Disease of the Day: Trichotillomania (The One Where You Pull Out Your Hair)

I started picking my split ends when I was in 8th grade. I remember reading a Gossip Girl book where Serena Van Der Woodsen, recently returning to NYC from a boarding school overseas, sits in class and picks her split ends. Huh, interesting. At the time, I wanted to be just like Serena which only led me to this thought process:

1. She was in class

2. She had hair

3. She had split ends

All of those things applied to me! So I put the book down, picked a piece of hair, and that’s where it all began. It became an obsessive habit after that. I’d be in the car with my mom and all of a sudden she’d slap my hand away from my hair. One memorable Thanksgiving dinner she warned me that if I picked my split ends at the table she’d personally take scissors to my hair and chop it off. Good one, Mom.

I blew off her “bluff” and continued to pick my hair. While I was innocently sitting on the living room couch a couple hours later, my mom sneaked up on me, with a pair of scissors, and chopped off a portion of my hair. We didn’t speak for days.

Mom: 1, Taylor: 0

But as luck found it, there’s a disease out there for people who obsessively pick at their hair, and I have it. It’s called Trichotillomania, and it actually exists. Although both of my parents and all my friends highly doubt I actually have this disease and just use it as an excuse, I disagree. It’s not that I want to pick my hair, it’s just that I have to pick my hair. I know it’s bad for me, I know it makes my hair appear more thin and brittle than it should, but I just can’t stop.

After the Britney Spear’s post went up this morning, a friend offered up some advice for Britney: a hair therapist. Forget getting a therapist for me and all my problems, she was right: both Britney and I need a therapist…for our hair. A quick search of Google yielded little to no results. I’m talking about sit-down-on-a-couch hair therapy, getting to the root (pun intended) of the problem. Or maybe I need real therapy, who knows. According to the Wikipedia article about my disease, Trichotillomania will only lead to pyromania and kleptomania; and I don’t even like fire.

So please, devoted readers of TheGloss, if you have any friends, friends of a friend, or distant relative of someone you once knew in high school – send them my way. Me (and my hair) need all the help we can get.

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    • Layla

      Trichotillomania is something horrible. I have it, and the thing I pick at are my eyelashes. I’ve done it for about fifteen~ years now (started when I was in early elementary school), never seen a therapist or doctor or anything about it because for the longest time, I just thought it was something weird I did.
      Mine, personally, is definitely related to stress, being really nervous, or any more extreme emotions. I’ve tried so many times to stop, but once I get seriously emotional or the like, there goes most or all the eyelashes. Uncontrollable.. my mind is telling myself to stop, but my muscles don’t listen.

      Also, I don’t have any kind of pyromania or kleptomania. Good thing, because I don’t need any more problems anyway, haha.

    • Sacha

      It is a horrible disease and so many people don’t understand it. They think it’s something you can just switch off and not do but its way way more harder than that. I have pulled and ripped my hair out since I was 11. This has my hair in the most ugly state you can imagine and I’d give anything to stop. Just can’t seem to make my brain tell my hands to leave the hair alone

    • priya

      i also have this.is there any cure?

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    • Toni

      I have had trichotillomania since i was 9. I am now 20 years old. I constantly pull out my eyelashes. Ive tried the therapy and personally for me it didnt help. I know some people out there have recovery plans but for me its always been out of my reach. I am a very nervious and stressed out person and i think as long as i have those strong emotions I’ll never be able to quit or even be on the road to recovery. At least theres other people out there with the same problems who can offer advice and unique recovery suggestions.

    • Jelea

      I don’t have this but I have dealt with stress. I would think someone was hiding in my house. I would have to go through and check all the possible and impossible hiding spots before I could feel safe. I knew, and it sounds like all of you know for yourselves, that it was triggered and became worse due to stress. I saw a councillor and she had me take a stress reduction class at the college. it was focused on test stress but the same principles apply for any type of stress. I have not had to search for people hiding in my house since.