We Need To Talk About Trichotillomania




A few weeks ago, I took part in a Skype interview as part of a university project about trichotillomania. The conversation left me feeling incredibly inspired, but at the same time incredibly frustrated that there is still so much misunderstanding surrounding the disorder. Growing up with trich from the age of 3, there were no resources I could turn to. Doctors didn't know what it was and referred me to a psychiatrist when I was around 7 or 8 years old....who also didn't know how to help. It's quite disheartening especially at that age to learn that not even professionals can help you because they don't know what the hell trichotillomania is to start with.


Unfortunately, my experience with trichotillomania isn't uncommon. Actually, the majority of us who do go to the  doctors about it are pretty much faced with the same response. We are met with confused faces and have to sit there and explain what it is, only to be referred to standardised treatments or given a prescription for anxiety drugs or anti-depressants that rarely work (and that's if we're lucky). The fact is, there is little knowledge about what trich is, or how it affects peoples lives, because there is a general silence surrounding the disorder.


In this day and age, people are becoming more and more open about their struggles with mental health. Especially in the past few years, there has been a large movement to try and de-stigmatise mental health illnesses. This is incredible and wholeheartedly lend my support....but I still rarely see people speak of trichotillomania within this movement. I remember during my childhood my parents started trying to do some research online. Although most websites were focused on the medical element (very matter-of-fact and not much insight about the emotional understanding of the disorder), I vividly recall one forum-type site wherein people discussed their experiences and kept a table recording how many days you had gone 'pull-free'. My Dad signed me up and I remember for the first time actually going a very long time without pulling my eyelashes.


The site inspired me. For the first time in my life I didn't feel totally alone in my struggles- there were other people out there like me. But, aged under 10 years old and not knowing how to use the internet without Dad's help, I couldn't converse with these people and share my feelings; I was still very alone in that sense and, whilst I knew other people with trich existed, there was no-one I could talk to about it. I went through school and sixth form wrapped in loneliness, self-hatred and depression as a result. Little did I know that there were people at my school going through exactly the same thing as me, yet because it is never spoken about, we never knew and continued to suffer on our own.


With the rise of social media brought the ability to instantly share how you were feeling and what you were thinking. It connects like-minded people. You can chat with the protection of being behind a keyboard- an element of anonymity. I think this has made those with trich more willing to share their experiences. There are far more resources available now than 10 years ago! The disorder brings a great deal of shame- you hide a lot. We never talk about it because we are ashamed of it. Relative anonymity breaks this barrier, and as I started researching trich during my late teens, I thought I would use this to my advantage and start discussing the disorder openly online; from the low moments, to what it physically feels like, to how it makes me feel....everything that comes with having it. To give the kind of information I wish I had growing up.


As a result, I've met so many others who have since shared their stories and this continues to inspire me and acts as a form of therapy in itself. Knowing that I can say 'I'm having a really bad day for pulling and feel like sh*t' and people will respond saying 'me too' or 'don't worry, we all get days like that', or generally nodding and understanding exactly how I feel is incredible. We need to talk about trichotillomania, not only to provide adequate resources for struggling with the disorder, but also so that other sufferers know that they are normal and that it is OK to pull their hair out. Discussing your triggers, where you pull from and why can help others understand their own experiences and even help research into the disorder, whilst sharing make-up tips can aid someone with disguising the physical damage and make them feel confident again.


If we don't talk, if we don't share our personal experiences, nothing will change. There will continue to be nowhere to turn, no-one to learn from, nothing to make you feel normal or not alone. I completely understand that not everyone is at a point with their mental health where they are ready to discuss it, but it's so important to have a sense of community so you know there are people ready to listen when you are. I hope that even this blog can be a safe space to discuss all elements of the disorder, whether it's an email or an anonymous comment. Discussion brings awareness, knowledge and understanding- things which are much needed for trichotillomania!


I would love to hear your stories of trich- whether via comment, email or social media message. If you are interested in sharing your experiences anonymously in a blog post, please let me know.


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