prescribe anything, it may be worth going to chat to your GP to learn more of the medical side of the issue, aside from the psychological aspect.
5. KEEP A TALLY! I consider myself a determined individual, so letting myself down whenever I pull is crushing. Seeing a visual reminder of how well you are doing, and remembering how good it feels to draw another mark on the tally is the best way to keep yourself focused in the long term. The best motivational method I've found.
6. Find something to keep your fingers busy! Wear a hairband or elastic band around your wrist and ping it every time you get the urge to pull. Whenever your fingers reach your eyes/hair/eyebrows (or wherever else), scratch or itch the area next to it to distract you brain and let yourself think through what you are about to do, rather than just impulsively doing it. Buying thinking time could be a lifesaver; the urge will soon disappear.
7. If you pull in your sleep, wear gloves to bed! It may be a long shot but not being able to grip the hairs will physically restrain you from pulling.
8. If you pull from your eye area, put Vaseline on it. It'll make the hairs too slippery to get a proper grip and pull, and whilst you are trying to get a grip, your brain has time to realise what you are doing, and stop.
9. Get in the habit of realising what you are doing. This is probably the trickiest one, but it'll definitely come with time. Even though I've had to wait 17 years to master this one, it is the trick which stops me pulling the most. When you reach for your hair, or even feel it, try to consciously think about what you are doing, and tell yourself to lower your hand!
10. Trial and error to find out what triggers you to pull. Is it when you're tired? Stressed? Concentrating? Which emotion do you associate it with? Try to detect when you do it, so that when you feel that emotion, you can make an effort to stop. It saves you making the effort 24/7 if you know the specific moment in which you do it. Pinpoint your efforts on that one time/emotion- it's far less tiresome.
11. Change your diet. Admittedly, this is not one which works for me, but this simple method has helped many others. Cutting high sugary content and caffeine from your diet can supposedly help control those urges.
12. Take a picture of yourself at your lowest and keep it as a reminder. Put it somewhere you look at often- by your mirror, your dresser, your wardrobe etc. Whenever you look at the bald patches in that picture, use it as inspiration never to go back to that state. Or do the opposite- keep a picture of when you had hair/eyelashes/eyebrows and use it as inspiration.
13. Talk to your friends and family. They may have never heard of the illness or take it seriously, so open up to them. Tell them exactly what you do, why (if you know) and how it makes you feel. If you have good support behind you, you can do anything. Your friends and family will understand (and if not, they're not worth having as friends). Once they know, they can point out when your doing it, make you aware, and make you stop. I always get my mum to tell me when I do it- I often feel so embarrassed and 'caught out' that I stop immediately, especially if I know she's watching out!
14. Stay positive. If you are doing really well, then slip up, it doesn't matter. Pick yourself up, brush off the disappointment, and try again. You may feel like this is a constant cycle, but as long as you stay positive and think that you can beat it, then you will. Just keep trying your hardest, you will get there. Everyone slips up, but the only person that feels let down is you. Don't get yourself down, because you're the only person that can mentally pick yourself up again and get into a good frame of mind to re-try.
15. Accept it. This is THE hardest part. Acknowledge and accept that you have TTM. It's a bit like addiction; you have to admit you have it before you can get help. Know yourself and your disorder. THIS IS YOU! It may get you down from time to time, but everyone has their illnesses, their struggles. Humans are different. You have TTM, so what?! You are still amazing. And you can do anything.
Do you have any of your own tips you'd like to share?