Although I've written about different therapies which are available to help trichotillomania, I thought this post would give a (hopefully) useful insight into my personal experiences with them; which ones worked, which parts of each therapy I liked, and which ones were just plain rubbish. If you don't through the NHS (most therapies have to be paid for privately), exploring your options can get quite pricey; I hope this post can help point any sufferers in the right direction or at least help making therapy-based decisions a little clearer before jumping into something. These aren't necessarily a cure (there is no known cure for the disorder), but they can help make life that little bit easier and strengthen your ability to reflect upon the disorder, your behaviour and how you manage life with trichotillomania.
The first therapy I ever had was in the early 2000s; I remember still being in primary school, aged maybe around 7. My memory of that time in my life is very hazy (for no particular reason- I had a very normal, pretty much idyllic childhood) so I cannot remember a great deal about this or how often I went. It was my parents' first attempt at getting me help after researching a bit about the disorder which I developed around the age of 3. From the bits I do remember, I can safely say it was rubbish. My therapist spoke about weird solutions such as digging a hole in the garden to subdue my anxiety, classical music and whale sounds to help me sleep and I remember spending a lot of the sessions playing games of Connect 4 with the therapist! As a child, it was a strange and rather pointless exercise and I left not only feeling more strange (having to leave school and my school-friends to see this odd man because of my odd brain) but also like nothing at all had been achieved; almost as if I was a hopeless case and that no-one would ever be able to help.
Although my Mum says since this therapy I went to the doctors multiple times and was offered many other therapy opportunities which I declined, I can't remember any of this. The next therapy I remember was hypnotherapy. I researched it for a while, but the price was putting me off. I was 16 or 17 and couldn't afford it myself, so it was down to my parents to fund this therapy. After umm-ing and ahh-ing for ages, a mini-breakdown over trichotillomania (amongst other things) spurred me into taking the plunge and booking an appointment with a local hypnotherapist in High Wycombe. In a nutshell, it was the biggest waste of money. I still feel guilty that I made my parents pay a ridiculous £100 per session (although I only had 2 sessions) for absolutely nothing; as far as they were concerned, they were willing to pay if there was the smallest chance it would help me, as far as I was concerned it was £200 down the drain. Some relaxing music started the session, along with the therapist saying that when I was 'under' my index finger would lift by itself when my palm was flat and relaxed on a surface. I spent most of the session just lying there waiting for that to happen, before giving in and just pretending that I was 'under' to see what happened next. I wasn't going to let me parents pay £100 just for me to sit in a chair for an hour, so I thought I may as well see what it was about. Although some people swear by hypnotherapy, I wouldn't recommend it at all. I don't know whether it was due to my susceptibility or scepticism, but I personally would not waste another penny on this therapy.
Next came counselling which was free through my University health care system. I ended up going back to the doctors and asking to be referred after a series of traumatic things happening in my family; it was definitely breaking point and I actually went more to talk through the trauma rather than my trichotillomania. For this, although we did touch upon the trichotillomania, I found counselling more useful to talk about the other things which were going on in my life, as the trichotillomania chat often reverted to 'childhood investigation'. The classic 'are you sure you didn't have anything awful happen in your childhood?'and 'you definitely had a good relationship with your parents? questions constantly reappeared, which is so frustrating! Counsellors become convinced you had some childhood trauma, so having to keep saying 'I'm 100% sure', 'no, my childhood was fine', 'yep, I swear it was' gets very tiresome. For me, counselling was a great way of talking through all the complex emotions attached to trich, but it isn't a therapy I would use again for trying to get to the bottom of why I do it and ways I can stop.
Lastly, the most recent therapy I have tried which again happened at University; cognitive behavioural therapy. This is the one which I have found helped the most. Although by all means it hasn't cured me or stopped me pulling (it's still as bad as ever), but it has progressed my understanding of the disorder far more than any other form of therapy. The therapy broke down the elements of the disorder bit by bit; for me, the different parts which comprise trich are feeling my lashes and brows, then finding odd ones which feel out of place, and then the overwhelming urge to get rid of those. Studying and analysing the emotions and patterns behind each behavioural element of trichotillomania is not only interesting, but can help you pinpoint areas you need to focus on and allows you to make small bite-sized changes. Learning more about the disorder this way through CBT has really opened my eyes to my hair-pulling habits, although hasn't helped me to stop!
I'd love to hear your experiences with therapy if you feel comfortable sharing. It's interesting to hear how others find it, especially as these experiences are so subjective and dependant on the individual.