As it turned out, my busy, intelligent, strong teenager was unable to effectively deal with stress. We talked until we were able to identify when this unconscious desire to pull at his eyelashes and eyebrows began. Always the perfectionist, Patrick was spending hours with a thick book, reviewing practice questions for the college SATs. I made sure that book disappeared! Most important, though, was the advice from his doctor regarding managing stress and identifying when stressful thoughts were occurring in his busy life. When worries about school, grades, and exams started to enter his mind, Pat learned to “take a deep breath and blow out the candles.”
Unfortunately, he continued to pull at his eyelashes and eyebrows. I decided to seek advice from the same trusted school psychologist who had been so helpful with my OCD student. She had two wonderful pieces of advice: Patrick should talk with a psychologist, so that depression could be ruled out, and he should begin wearing a rubber band around his wrist. Patrick could snap the rubber band whenever he felt the compulsion to pick at his eyes or eyebrows. The rubber band snap, she explained, would interrupt that undesired behavior.
Two years later, our son has beautiful, long, curly eyelashes, and nicely thick eyebrows. He is headed to college this August, and continues to sport a red rubber band around his right wrist.