Mental Health 101: Trichotillomania

Written by abigailporter

I’m pulling my hair out with stress.

A comment that I hear on a regular basis. One that rings true for me. I’m Abigail, I’ve recently turned 20 and I’ve been struggling with Trichotillomania for a large portion of my teenage years.

Trichotillomania is the obsessive compulsion to remove hair from your body. I spent most of my GCSEs and even before this with clumps of hair in my hand with no idea how it got there. I’d find a strand of hair that looked out of place or that just didn’t sit right with me and pull it out. Sounds crazy but this has been my life for a fair few years.

I don’t have it so bad that there would be a documentary made on my life but it has still affected me. There was a Channel 4 documentary made however, back in 2011 called ‘Girls on the Pull.’ It followed a number of girls with this condition and showed how they live their life with it. It’s one of the very few representations I have ever seen with the other being a film called Young Adult with Charlize Theron as the protagonist. With Trich being so unheard of it was easy for me to feel ashamed considering I had no idea it was a form of OCD.

My friends and parents were very supportive actually. My mum was the one who noticed me pulling my hair and quickly started researching. We went to the doctors about it but I remember feeling uncomfortable telling my family doctor that actually I have no idea why my brain decides to pull strands of hair out. He had no idea what was wrong with me and made a half-hearted attempt to refer me to somewhere else to talk to someone about it. Safe to say I never followed this referral up after being made to feel crazy the first time around.

It did get better though! Once I finished my exams at GCSE I moved on to A Levels and was able to recognise what would make me feel stressed and it stopped for a while. Being aware of how different activities made me feel allowed me to prevent stressing out and as a result pulling my hair. There are still days that I’ll notice myself going to touch my hair but I quickly snap out of it. I even wear a bandana on days I know I’ll feel stressed just as a precaution!

The message I’m trying to put across here is that no matter what you’re going through, it’s valid. How you’re feeling is valid. Your mental health is valid. There will always be someone willing to talk to you whether that person is professional or a close friend or family member.

For more information visit the NHS website.