Let's Talk: Trichotillomania/Trichophagia

The Let's Talk series discusses topics that may be either seen as taboo to society or just something I believe should be shared that isn't well known. As you read the title of the third installment of the ''Let's Talk'' series your probably either wondering how do you say these words or if you have figured out how to pronounce them, wondering what it is.

Trichotillomania is an impulsive-control disorder in which the individual feels compelled to pull out their own hair.  Due to the nature of the disorder the individual is unable to stop themselves from the impulsive actions as there is a uncontrollable urge which causes relief once the action is done.
Trichophagia is a disorder usually connected to Trichotillomania, in which an individual feels the need to pull out and eat their own hair. The disorder is closely linked with Trichotillomania and both go hand in hand with one another, although Trichotillomania can stand alone.

Both disorders are a psychological condition, and to many is seen as a form of self harm as the individual is deliberately causing injury to themselves to find temporary relief, this can have a long lasting effect. Usually known to derive from anxiety and stress, self loathing, OCD, or compulsive behaviours amongst a variety of many other causes, these impulsive-control disorders is an escape route and usually hidden. With both disorders harm can arise from the actions that take place, causing a person to create bald spots (which in turn heightens a persons low self esteem and encourages the cycle to continue), or with the consumption of hair causes an individual to create hair balls also known as Trichobezoar. 

After overcoming my eating disorders years ago,  I started to find myself in a uncontrollable routine of pulling out my eyelashes, eyebrows and hair continuously, and then finding a need to chew/ eat the hair follicles. I used to have a craving to want to pull out my hair and ultimately it would end up in my mouth. For a long time I never even noticed I was doing it and was hiding it, until people started to point out I had hair stuck in my teeth. Embarrassing was an understatement, once people started to notice, I became aware of what I was doing and made it even more secretive when the urge would win. The need to succumb to the urge was so uncontrollable that I would find myself becoming so frustrated, guilty and ashamed of my actions. I started developing bald spots on my head which when I realised made me want to stop but I just couldn't, I then subconsciously only started pulling out hairs on my head that would be at the back of my neck so no-one would notice. My eyebrows had become so so thin I almost had none and that's when I started to fill in my eyebrows with make-up. It got quite bad when hair would get stuck in my throat and teeth that I would even avoid going to see the dentist, ashamed that he may pull hair out again from my gums. 
I didn't understand what I was doing and didn't understand why I couldn't be normal like everyone else.  

It was only till my family and friends noticed they tried to stop me from my actions, whenever they saw my hands near my head or my mouth they would make sure I stopped, but unfortunately this only made the itch even more greater at times, making me feel embarrassed and angry. We tried to find solutions to my apparent addiction such as buying dummies to keep me occupied. It was obvious that I would have fallen into this unfortunate trap, as a child I would always bite my nails and when I never had any nails left, I would chew on cotton, t-shirts, string, nearly anything all due to my bouts of intense anxiety that would flair up due to my Generalised Anxiety Disorder. After receiving therapy in 2012 for my depression and anxiety, is when my trouble with the disorders started to slowly decease. I still sometimes have urges and fall into my old patterns without noticing but it will never be what it was.  

 I am glad I was able to get help for so many things and in turn helped me overcome this issue, luckily I didn't experience the more severe cases of Trichotillomania/Trichophagia but for those of you who may be experiencing something similar or this sounds like you at this present time, do not feel embarrassed, find someone you are comfortable with and trust to talk to, and speak about it with your GP.  Notice the signs and don't Google anything, use a trusted website. 

Linked is the NHS and Trichstop website which is reliable sources, where you can get reliable answers.

Photo Source: Trichstop and HealthPlace


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