by Sitra Panirsheeluam
Trichotillomania (pronounced trik-o-till-o-MAY-nee-uh) is categorized as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. People who suffer from this condition often have an irresistible urge to pull the hair from their scalp, eyebrows, eyelids or other parts of their body. This is usually accompanied by feelings of anxiety, boredom, stress or tension. In order to alleviate these feelings, those who suffer from trichotillomania often engage with hair pulling to feel gratification, relief or pleasure. However, this short-term solution often leads to long-term pain.
The Impact of Trichotillomania
The impact of trichotillomania can be devastating for the individual. Many spend considerable time, effort and money on concealing their hair loss and trying to treat it. This can be stressful and exacerbate the condition. This can lead to low self-esteem, social anxiety and cause strain in their relationship with their loved ones.
Individuals may be afraid or pursue their career goals and avoid people. They may avoid situations that could expose their alopecia such as swimming or becoming intimate with their partner. Unsurprisingly, this condition can lead to a lower quality of life.
Why does it develop?
It is not clear what causes trichotillomania. Some studies claim that it is a way of dealing with stress and anxiety. It can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which is similar to OCD.
How to treat it?
I have successfully treated clients with trichotillomania using a combination of behavioural therapy, mindfulness and acceptance and commitment (ACT) therapy.
Focusing on habit reversal, she uses strategies that can help you change your reaction to strong emotional states and manage your anxiety better. This can help you to become aware of your triggers and change your response to them.
Tips on How to Manage It
Here are some ways you can use to manage this behaviour:
Use a fidget toy or squeeze ball to distract yourself.
Practice deep mindful breaths when the urge arises
Put plasters on your finger.
Come up with an affirmation that you repeat until the urge passes.
If you feel overwhelmed or that you are unable to cope with trichotillomania, please make an appointment with us. The Mind Faculty is a private mental health clinic in Kuala Lumpur. We offer psychiatric, psychological and counselling services. Using our integrated approach, we provide treatment for those suffering from trichotillomania.