I Have a Disorder

The title of this post is 100% true. I have a mild form of a disorder you may or may not have heard about. It’s called Trichotillomania, or the hair-pulling disorder for short. While I’ve never been medically diagnosed, I figured out pretty quickly in recent years just what my hair-pulling was.

Basically, when a person feels stressed, nervous, or doesn’t even know they’re doing it subconsciously, they pull their hair. Some also eat/swallow their hair.. Yes, it sounds gross and painful. But as far as simple hair-pulling goes, it’s a habit I’ve been unable to completely break since I was 13 years old.

I first started by picking up a habit from another friend: twirling my hair. This turned into a comfort thing whenever I felt stressed. Over time, though, I started pulling hairs out. It got to a point where not only could I not feel much pain doing so, but my hair thinned out and I had actual bald spots here and there. This has continued for me 12 years later.

It’s not like I don’t want to stop. I’ve read many accounts of people who said it’s near impossible to. I even met a woman at my last job who’d rather keep her head shaved than risk relapsing into it. It’s a habit that feels like an addiction. Sometimes I’ll make good progress and not pull for a while, thereby letting my hair recover and grow out. But after some time, something either stresses me out or makes me go back to doing it.

And it’s not something some people have complete control over either. For example, there are times I AM conscious I’m pulling and feel both calmed and guilty because of it. Hair-pulling has been known to be calming to those who do it. Other times, I’m not seemingly conscious I’m doing it, and before I know it, there’s a hair between my fingers. It’s an awful habit physically because it messes with my hair, forcing me to actually have to hide any thinning spots until I can grow it back.

It got so bad for me in my first year of college that I actually had to see a therapist for the first time in my life. Because the nature of hair-pulling can be because of anything from stress to boredom, she had me force into habit keeping my hands busy. This could be done either by typing, of course, or minor things like playing with an elastic or bracelet. I still try to keep those “exercises” in mind and practice, but it’s not a full-proof cure. Willpower has to get you some of the way, and while I’m still intent to quit for good, I know it’s not going to happen cold turkey.

I HAVE figured out a couple solutions, though. Namely, that whenever I feel happy, such as being on vacation or being around my boyfriend, I don’t even think about pulling my hair, let alone do it. While my home life isn’t as stressful as most people’s, I feel like maybe the comfort of it and stresses that go along with family are part of my problem. But with the support of my parents and boyfriend, I’m still going to try to kick this thing. It may be incurable for many, but I’m determined not to let it remain a part of my life.

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