Have you ever noticed someone you know pulling out their hair?
Chances are you probably haven’t as it is done so subtly.
Trichotillomania (TTM) affects 2-5% of the population, but it is not often spoken about so many people don’t know what it is.
TTM is when someone pulls out their hair compulsively. It can be done consciously or unconsciously, and from any part of the body but usually the head, eyelashes and eyebrows.
Because it is not really talked about, when you tell your friends and family about it they have no idea what to say.
I think for me it was so embarrassing that they wouldn’t understand why I feel the need to do it, as I couldn’t even explain that myself. Not only that, but also why I couldn’t ‘just stop’.
There are some really good TED Talks on Trichotillomania that are really helpful and make you realise you are not alone.
If you don’t have TTM it can be hard to understand why someone would pull their hair out until they are practically bald……… but people with TTM don’t understand it either.
These common Questions and Answers about Trichotillomania provide a lot of insight.
Even if you have good intentions there are some things which you should avoid saying.
Worst things to say to someone with Trichotillomania
1. JUST STOP!
THE worst thing to say!! So infuriating. It’s like people don’t realise that we want to stop, have tried to stop, but can’t. It is like telling someone with OCD to just, not turn the light switch on and off 20 times every time they leave a room.
My parents used to say this to me the whole time. It actually just made me feel like they didn’t care enough to research it properly to find something more constructive to say.
2. WHY DO YOU PULL YOUR HAIR OUT?
I literally have no idea. When I am stressed and anxious I have noticed that I definitely do it more, but then again I also do it when I think I’m relaxed….. so who knows.
So don’t ask this to someone with TTM as they probably won’t be able to answer and it will just make them feel worse.
3. YOU SHOULD STOP, YOU CAN SEE BALD PATCHES.
As if I wasn’t already paranoid enough that people might be able to see bald patches, thanks for confirming.
People with TTM probably have already low self esteem from the bald patches, so don’t need to be made to feel any worse.
4. THAT’S SO WEIRD
Cheers…… (Time to get a new friend).
5. JUST RELAX
About as stupid as telling anyone with anxiety to ‘just relax’.
6. YOU’LL GROW OUT OF IT
I’ve been doing it for over 10 years, so don’t think I will magically grow out of it any time soon.
7. YOU WILL END UP COMPLETELY BALD
This is probably the biggest fear of anyone with TTM, and we don’t need to be reminded of it.
What you SHOULD say to someone with Trichotillomania
1. HOW CAN I HELP?
This is really nice to say as the person knows you care and each person will need help in a different way. Sometimes just having someone to talk to about it really helps.
2. MANY PEOPLE HAVE SUCCESSFULLY STOPPED SO DON’T LOSE HOPE
It can feel like we have tried for so long to stop, that there is no way out and we will continue to do it forever. It helps to be reminded of the success stories.
3. IT IS A LOT MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK
It is comforting to know that you are not alone in this behaviour and the stigma is slowly reducing.
4. COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (CBT) CAN HELP
Actually a very useful suggestion, as some people with TTM may not know that these options are available to them.