Saturday, December 6, 2008

OMG! I think I have Trichotillomania



As part of my morning Hour of Power routine, I normally listen to some personal development audio or pull up an inspiring clip from youtube. This past week I've been watching videos from a guy who works with people with unusual fears or complexes and frees them from their own behaviors. One of those videos feature a woman who has trichotillomania, or an obsessive compulsion to pull out her hair.

It gets worse, because she's been pulling out her own hair for years, she's actually developed some bald spots that she cleverly has to cover with hair thickening aids. Not only does this poor woman unconsciously pulls out her hair, she actually eats it afterwards! As they described her story, the showed some video of her reading a book when she suddenly begins to play with a small portion of hair near the back of her neck. When asked if she feels pain from pulling her hair out, she responded by saying that because she's been doing it for years, her brain understands what she is about to do and numbs the area so that she feels no pain.

O.k. so now I start panicking. Why? Because I have developed a habit similar to her (no..I..am..not..eating..my..hair.) Usually on drives home, or when I am sitting at home in front of the computer, I begin to "detangle" by hair with my fingers.
There's nothing wrong with detangling with our fingers, in fact, in Long Hair Learning 101, we all learned that detangling with our fingers is much more conducive to protecting our lengths. The problem with me is that when I detangle, something deep down inside expects to see a shed hair or two in every small section. I examine every hair lost during the process ever so closely to verify if the casualty was the result of shedding or breakage. If the hair was shed, I smile secretly knowing that I just saved myself the heartache of what could have been much worse in the long run. If the hair was broken, I curse my heavy handedness and move on to another section in search of more shed hairs.

Take a look at this expert from an article:

Gary R. Gaffney, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, explains that other, less dramatic features that fall short of hair pulling are associated with trichotillomania, including examining the hair root, twirling it off, and pulling the strand between the teeth.

You are probably thinking..."there's nothing wrong with that, you're just making sure your hair stays healthy." The problem with my little "habit" is that I do it at the most in opportune times. Looking back, I think the process is more therapeutic then hair related. The reason why I say that is because while I'm driving home, I usually have a million thoughts running through my head and I'm probably not consciously thinking about what I am actually doing. I sometimes even detangle my kitchen area when I am sitting in a business meeting Who knows? I am actually be pulling my hair out and not even know it!

The other night while "detangling" in front of the pc, my husband walks by the room and goes "why are you pulling your hair out?" I quickly respond by saying, "I'm not pulling my hair out, I'm detangling." I then proceed to discount his the quality of his vision for wrongfully accussing me of such an obsurd behavor (but what if he's right?)

When I am really detangling my hair, like before a visit to the Dominican Salon or something, I stand in front of a mirror, I break out my extra large comb and I take my time to carefully work out the shed hairs from the ends up. Yes, I do examine the shed hairs but I don't put as much emphasis on the individual hairs as I do the finished product. When I'm engaged in the mindless detangling,on the other hand, I run my hands down the length of the shed hair to verify the cause of loss. When I'm involved in an official detangle I quickly asses the hair with a quick glance and only verify when a glance isn't enough.

Since I am probably reaching that grey area that lays somewhere between presenting lots of information and babbling, I end this post with some good news. If I do have trich, I don't have it that bad, I've seen some pictures online and believe me, it ain't pretty. I don't think I have trich but knowing what I know, I've decided to consciously avoid my behavior before any thinning or baldness occurs (thank God I have no thining or bald areas unlike most trich sufferers). I used the technique featured in the youtube video and it seems to be working. Going forward, whenever I detangle, I will avoid doing it when I'm not completely focused and only conduct the activity in front of the mirror where I can remain in the present moment.

What do ya'll think...am I crazy?
  1. Hi I'm one of your subs.

    But anyway I have been doing this since I was a tween. My granny does it too. And I met one chic online who does it. I haven't ever had bald spots but I have had areas where the hair was considerably shorter in the areas where I pull. I go for the crown or left nape area. I do it when I have too much on my mind or have nothing to do. If someone is around me while I'm doing it they will tell me to stop or take my hand down. If I am alone I try to occupy my hands. With what you ask? Sunflower seeds. That keeps both hands busy because I have to pick the seed in shell up and then crack then do something with the discarded shell. Other times when I don't want to eat seeds I will eat mixed nuts and dried fruit, like all day lol.

    I do finger detangle, purposely, for the most part. To prevent me from breaking off my hair I wear protective styles such as buns or twists. If my hair is in a fro in any type of fashion then it's on lol.

    I also have a phobia of clusters of unusual shapes (screaming, crying, skin crawling, hair on my arms standing). This has developed into a phobia in the last few years although I have always been a little weirded out by funny looking groups.

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  2. I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I have been pulling my hair for about 20 years and only recently discovered that my actions actually have a name. Trichotillomania is so much more than just playing with your hair or detangling it when you’re not conscious of your actions. For me and most of the people that I talk to in my support group, it’s a way of life. We pull and pull and even when we try not to we still do. Most of us do it ALL DAY LONG, which forces most of us to wear protective styles to cover the baldness, and to protect the hair that we do have from ourselves.
    I have been reading your blog for a while now and I must say you have beautiful thick EVEN hair. The people I know that pull have patchy hair that looks like its breaking. One side always seems to be thin and shorter, the crown, nape or the front is sparse. I think you just a habit that I would compare to nail biting. Nothing serious at all. With that said please try to stop before it becomes more serious.

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