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Trichotillomania: My Fleeting Childhood Experience with a Hair Pulling Impulse Control Disorder

By HERWriter
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Pulling out a couple hairs from the head can be painful, but imagine pulling out coin-sized sections of hair at once or gradual chunks by pulling one hair out at a time.

This can be the reality for those who have a severe form of trichotillomania, a hair pulling impulse control disorder.

There are different levels of severity and areas where an individual chooses to pull hair from, according to the Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC) website. For example, any area of the body that has hair can be a candidate.

Although it is referred to as an impulse control disorder, the TLC said it can be considered to be a habit or addiction or a behavior that’s part of obsessive-compulsive disorder or a tic disorder. It is also a “part of a family of "body-focused repetitive behaviors" (BRFBs) along with skin picking and nail biting.”

The age of onset is usually 12 to 13, according to Mental Health America’s website. An abnormal psychology textbook said that one to five percent of college students have been observed with this disorder, and more females than males report having trichotillomania.

I have my own personal experience with a minor form of trichotillomania. When I was younger, I would pull hair out of my eyebrows and eyelashes. At one point, I remember some hair loss in those areas, though it never got to the point of baldness. I would also run my hands through my hair constantly and would sometimes pick hair out. Again, it was not to an extreme. These might seem to be more “normal” areas to pick hair from, but I also used tweezers to pick my leg hair.

Of course, this was all pretty embarrassing for me. I would usually do this in private, though it was such a habit that I would also do this in public and around family members. I faintly remember my grandmother scolding me in church and my parents telling me to stop and teasing me. However, I would always feel tension when I wasn’t allowed to indulge.

I was diagnosed as a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other compulsions I had were to smell my hands and write almost every exact thing I did per day in a planner.

Add a Comment2 Comments

Thank you for writing about this. I have ocd and run my hands through my hair alot, especially when stressed. When my father came to visit a couple years ago, after not seeing him for a long time, I started pulling hair from the top of my head until my husband noticed I had a bare spot. Knitting has helped keep my hands busy and calms me down. Working on my ocd has also seemed to help.

May 13, 2010 - 1:06pm
EmpowHER Guest

That was enlightening. I remember some of these things but don't recall any teasing to an extreme. I tried to bring things to your attention and it may have come out negetive to you. In no way was I trying to embarrass you or hurt you but...I'm sure it felt that way. I have learned over the years to express myself better. I am glad you wrote this article.

May 11, 2010 - 1:27pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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