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Trichotillomania: The Compulsion to Pull Out Hair and Eyelashes

I have battled trichotillomania for many years and like to write about my struggles to raise awareness and help others suffering like me.

My trichotillomania—pulling out my eyelashes.

My trichotillomania—pulling out my eyelashes.

What Is Trichotillomania?

Here's the obligatory, easily-understood definition for those who don't know what trichotillomania is:

Trichotillomania (I prefer Trich or Trichy) is a strong, often uncontrollable urge to pull out your own hair.

Pulling out your hair is the only factor common to every person diagnosed with this disorder. Often, the disorder is self-diagnosed, although sometimes it is diagnosed by a medical doctor or a psychologist.

The symptoms vary greatly among those diagnosed. I pull out eyelashes, eyebrows, and all short hairs that I consider "out of place." Some people pull out scalp hair. Some use their fingers while others use tweezers. Some just pull their hair, some rub it between their fingers, and some eat it (that one's called trichophagia).

The causes also vary. It usually begins in childhood or adolescence. Pulling often occurs when we are anxious, concentrating, looking in a mirror, or just plain bored.

My Name Is Lashes, and I Have Trichotillomania

(Hi, Lashes.)

As I said, I pull out my eyelashes and eyebrows. Sometimes little hairs on my stomach or on one of those gross moles or "beauty marks" that grow hair. I go back and forth between using tweezers and using my thumb and middle finger.

I'm writing for a couple of reasons. First, I want to share my own experiences to show that myself and fellow trichsters are not alone. I also hope that by paying attention to myself and chronicling my actions, I can become more aware of when I pull and eventually decrease the compulsion. Finally, and most importantly, I want to start a discussion based on experience and suggestion that can help all of us trichsters find solutions together! Yay for boundless idealism!

So, feel free to comment. Post responses, suggestions, rants, whatever will help either you or someone else deal with trichy a little better.

A couple of small steps for trich, one giant leap for trichster-kind.

People with trichotillomania tend to spend a lot of time looking in mirrors.

People with trichotillomania tend to spend a lot of time looking in mirrors.

Becoming Self-Aware: The First Step to Freedom

I think that one of the most important ways to deal with having trich (or any kind of disorder) is to be aware of the ways it affects you. I've made some discoveries about my trichy tendencies.

A while ago, I was doing some reading (one of my biggest pulling triggers) on the couch in my apartment. I was eating Cheez-Its out of the box in a very repetitive way. Hand goes in the box; hand goes to my mouth. Lather, rinse, repeat. When I had finished the box, I realized that I hadn't pulled any hairs out since starting to eat the crackers. Maybe the cheesy goodness was distracting me, but I think part of why snacking seemed to replace the pulling was because of the repetitive nature of it.

Pulling out eyelashes, for me, is a repetitive action. I pull, look at the hair, rub it between my fingers, flick it away. Pull, look, rub, flick. Over and over. Sometimes, like when I'm snacking, the repetitive hand movements of pulling is temporarily replaced. I think this may be a key to helping combat my pulling compulsion. Maybe not eating constantly, because that's not much healthier than pulling out eyelashes, but doing something that keeps my hands busy.