Do You Paint Those Eyebrows On?

Do You Paint Those Eyebrows On?

What is trichotillomania... and is it contagious?

I can't remember the exact day or age when I first pulled my own hair. By 12 years-old, I was picking at my eyebrows and eyelashes at least once a month, and my pulling increased as I grew older. I didn't pull enough hair for it to be noticeable to others, and I did it almost subconsciously and it happened anytime I was stressed. At an early age I self-diagnosed myself with depression, but of course I tried to hide my feelings from my family and especially my friends.

It was only near the end of high school that my trichotillomania had worsened. I used eyebrow pencils, eyeliner, and eye shadow to construct eyebrows for myself. My eyelashes were non-existent. It was getting harder to hide my daily struggle. You ready for some embarrassing high school selfies?

Evolution of my high school eyebrows. You can see that my selfie-game improved, but I also tried to both go with a more "natural" thin eyebrow look. I finally went from my actual eyebrow shape to a more arched shape as I would pick more and more away.

Trichotillomania, or "trich" for short, is a disorder characterized by compulsions to pull one's own hair, usually from the head, eyebrows, eyelashes or any other part of the body. Once thought of as a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it's now seen as a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB), similar to nail-biting. Some people who suffer from trich may also suffer from clinical depression, general anxiety, or trauma. Some develop trichotillomania at an early age, but grow out of the behavior once they leave childhood. However, many will struggle their whole lives with their behavior. Pulling can be triggered by stress or trauma, and just like any other bad habit, it can be difficult to control or quit.

Not me, but a very striking image of someone with trich and how they cover their pulling.

When people who have trich pull hair, usually there is a buildup of tension, and then a relief of this tension when the hair is pulled and a sense of euphoria. This pleasure is temporary, however, as feelings of shame, guilt, or depression can follow quickly after a pulling session. Due to these feelings, most people with trich will hide their behavior with makeup, wigs or bandannas.

There is no official "cure" for trichotillomania. Since it is tied to other illnesses, the recommended action is to treat the illness or problem that is causing the behavior. For those with clinical depression, pulling episodes may occur cyclically at the same time as prolonged episodes of depression often do. Those with anxiety may pull or pick during a panic attack or directly before or afterwards. However, "no cure" shouldn't mean "no hope". There are many ways to manage hair-pulling and to gain control over compulsive behavior.

1. Research trichotillomania and understand the reasons behind it. If you believe that you have trichotillomania, I suggest you research and read as much as you can about the disorder. One great website to look at is the Trichotillomania Learning Center, which gives a basic overview of the disorder and offers lots of resources for both those suffering from trich and for their family and friends.

2. See a doctor or therapist. Even if you don't have depression or anxiety, seeing a therapist or behavioral specialist will help you understand your behavior and help you determine why you are picking or pulling. Learning more about yourself will give you an idea of how to control and manage your behavior. If you are diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or another mental illness, going to regular therapy or taking medication may help reduce your pulling and allow you to have more control over your behavior.

3. Determine when you are most susceptible to pulling episodes. Do you pull in the morning, or right before bed? Do you pull more in your bedroom or watching TV on the couch? This information is key to changing your behavior, so be aware of when you pull!

4. Track your behavior by counting every single hair you pull. In your phone's notes, track how much you pull each day, and if applicable, if anything stressful occurred that day to cause you to pull. Make a reminder or alarm so you remember to track this each day. Each time you go through a picking or pulling session, try to count as you go, or save the hairs and count after. If you have an area where you typically pull (like your bedroom), put a physical paper calendar on the wall and make a tally mark for each hair you pull so you can track your behavior visually. You could even download a journal app like Grid Diary where you can customize quick, daily journal questions so you can record how many hairs you pulled, how you felt, and other personal information.

5. Limit how many hairs you pull. If you pull 20 hairs each session, limit yourself to 10. Slowly cut down on your behavior instead of stopping cold turkey - you don't want to end up back tracking. This
will take patience and determination. Continue to decrease your pulling number. You can even decide maybe you'll only pull on a certain day each week or month.

6. Create realistic goals for yourself! Make sure to make SMART goals: Specific (what do you want to accomplish?), Measurable (how much?), Action-Oriented (what will you physically do to achieve this?), Realistic (is the goal realistic in the amount of time given?) and Timely (by what date do you want to achieve this? How much time will it take?). Start with small, achievable goals and then once you meet those, create new goals. The best way to see your progress is to continue to track your behavior. Remember to REWARD YOURSELF when you reach your goals! For examply, if you limited pulling 10 hairs each week and you met your goal, reward yourself with seeing a movie with a friend. Rewarding yourself after you achieve your goals will encourage you to move forward!

7. Grow longer nails or get acrylics. Since 80 to 90% of adults with trich are women, I thought I'd share this tip, although guys, don't be afraid to try! Personally, I've found that longer nails or acrylics prevent me from pulling because it is more difficult to get a hold of smaller hairs on the eyelashes and eyebrows. This is more of a costly alternative, but for me it has been a great solution. The longer the better! Treat yourself with a manicure and see if it will help you.

I prefer either very long and boxy or pointed. I can barely hang on to an individual hair with these!

8. Join a support group online or in person. Find others who are going through similar things as you. Examples are Reddit groups like r/Trichsters where you can feel free to anonymously interact with an online community of other people with trich. However, you may feel more comfortable in other groups on different websites or in-person support groups recommended by your therapist. You can share your progress with these groups, be inspired by their successes, and learn new tips and tricks!

9. Have friends and family keep you accountable. Inform your friends and family of your goals and ask for their support. Having other people to cheer you on and build you up when you're going through a tough time can make trichotillomania more manageable. I've found it helpful to have my friends gently tell me to stop if they see me picking or pulling when I don't notice myself. You'll never realize how much help your loved ones can be in your life until you tell them about what you're going through!

My Mom never can resist calling me out when I start to pick my eyebrows. Although it sounds like nagging, it's a super helpful way to keep me aware of my behavior. Love you, Mom!

10. Here's a challenge - go a day without your disguise. Take off your bandanna or hat and clean all your makeup off. You don't have to leave the house, but I challenge you to be completely "naked" and without your cover-ups in front of a family member or friend that hasn't seen you that way previously. The people who truly love and care about you will still find you beautiful, with or
without hair.

After some eyebrow re-growth. No make-up, people! :)

11. Treat yourself to FUN cover-ups. for those days you want to cover up, be bold! Buy a crazy hat, fun head scarf, or funky bandanna in a bright print. Draw your eyebrows big and bold, and experiment with different colors, like purple, pink, or blue. Buy eyelash extensions. Be the unique and beautiful person you are by stop trying to appear "normal" - your trich is your normal.

12. Try some natural remedies for hair growth, like coconut oil. Taking action to help regrow your hair will give you more confidence and encouragement to manage your pulling! Click these links to try home remedies that can promote hair growth for your eyebrows and eyelashes.

13. You're going to mess up, and that's okay. Don't beat yourself up for pulling. Each day is a new day - just remember to relax and remember that no matter what, you have the support of loved ones. Continue to focus on your own natural beauty and strength, and continue to look forward instead of in the past.

14. Remember to love yourself. You are a beautiful human being. Everyone has their quirks and odd behavior, and this makes you unique. Don't let the label "trichotillomania" define who you are - it is just one part of your personality and IS your normal. Don't compare your normal to another persons normal!

15. Change your perception. There is real power in positive thinking. Whenever you feel guilty or ashamed, try to change your negative thoughts into positives. Your pulling can seem and feel like a daily struggle; but instead of focusing on your guilt, focus on your goals and happiness. Change your perception about both your behavior and yourself. Learning the act of self-love is a whole other article to be written, but is vital to building your own inner confidence and motivation to move you through your life's journey.

I struggle with controlling my trichotillomania every day. I draw on my eyebrows each morning, but I try not to let my trich stop me from jumping into pools and taking risks. Learning to manage and control trich is difficult, but extremely rewarding.

Be confident. Be positive. Be loving to yourself and others. Find your own inner strength and remember to never give up on yourself. With these tools, I know you'll be able to handle anything life throws your way - even a few stray, pluck-able hairs.

Cover Image Credit:

Popular Right Now

Loving An Addict: The End Of You And Me

I knew this would be how we would end, but I never thought it'd be so soon.

I've rewritten this a thousand times. It's been edited, and edited again. I can't seem to get it right. Maybe because I'm not ready.

Or, maybe it's because there's a part of me that'll never be ready to say we reached the end. Maybe, just maybe, there's a fraction of a possibility we haven't.

I posted this quote once, on Instagram: "One day, whether you are 14, 28, or 65 you will stumble upon someone who will start a fire in you that cannot die. However, the saddest, most awful truth you will ever come to find-- is they are not always with whom we spend our lives."

And you looked at me the next time I was at your house, busted my balls, and said, "I saw your Instagram post about me." You proceeded to recite the entire thing word for word. I laughed, because at the time I posted it, it wasn't about you, and you hadn't even been following my private account, so someone must have showed it to you. It wasn't about you at the time I posted it, but maybe it was always meant to be.

I went to Hawaii last week. And I can't tell you how many times I felt you there; on the tarmac as the plane landed, the sun dipping under the horizon. In the sunshine as I laid my head back, floating in the ocean. On the edge of a cemented outcropping of Diamond Head that's off limits. And most importantly, by my side-- on the beach, at Manoa Falls-- in some small piece of every adventure I had.

I tried to leave you in 2016. Yet you still managed to be the first kiss of 2017 the same way you were the last one of 2016. I never could shut you out or leave you, not really, no matter what you did to me. And I have some small comfort in the fact that I was your last kiss, even though you won't be mine. And that you never left me either, no matter what I did to you.

I wrote you a letter, last year, and told you some things. Things like you couldn't be in the cards for me; you couldn't even be in the same deck, because you'd always be an addict first and a husband second. That you'd have to fight those demons every day. That I'd never understand that craving, but I would feel that pain. And holy shit, do I feel that pain.

But I was wrong. I owed you more than that. And I am so sorry.

I tried to build you up with my words, but I still managed to tear you down with my actions. I was afraid of being hurt-- again-- and again, and again. So I tried to hurt you instead.

Two wrongs don't make a right, and in the end I think I started to realize that. I tried to turn it around for us; to accept you as you were.

But you told me that effort and trying wouldn't be enough for us. I guess you knew something I didn't. And maybe they wouldn't have been enough. Because as hard as I tried, I could never save you.

You knew my worst fear, babe. I told you a million times. Walking into work at the county morgue and seeing your name on that board. Picking up the phone and listening to some cop rattle off your name while I was expected to take the details, handle the call and your corpse. Waking up next to you dead in bed, stiff and foaming at the mouth.

And while I did wake up next to you, alive, on Saturday, it doesn't change the fact that you were still dead by Sunday. It happened a little differently than I imagined it, but my worst fear came true just the same. I still lost you. And in losing you, I still lost the future I vehemently denied wanting, in a feeble attempt to stave the pain. And guess what? I still feel all of that pain anyways. Part of me will feel all of that pain, for the rest of my life.

I'm not alone, in my grieving. You have parents, and sisters, and cousins; aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, friends. All of these people that loved you; they all tried to save you the only way they knew they could. None of it could have ever been enough.

You'll never be a husband, or a dad. You'll never meet your future nieces or nephews. You'll never breathe, ever again. You made me the person who's going to be thirty-two, standing at your grave.

And while we may move forward, love, we will never really move on. We'll never "get over" losing you; a brother, a son, a friend. Whatever you and me were.

We'll move forward, and keep spreading your legacy. Because everyone should know just how beautiful you truly were, inside and out. Because for all the pain you felt, and everything we went through, you were still the light in every room.

I'll forever miss your smile, and the way we'd be at each others' throats. The way you'd duck away, trying to hide your laugh and your smile when you didn't want me to know you thought what I said was funny. The way you'd hug me from behind the second I was within five feet of another guy. The way we used to fight. God, I love the way we used to fight. And I can't begin to express to you how unreal this still is to me.

We weren't dating. We weren't even together. We could go months without speaking and pick up where we left off without a hitch. We weren't everything, but we were something. You were my best friend, my biggest weakness, and a giant pain in my ass. You were my future, so long as you were breathing. I could do anything, be anyone, so long as there was hope for you and me in the end.

I don't know how to live in a world where you're not breathing. So far, I've hated every second of it. And I'm not the only one.

I told you that if you died, I died. Remember? And I did. The person that I was before I lost you, is buried in the ground beside you. Who I am now, is something I haven't entirely yet come to comprehend.

And now I'm left standing here, looking at all of the promises we made each other. Promises we never got the chance to fulfill. I knew that some day I'd lose you. That one day I'd wake up in a world where you'd ceased to exist. And still I prayed, I prayed that I'd be wrong. I hoped, until the very last day, that you'd turn it around for me, no matter how stupid that sounds.

But now I lay here in your shirt and I look through videos and pictures and the black cavern that sits in my chest aches at the edges, while grief sucker punches me in the gut and steals air from my lungs. You are so loved, bubby, by everyone who knew you.

I said at the beginning, that maybe there's a fraction of a possibility that this isn't the end, not really. On Earth, maybe. But I know in a sense you're still here; your presence. And even though this is the end of us down here, I know that someday you'll be waiting for me. And you'll say, "Let's go home," like you always did after a long night. And you'll be ready this time. And I'll be ready too. And then we'll begin again.

Cover Image Credit: Rachel Perna

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

We Are As Free As We Choose To Be

Unchain your mind.

Isn’t it quite cynical to choose a life that wastes our fleeting days? Isn’t it painfully sad to have an overabundance of opportunities, yet we crawl into bed, unaccomplished, alone, and not where we want to be?

We say, “oh, tomorrow, it will be better.”

We say, “it won’t be like this for long.”

But what if your ways stay stagnant because you’re too reserved to move? You are running in place because you’ve chained yourself to a false reality that has kept you small and comfortable for far too long. It’s easier this way — I’ve said it all before too because at the time I didn’t realize, I was staring fear in the face and it looked like my friend.

As I watch and learn from those around me, I’ve seen it all too and my biggest take away will be that choosing comfort over growth is a fatal decision; it’s in the continuous belittling things we do that destroys our well-being, our consciousness, our integrity until we are morphed into someone who retreats at the idea of failure, rejection, and discomfort — until we morph into someone we are no longer proud of.

We are as free as we choose to be — as blessed and humbled as our minds dare grant us. We have all capabilities in the world to create a life we love and nourish our soul that radiates from the inside out. It should be a simple choice, although it may not always be the easiest because temptation is real and inclusion feels vital. Yet, how do you expect to always fit in if your soul is requiring you to be on another journey, a new path, uncharted territory?

When things go sour, relationships fall through, and opportunities turn a blind eye to us, those instances can be considered a prominent end or a flourishing beginning to start something new or try again. It’s quite special to have all this power inside of you, to be strong in your convictions, to know your worth; so why would you spend one more moment doubting your existence? Why would you spend one more moment pondering all the lost causes?

Why wouldn’t you spend every moment of your life loving deeper and living to the fullest?

There’s one thing I know for sure, I will continue to choose my freedom, without chains, burdens, and obligations because in being truly free, I will know my most true, authentic self.

Cover Image Credit: Ashley DeBoer

Related Content

Facebook Comments