Dispelling the Myths: What Actually IS Trichotillomania?

I've written quite a few posts suggesting products to help cover signs of trichotillomania, from false lashes to eyebrow products, and also ones about self-confidence issues that come with battling the disorder. However, except for my very first post on the issue, I have never really gone into detail about what it is, or why we do it. Having been chatting with a few sufferers recently, I have found that there is still HUGE misunderstanding amongst sufferers, professionals, friends and family. The best way to break down any stigmas about mental health disorders is to talk openly, educate and promote understanding. If people are aware of the disorder, the ins and outs and the effects of it, the world becomes a far easier place for sufferers, allowing them to develop a level of acceptance and confidence when living with trichotillomania. So, lets start dispelling all the myths around it and promote a real understanding of what trich actually is...

what you need to know about trichotillomania

1. It is not attention-seeking.

Throughout my childhood, and particularly my teenage years, I felt there was a lot of accusations thrown my way in regards to trichotillomania. I distinctly remember when I was 14/15 being told by a family member that the reason I pulled my eyelashes out was because I was jealous of my brother's fishing success; that I scarred my own face in order to get my parents' attention. This allegation tore me apart for so long, and it wasn't until I started researching trichotillomania a bit more that I realised that this approach was fundamentally wrong. It is nothing to do with jealousy and attention-seeking; trich is a mental health disorder that the sufferer does not have control over.

2. Trich is not a choice.

The single most annoying thing you can say to a trich sufferer is 'why don't you just stop?'. We do not have any choice over the impulses and urges to pull; there are ways of learning to manage them, but the bottom line is, you do not choose to have trichotillomania. Why on earth would we choose to have compulsions which make us pull out our own hair, cripple our confidence, and restrict us in our day to day life? It is absurd statements like this which makes sufferers feel guilty and ashamed for having a disorder they have no control over; this in itself is a form of victim-blaming, no?

3. It is not something to be ashamed of.

I have spent so much of my life feeling relentlessly embarrassed about pulling my eyelashes and eyebrows out. Because it is not particularly common to see someone without eyelashes and brows, or with bald patches on their head, we are made to feel that if we leave the house without 'covering up' we will be viewed as weird and subsequently judged by everyone around us. Why should this be the case? I recently wrote a post about this whole topic, and it seems to centre around the issue of [un]familiarity. There is little awareness and understanding, leading to a stigma about the psychological and physical manifestations of the illness. Even if other people stare, you should not be ashamed. It's not something you can help, it's just the way you are. Feelings of embarrassment are largely the result of other people; society's expectations of how we should look and act. These expectations do not necessarily reflect what is realistically achievable, so ease the pressure off!

4. It is extremely common.

Although sufferers may feel like the only ones in the world who have this disorder, it is surprisingly common. It is estimated that between 1 and 3% of the population suffer from some degree of trichotillomania, and it is often named as the 'most common disorder that you've never heard of'. I have still never met a fellow sufferer in person, despite having plenty of contact with trichsters online. The fact that it's not necessarily visible (as most cover it up and don't speak about it due to shame) makes you feel like you are totally alone in your suffering. This is not true. All you have to do is log onto Twitter, Instagram or carry out a quick google search to discover just how common it is. There are plenty of people who are going through exactly the same thing, so never think that you 'a freak' because you're the only one who does it; it's a lot more normal than you'd ever imagine.

5. It usually doesn't stop at trich.

There is a huge misunderstanding that trichotillomania is simply 'pulling hair out'. While there is that physical aspect of actual hair loss, most of the damage is actually psychological. It leads to extremely low self-esteem, self-loathing, guilt, shame, feeling like you're not in control of your life and loneliness. With these emotions buzzing around a sufferer's psyche, it is no wonder that trichotillomania is often just the tip of the mental health-shaped iceberg. Trich often leads to other forms of self-harm, substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and most commonly, mood disorders (namely depression). I'm not saying that everyone who pulls their own hair out progresses to heroin abuse, but research has proven there are links associated between all of these conditions. So don't be surprised if your trich goes hand-in-hand with depression; this is totally normal, if not a little bit expected.

I hope this post has helped to address and answer some of the myths around trichotillomania, and try to get to the core of what the disorder actually is. Sharing this kind of understanding with friends, family and other sufferers will really help raise awareness of trichotillomania.

What myths about the disorder would you like addressed? Have you been faced with any of these? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Pretty and Polished



  1. I always find these posts so interesting! As a psychology student I obviously know a fair bit about anxiety and depression and people talk about those things loads but I hadn't heard of trichotillomania before I met you, which really surprises me! It's great to educate people about these things because the more aware people are the less they will hopefully stare and make others feel uncomfortable, and really that's the end game. You may not be able to do anything about your mental health disorder but you should live in a world where you're not made to feel inferior because of it.

    1. Allie you are amazing. I couldn't have said any of this better myself. I don't know what it is about trich, because it is a common disorder, yet no-one talks about it. Maybe it's because it's a 'visible' mental illness? I just don't know.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this post! It was beautifully written and so full of the truthful information we would all NEED to hear, instead of want to hear. Its inspired me to plan out a post about my disorder "PoTS" - its rather unheard of and the cure is at least another 50 years away and people think I'm a joke because yes its one of those 'Invisible' illnesses and they wouldn't believe me until I collapse in front of them. Such horrible feeling not been taken seriously and when/if they search for it to find out more theres barely any recent information. Your an absolute trooper Sophie! and stunning girl! All the best! :) xxxx http://vanillalemons.blogspot.co.nz

    1. I'm so glad you've decided to speak out too! Raising awareness is most important. It is frustrating when an illness that totally consumes and controls your life isn't taken seriously. Thank you for your lovely comment xx

  3. I stumbled across this post after looking for reviews on the L'oreal sunkiss jelly (your review was also really useful - thanks!), and needed it so much! I've been pulling my eyebrows for a few years now, it started during uni and I tend to do it when I'm concentrating or am worrying about something. It's good to know others are going through the same thing, as a lot of people think it's so odd!

    One thing - I've found the Benefit Gimme Brow gel an absolute god send! It's seriously the best product ever, completely covers up my bald patches and looks so natural, unlike a lot of pencils (which for my dark ash blonde, just make them look ginger and filled in). I'd really recommend the gel to anyone with this issue! It is expensive, but for me worth it. Thanks for the post, we need more people talking about it so it doesn't sound so crazy when you tell people! xx

    1. I've wanted the Gimme Brow gel for so long, but was always going to use it as a treat for when my brows have grown back. I've heard that it doesn't work well on patches as there's nothing for the brow to cling onto, but I may purchase it early to give it a whirl! Thanks for the recommendation!! xx

  4. I have no idea why I didn't comment on this post when you first posted it - I definitely read it! It's so true and I'm so sorry to hear what your family member said, that would have torn me apart as well. I once heard one of my family members say that they enjoy pulling out their eyelashes out when they had mascara on and that really upset me. I think it was just so bizarre to hear someone fob off and find humour in something you battle against everyday! So weird, it definitely is more common than we think.. I've met one other girl who has it but I think hers is pretty mild. We really need to chat more! Gweni xxxx

    1. I hear that a lot, or people who say they pull out an eyelash on purpose to make a wish...WHHYYYY. More understanding is needed! Maybe we should have a get-together so we can actually meet trichsters in person?! xxxx


© Pretty and Polished. All rights reserved.