Trich Stories: Kay

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.

Name: Kay

Location: Virginia, U.S.

Age: 25

Gender: Female

What BFRB(s) do you have? How do they manifest? Tell us about what it's like for you.

  • Trich is my main one. I pull mostly from my eyebrows now. I have really moved around on all parts of my body pulling … started as my eyelashes when I was little, then moved to eyebrows, then legs, then armpits. I did not start pulling hair from my head until I was about 20.

  • I have been biting my nails pretty much ever since I could remember. I started biting the inside of my cheeks when I was about 16 maybe.

  • I pick at skin sometimes, I am horrible with scabs and cause scars sometimes.

When did you first notice your trich? Was there any specific cause?

  • I wore makeup (mascara mostly) for a dance recital when I was about 7 or 8. I had never worn makeup before, so when I got home I started touching my eyelashes out of curiosity and pulling at them to see what the mascara felt like. I accidentally pulled some out and thought it felt strange. I kept doing it. It pretty much snowballed from there. Within a week my Mom started noticing.

  • Often, people with trich or an OCD describe a traumatic event that seems to have triggered the disorder. I honestly cannot think of anything that could have happened to have caused this. I don’t have any history of being abused, and for the most part had a really good and normal childhood.

What kind of puller are you (automatic vs focused)? Do you have any “rituals” when you pull?

  • At times I will pull without realizing, really only from my eyebrows. I guess I know that I’m pulling but I will start itching or rubbing them without really thinking about it. When I pull from my head… when that started it used to just black hairs. My hair is medium brown. One time I was studying and found a super coarse thick black hair, “witch hair” i would call them. It freaked me out and it felt so weird and cool on my fingers and pulling those out was satisfying because they had thicker roots. So I would start searching around in my hair for them. I would search for 30 or so minutes until I found one that was “good enough” to stop. Now I pull mostly from my part or where the collicks are. I have really long hair and I guess it is heavy and when it lays a certain way for too long my scalp gets really tender… and itchy, and the more it hurts the better it feels to pull from that area.

  • I do bite off the end little root bulbs sometimes. Especially if they are hairs that have an especially big or juicy end. I think it’s so weird/interesting that a lot of people with trich do that. I will also take the root bulb and kind of poke it around my lip a few times.

  • My pulling is really pretty under control for the most part. The only time I have “relapses” is when, as described above, I start itching or picking without realizing then I start pulling and its just too late. The fact that I can answer all these questions and not have any urges is pretty great 😊

Do you have any other conditions or disorders that interact with trichotillomania?

  • I have pretty much always felt isolated from my trich when has definitely led to some anxiety and depression. Even though I have gotten over the fact that I am “different”, I still suffer from both of those from time to time. Within the past year I have had 3 panic attacks, seemingly unrelated to the trich. I at times have suicidal thoughts, but never urges… this used to really scare me but I realized a few years ago that they were actually just part of intrusive thoughts. In situations that I am not comfortable with, or just sometimes randomly, I have violent or compulsive/inappropriate thoughts. Again, this used to really freak me out but I know I would 100% never do any of the things that I think and I kind of just let them calmly play out in my head while I tell myself that I would obviously never act on them.

What is the hardest part of having trich? Is there any silver lining?

  • I think I am over the hardest part, at least for me. One of the main reasons why it was so hard in school was because I did not accept the fact that it was something I would probably just always have. It absolutely devastated me that I was “cursed” with this, and “why me” and just often felt really angry about it. Now it’s kind of just like “meh, well I have this thing, kind of sucks sometimes” and I have just accepted that yeah it is definitely part of me but absolutely does not define me in any way.

  • Silver lining… so I learned how to pencil my eyebrows in at a pretty young age. I felt weird that I had to do it. But now it seems like most girls pencil their eyebrows in regardless of original shape or size of brow so it is kind of awesome because I can do it while getting ready in front of people and it just looks like part of the normal routine.

How has trich affected you at work, school, or relationships?

  • When I was younger (elementary/middle school) trich made me really shy. I felt like no one wanted to talk to me so I didn’t initiate many conversations. I still had plenty friends but just kind of stuck to my bubble and was just civil with everyone else. It was really hard seeing friends get into makeup and doing their hair when I just felt ugly and weird looking and I think it isolated me from certain groups, the “popular” girls who always did makeup for school and stuff like that.

  • As for relationships, I have told every guy that I have been in a serious relationship with (6 or so). I always get pretty nervous before but none of them have cared whatsoever. They have always at least been supportive. Some more than others. I think some just didn’t really know how to help or what to do. Which is understandable.

Have you tried any treatments? What was your experience like?

  • I saw a counselor regularly when I was about 8 or 9. Additionally, I was prescribed Prozac. I couldn’t take pills that young so it was liquid and tasted horrible. Counseling mostly helped with increasing my awareness and mindfulness of my behaviors. I mainly saw the same counselor. It was a man, and I thought he was nice but I really don’t remember many details. Its weird to think that I probably spent so many hours there but at this point I guess I have maybe blocked them from my memory.

What kinds of situations make it worse? What kinds of coping strategies do you use?

  • Honestly it is kind of hard to pinpoint. Social or like external things don’t often trigger it. It’s mostly sensory and internal triggers. When my eyebrows or lashes grow back in they get so itchy so that brings awareness to my eyes. The eyebrows that grow back as thick pokey ones itch soooo bad and I will run my fingers over them often until they are long enough to get out.

  • Getting tweezers, which may sound counterintuitive, was one of the best things I ever did. Often I truly just wanted to pull out a specific lash or brow hair that was too thick or itchy… and because I never really have long nails I couldn’t focus on the one I wanted and would end up pulling too many others out on accident.

  • When I was younger, under like 16 or so, I thought that my Mom would always get really disappointed in me when I would have bad relapses. I think I interpreted it as her getting angry or frustrated with me. Looking back on it I am sure it was just really frustrating to have a kid that is basically like mutilating their appearance and there is not much you can do about it.

  • One of my biggestttttttt triggers is ingrown hairs. Legs, pubic hair, eyelids, anywhere…. They drive me absolutely nuts and I will and have many times before taken any pointy object available and literally just dig down until it’s out. When it has grown really deep and is super long when it comes out is just so rewarding and I will sometimes save the hair for a day or two. It is so weird to think about haha but its like finding gold. One time I picked one under my eyebrows and must have gotten some bacteria in it because the next day my whole eyelid was swollen and pink.

Are there any other questions you think should be here? List them, then answer them:)

  • “Do you talk to your healthcare providers about your condition, or are they aware of it?”

  • On a lot of health intake forms they will list “anxiety” and “depression” in conditions on the checklist but OCD is not on there. One time a few years ago I was feeling especially brave I guess and checked “other” and wrote OCD in it at an appointment with a new OBGYN. She was super nice and asked about it, how I was managing it, if I had any sores or wounds from it that I wanted her to look at it. It was awesome to see her shown concern about something completely unrelated to her field and made me feel less weird , and more human, about having trich.

  • “Do you have any friends, family, or peers that have trich?”

  • I met a girl in high school who had it. It made us really close and we definitely bonded over it, but we kind of talked about it too much to the point where it was a trigger sometimes.      

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.

Leave a comment

Name .
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published