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Hair-pulling or Trichotillomania: Uncontrollable Urges

By HERWriter
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Christina Pearson’s hand unconsciously kept searching through the hair on her head to find the “right” hair that “needed” to be pulled as she lay on her couch immersed in a book. By the time she finished the novel, an entire pile of blond hair lay at her side.

She was thirteen years old at the time and couldn’t believe or understand why she had compulsively pulled out so much of her own hair; neither could the doctor who examined her.

Through out her twenties, she remained captive to the inner compulsion to pull out her hair or pick at her skin terrified that she would be found out by others and fearful that she would never be in control of her own life again. It wasn’t until she was in her thirties that she learned there was a name for her condition.

Today, Christina runs a successful business, is on medication and uses various therapies to control her illness called trichotillomania, an impulse control disorder that causes people to pull out hair from their scalp, eyelashes, pubic hair and other parts of their body. Christina knew others must suffer like herself so 18 years ago she started the Trichotillomania Learning Center where there is support for the other 2-4% of the population that suffers from the uncontrollable urges of trichotillomania.

Treatment for trichotillomania is typically focused around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy counseling and medication. Medications that have been found to be the most helpful are serotonin re-uptake blocking drugs. There are alternative therapies such as biofeedback and support groups which also assist in treatment. Trichotillomania has been a difficult obsessive disorder to classify but is thought to fall into what is called Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) along with skin picking and chronic nail biting.

A new study treatment by Dr. Jon E. Grant and colleagues from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis shows promise. The antioxidant called N-acetylcysteine, an over the counter vitamin supplement was given to 25 people in doses of 1,200 milligrams to 2,400 milligrams per day for 12 weeks. The 25 people in the placebo group did not receive the supplement. Those taking the N-acetylcysteine showed significantly greater improvement in the reduction of their hair pulling. The study was published in Archives of General Psychiatry, July 2009.

People with trichotillomania have felt at times suicidal or worse. In an interview with CNN.com, Christina Pearson admitted, “There was a time in my early 20s when I really, seriously considered, could I cut my hands off and live my life? My hands were my enemies, because they pulled my hair.”

The Trichotillomania Learning Center provides support for kids and teens, adults, educators and treatment professionals. Access to support groups, research updates and lists of treatment providers by state can be found there. And to her credit, Christina maintains an ongoing blog chronicling her continued fight against the urges of trichotillomania assuring people that they are not alone in their daily struggle.

For further information go to the Trichotillomania Learning Center at: http://www.trich.org/index.html


Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment23 Comments


Anonymous ,
Thank your for sharing your story. It must be especially difficult having children now old enough to see your struggle. I suggest you go the the website at the end of my article
http://www.trich.org/index.html and look up resources for treatment, support groups etc to find someone experienced to help you come up with a total game plan on how to tackle your disorder. Hypnosis may be one of the tools you choose to use but since stress management and relief is also part of this condition, you will want more resources to help. Let us know how it goes. Take care.

July 9, 2010 - 2:47pm
EmpowHER Guest

i know that im really late on this post but i felt like i had to post a comment on my own expreience as a viticim of this heartless disorder. i stated to pull my own hair out at the age of 8. i will be 24 on the 16th of this month. im ready to live a normal life with out this disorder! i two wonderful boys who now notice when i do it and they are now asking questions about it. its so embarrassing!! i catn live my life normal..cant go swimming (which is something i love to do) and actually dating someone is hard to do because i so nervous to let them know that the hair they do see is actually fake hair (extensions)..i have very beautiful curly hair..ppl ask me all the time why do i wear hair extensions and i have to lie and tell them that i love the full hair effect...in reality i have no hair! i went to the shop to get my hair done a couple time but that was soooooo hard to do..ppl were walkin in and then there were men in there which mad is so much harder on me...i cut the little bit of hair i had on once thinking that it will be a new start but that also didnt work...now i went through a ruff week and i dang near the whole top of my hair out...i was up till 4 in the morning doing this...enough is enough and i need support..i need ppl who i wont be scared to tell about it...i was online looking this up and i found that it is very common. im considering hypnosis to cure me of this...has anyone known of anyone who has over came this with hypnosis? i refuse to take pills...i want a more healthy approach about this.

July 9, 2010 - 2:12pm

Hi Wanda-
Did you get my email address? I am really hoping to hear back from you. That's wonderful about your appearance on local TV, perhaps you could post it on YouTube or something for others to view? When you refer to your blog, how do I get to it? I look forward to your contact.

December 28, 2009 - 7:11pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to tojacig)

I didn't get your email address, but you can go to my site. www.Trichblog.com

There you can post to my blog and leave me your email address.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Respectfully Wanda

December 28, 2009 - 7:18pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Hi, guess what? I just did that! I left a comment, and had to put in my email address so you should have it. You look GREAT! Congratulations! And I am very, very sorry about Michael. Jacquie

December 28, 2009 - 7:25pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have posted her a couple of times. I have gotten emails from others wanting to know how I stopped and I have decided to help.

Join me at Trichblog.com

December 28, 2009 - 6:02pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Wanda - Thanks for writing and for being willing to share your story. Your site has a lot of encouraging information, and will be helpful to many others. Take care, Pat

December 28, 2009 - 6:15pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Pat Elliott)

You are welcome Pat. I lived with Trichotillomania for thirty plus years. I learned how to work around those horrible urges and I want to help those in need. I will be on a local TV show here in my area in January discussing this issue. I feel like a new person now that I have a full head of hair and I cannot begin to tell you how it has improved how I feel about myself and life in general. If you have friends that struggle with Trich, please feel free to send them to my new blog, I'm just getting use to it, not being a great technical person, but the blog section is now available. Best Wanda

December 28, 2009 - 6:29pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi Everyone,

I am posting again. Today I celebrate my birthday and it has been a great day for me. I am celebrating again this year with even more hair than I had last year at this same time and it feels wonderful. I am so blessed to be free of Trichotillomania. Just a suggestion for those out there needing help. Just remember this when you need help to not pull. Change your attitude and it will change your life. You might say that it doesn't bother you if you pull or even twist, but there is something behind the ritual of pulling, twisting or any other ritual you do to yourself that is a constant in your life. You have to first find the root cause for pulling, then monitor your time when you pull. Change your pattern example; be aware of where and when you pull. If you pull from your head, think about keeping your hair really clean, it will cut back on the urges, the tingle you get right before you feel the need to pull. Trichotillomania is an Impulse Control Disorder, so you have to be smarter than this disorder and out wit it, until you have learned to stop, as I did. Happy Holidays and prayers for success to those suffering with this terrible disorder. Wanda H.

And if JG is out there and reads this I hope she is having success at stopping. Well wishes Wanda

December 14, 2009 - 7:56pm
EmpowHER Guest

WOW. I am FLOORED> i have been pulling my hair out, well, since I was about 11 or so... i will be 39 tomorrow. I had no idea it was a disorder. I just thought it was just me. I twist into knoys, and yank it out, creating a hairball, if you will. I then have the knotted hairballs under my fingernail, if that makes any sense.

I don't have bald spots, I don't do it daily, but enough that my hair is thin, and sil fixes it for me when she does my hair..

I am an outgoing person, always have been. always have good self esteem and very confident, independant.

I just do it, and don't really think about it. It is annoying none the less, and ev1 around me always says (said) just stop, you can stop...it's just a bad habit) clearly, it is something more... and i am NOT alone.

December 14, 2009 - 3:36pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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