You might think that most mental illnesses are invisible, but did you know that many of the symptoms can actually manifest themselves physically?
One such condition called Trichotillomania – also known as Trich or TTM – is when someone can’t resist the urge to pull out their hair. With over 3.4% adults in the world suffering from the condition, it doesn’t get much funding or attention in the media. But as it affects nearly 280 million people every day, we wanted to shed some light on the disorder to help raise awareness.
1. It’s not just pulling hair from your head The person affected may also pull hair from their eyebrows, eyelashes or genital area. It’s often described as a way of dealing with stress or anxiety or a chemical imbalance similar to that of obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s also considered an addictive behaviour and sometimes a form of self-harm.
2. Some people do it in their sleep Towie star Samantha Faiers speaks openly about her battle with TTM which started when she was eight years old. She explains in this You Tube video that even after treatment, she still does it subconsciously.
‘I actually pick my eyelashes out in my sleep so I don’t even do it conscious in the daytime any more, it’s like a habit’
3. There’s not one specific cause The reason why someone may start pulling is completely unique to their own situation. Some people may start in childhood as a response to abuse, for others it may occur in adulthood. Stephanie from Trigger Press told us that it began when she was 19. ‘I went into the bathroom and realised that I had a few overgrown, rogue hairs on one of my eyebrows. ‘For some reason, I had this strong urge to get rid of them then and there. I don’t know why. ‘It wasn’t the same kind of urge I get for pulling them now. That’s a whole different sensation altogether. ‘The stray hairs didn’t make me feel anxious, either. I just wanted them gone.’
4. It can be treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy That’s a form of talking therapy which aims to help separate your thoughts, physical feelings and actions and then work to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. For example every time you have the urge to pull out your hair, you might be advised to squeeze a stress ball instead to replace the bad habit.