They said beware of the burnout
But I like the flame
It keeps me warm when it’s cold out
I guess that makes me pro pain
And I feel that fire
It’s running through me
Racing through my vein
And if all we are is what we will be
Come quickly with the rain
©Jocsalyn Janay 2017
The first time I’d ever heard of trichotillomania was in the early 2000s. I was watching an episode of Boston Public, where a student had been wearing hats to cover up the fact that she’d been losing her hair. The other students began to think that she had cancer until one day she’d gotten sick in class and coughed up a hairball.
After seeing this episode I wanted to know more about this disorder, but unfortunately I was only able to find very little information on the subject. I never abandoned my search to find out more about trichotillomania. I recently began my search again and found all sorts of information.
So what exactly is Trichotillomania? Trichotillomania is a body-focused disorder which results in a compulsive urge to pull out hair strand by strand, often leading to baldness and emotional trauma. The hair pulling is not specific to a certain area on the body. It could be from the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or anywhere on the body. The severity of the disorder also differs from patient to patient. The eating of the hair after pulling it out is an extreme form of the condition known as trichophagia. In 2008, ABCNews.com reported that a 10 lb. hairball (trichobezoar) was surgically removed from a girl’s stomach in Mumbai, India. However, most trich patients do not eat their hair. Although trich is an anxiety/stress related disorder, the cause is unknown. It typically begins late in childhood or early puberty and primarily affects women.
Today, youtube is full of brave people sharing their stories about their struggles and triumphs with trich. BeckieO, a youtuber, said in a interview with ABC News that, “Pulling makes me feel better, but then you see the damage afterwards and you think no, that’s actually making me feel worse.” That seems to be a common pattern with trich patients. Shame, guilt, and embarrassment follows the pulling. I think that’s one of the reasons why people who suffer from trich don’t get necessary treatment right away. It’s embarrassing to have to explain to someone that you’ve been pulling out your own hair without even knowing why you’re doing it in the first place or how to stop. Trich patients are not helpless. 60 to 80% of trich patients can be effectively treated with behavioral therapy and medication. There are also toys called “fidgets” that are used to help relieve stress and to keep hands distracted from pulling. Trich patients sometimes feel that they are suffering alone but it’s not true. Several celebrities have also been diagnosed with having trich including Olivia Munn, Charlize Theron, and Justin Timberlake.
You can find out more about trichotillomania at trich.org. Also, you can head over to youtube and follow the trich journals of brave “trichsters” like BeckieO and many others.