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.
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
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.