Trich Stories: Emily
Trichotillomania and BFRBs are hard to talk about, hard to read about, and hard to learn about. Accurate information that does exist is difficult to find and frequently neglects the day-to-day challenges of the average trichster. In an effort to bridge this information gap, we're interviewing everyone we can and sharing their stories with the world. This is the first in an ongoing series of interviews.
Location: New York, USA
What BFRB(s) do you have? How do they manifest? Tell us about what it's like for you.
I pull out my hair either passively (like while reading or listening) or actively (searching for the best hair, going over my head.) At some point I transitioned from actively pulling to actively cutting (with scissors) to reduce bald spots.
When did you first notice your trich? Was there any specific cause?
When I was in 13/7th grade I had an accident and got a lot of staples in my head and had to have a portion of my head shaved. I remember being obsessed with/pulling the hair growing back.
What kind of puller are you (automatic vs focused)? Do you have any “rituals” when you pull?
Both, as mentioned above. The focused pulling I call a "scissor session." I'll watch tv and sit with my favorite pair of scissors and trim the "bumpy" hairs or split ends.
Do you have any other conditions or disorders that interact with trichotillomania?
I was diagnosed as ADD as a kid and I think being on stimulants (Adderall) really increased the trich.
What is the hardest part of having trich? Is there any silver lining?
People used to say things. No silver lining.
How has trich affected you at work, school, or relationships?
A specific teacher was really rude about it. She would call me out for "contemplating my split ends" in front of the class. My mom also used to fixate on it and tell me to stop touching my head, etc. Any attention drawn to it resulted in anxiety and embarrassment.
Have you tried any treatments? What was your experience like?
Yes, I mentioned it to my psychiatrist (I have depression and experienced some traumas) and she prescribed me a low dose SSRI. It worked, I stopped pulling my hair. I did not think behavioral or other therapy was necessary.
What kinds of situations make it worse? What kinds of coping strategies do you use?
Drawing attention to it. Also, I never pulled my eyebrows or eyelashes, but I got eyelash extensions and once they began to shed, I started becoming really fixated on my eyelashes/the extensions. So I won't do that again. It's a very tactile thing for me.
Are there any other questions you think should be here? List them, then answer them:)
I think there's a big difference between people who have visible results of pulling. I have a LOT of hair and selectively pulled, so I had some thin spots but no bald spots.
Even though people don't like to talk about it, body focused repetitive behaviors can be serious problems. If you suffer from one, our Slightly Robot Bracelet may help your hands keep still.