Trichotillomania (TTM) is a hair pulling disorder that causes sufferers to pull out their own hair due to stress and anxiety; it can be so severe that it can leave sufferers with only a few wisps of hair, and can lead women to extracting a whole head of hair within a few hours...
It affects more people worldwide than bulimia – yet very little is known about it, though we do know that women outnumber the amount of males with the condition by 3 to 1, with A-listers such as Megan Fox, Katy Perry, Olivia Munn and Charlize Theron having previously admitted to experiencing Trichotillomania. That said, men are certainly not immune to the disorder, with Justin Timberlake openly discussing his experience.
Hair loss specialist Lucinda Ellery has commissioned new research into the problem of self-hair pulling specifically in the UK, with staggering results that 23% of women have admitted to pulling out hair on their head/eyelashes and eyebrows, with it affecting those aged in the 18 – 24 most prevalently - they made up 48% of sufferers.
A form of Impulse Control Disorder, that’s closely linked to OCD, TTM is often triggered by anxiety and is used as a coping mechanism by sufferers to deal with stressful situations. “So many women suffer in silence with the condition and we really want to break down the barriers that are stopping them from getting help,” says Ellery. “Often women feel completely alone, with many not even realising what they are experiencing is a medical condition. Increasing awareness around the condition will, we hope, encourage the 90% of sufferers currently suffering in silence to come forward and seek treatment.”
If you think you may be suffering, here are some pointers:
Recognise you have a problem. It’s normal to pull the odd hair out - especially if you’re targeting the odd grey hair or one that may be thicker with a different texture, but when you start pulling several out over a sustained period, alarm bells should ring
Trichotillomania often starts in youngsters, especially those that are prepubescent at around 11 or 12 years old. If you have children around this age and suspect they may be pulling hair, take them aside and talk to them gently about it and look at the underlying causes as soon as possible – ignoring the problem may lead it to snowball.
Visiting a doctor is vital if you think you are experiencing symptoms of TTM. It is much more common than you may think and certainly nothing to be ashamed about. Also registering with a doctor for treatment means you are eligible for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which can target/explore the triggers behind hair pulling.
Research tells us that many women experiencing trichotillomania suffer with it in silence – either because they are not aware that it is a medical condition, or because they are too embarrassed, but there is a positive community out there reaching out to other people going through the same experience. Many of these communities can be found on the internet, or at Lucinda Ellery we can put you in contact with other women experiencing TTM.
If you find you’re pulling at certain parts of the day (which is often downtime, for example in bed or watching TV), keep your hair wet – it’s incredibly difficult to pull wet hair. Over a certain period of time, you can find you’re pulling subconsciously and this can worsen according to particular events – there may be relapses according to what is going on in individual’s life for example – so anything you can do to make it harder to pull in the first place is worth doing. Linked to this is making time for yourself to truly relax - meditation and yoga can really help with mindfulness and is extremely important for anyone experiencing trichotillomania.