Hair Plucking (Trichotillomania)
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Therapist/Psychiatrist for 11 yo's Hair-Pulling
- 7-year-old pulling out her eyebrows
- 3-year-old is pulling out his hair
- 4-year-old plucks her hair out and eats it
My 11-yr-old has recently started pulling out his hair. The first time, a few weeks ago, he created a bald spot about the size of a quarter. After we showed it to him in a mirror he seemed pretty committed to not doing it again. Then yesterday he did it again, enlarging the spot to a bit more than silver-dollar size. He says he's ''addicted'' to pulling. Apparently this is a not-uncommon disorder, called trichotillomania. I'd really appreciate recommendations for treatment. We live in the Lamorinda area but are willing to travel a bit to see someone good. A Kaiser person would be ideal, though that's not necessary. Also, if anyone who's been through this has any advice to offer or experiences to share, I'd be very grateful. Thanks, Worried mom
Trich is very common, as you already know. It is very hard to 'cure,' however, as the problem lies in the brain --technically, it's called an impulse disorder. Your son's brain registers as pleasurable something that hurts--it hurts him, just like it would hurt anyone who pulls-- but for him, the discomfort stops when he pulls. It may seem backward and upside down to us, but it makes sense to a kid with trich -- it's a kind of comfort mechanism. But the results are seriously damaging, needless to say. Very few counselors specialize in trich, and when my daughter suffered from it, aged 14-21, she saw a specialist who I had mixed feelings about in San Rafael, who was at that time the only person in a reasonable driving range who specialized in trich. I think she offered some good moral support, and the fact that she had a group (all girls, alas for your son) was helpful, too. I can offer you some hope: my daughter, now 23, has stopped pulling. This is after years of therapy and her own personal efforts. On and off, she improved (two steps forward, one back) for years, only to fall back badly during times of increased stress. She wore wigs during two different periods, in which she had pulled more than half her hair out.
She now is through it, I suspect for life. But the statistics I've seen indicate that this kind of full recovery is not common. I think it's great that you found it early, and I urge you to find out everything you can and be very cautious about how you address the issue with your son until you get professional advice yourselves, you and your spouse. He is right; it is a kind of addiction, but there is not medicine or 'method' to stop pulling. The self control it takes is truly phenomenal. I offer you the comfort of knowing you are not alone, and hope you find ways of coping as parents, and ways to support your son, that are healing and beneficial for you all. best wishes, someone who's been there
I'd recommend a talented psychotherapist with a reputation for helping youth with obsessive behaviors: Reyna Cowan has an office in the Rockridge Harriet
I wanted to share a few resources with you. My daughter started pulling her eyelashes just over a year ago and I went through an extensive search for someone who specializes in hair pulling.
First of all, I wanted to be sure you know about trich.org, the website of the Trichotillomania Learning Center. Lots of good info on there. They have a provider listing under ''Treatment and Resources'' of therapists who specialize in treating trich. My daughter has been seeing Wendy Ritchey in Walnut Creek since the beginning of this year, and has had some success. Just now her lashes are coming in thick again, though short. It does continue to be a struggle for her--harder at times than others, it comes & goes. Wendy works with children and adults, and has a workbook she uses with kids that has exercises that help identify triggers, feelings and substitutes. We've enjoyed working with her.
Just found your original post...we're in Lamorinda too. And my daughter started pulling at 11y.o. too. I think the middle school transition is very stressful for some kids... Please contact the moderator if you'd like my email address so we can communicate further. Christina
Didn't see the original post, but have a book to recommend. Someone on this list recently told me about ''Habit Control in a Day''. It was really helpful for my habit of cheek biting, and there were many sections that were devoted specifically to hair pulling. Possibly as an adjunct to therapy for you? I ordered it through interlibrary loan at Berkeley library, and read it in about an hour. Very useful for me. Good luck to you. lisa
My 7-year old daughter recently started pulling all her eyebrows. She became self-conscious after a friend said that she had a uni-brow. We initially thought it was an isolated incident, but she is starting to pull out the hair that are growing back. Any advice and/or recommendation for a professional who specializes in trichotilllomania would be appreciated. We've tried some supportive discussions and behavior modification techniques, but they don't seem to help. concerned mom
Check out the TLC website, join the free message board - lots to learn about trich and it is a great support group. www.trich.org anon
I also did this at one point. I had pretty dark bushy eyebrows and I remember feeling empowered when I realized that I could pull out the hair. My parents told me that once I let it grow in they would bring me to a professional to shape them nicely and they did bring me on a kind of ''spa'' day where I got them shaped, nails done, etc. I thought the whole thing was a lot of fun and she taught me to do just a little myself. After that I never pulled on them again. anon
Hi, This may sound off the wall, but aside from behavioral therapy -- which seems to have limited results for most people with Trich -- there is one medical/supplement emerging with real (reputable, peer reviewed medical journals and associated studies) backing N-Acetyl L- Cysteine as something that can significantly curb the urge to do this.
You can get it over the counter at places like GNC (called ''NAC 600'') -- and I think that is doesn't have much at all in the way of side effects to worry about. You should do you own research on it, but given the seemingly low risk, if you can get your daughter to swallow two capsules a day and it takes the edge off this for her -- I would wholeheartedly endorse it. I know it can be debilitating emotionally for people and I would hate to see it cause unnecessary angst for your daughter. I was super skeptical of it working myself -- having tried many other approaches, but have found it to be something of magic bullet (at least for me). Best of luck! Worth a try
For anyone struggling with trichotillomania (hair-pulling) or related Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors like skin-picking, nail-biting, cheek biting, etc...
I can't recommend strongly enough that you check out www.trich.org for the Trichotillomania Learning Center. They're the only organization in the world dedicated to folks struggling with these disorders, and they've led the charge making great strides in recent years to create resources and work towards a cure.
The TLC website has lots of resources. If you are able to join, they'll send you hard copies of even more info, including a list of local providers (which is something you specifically requested in your post).
TLC is based in Santa Cruz. They host an annual conference and retreat, held in a various US locations. The retreat is happening this summer on the east coast, next year's conference is expected to be in SF.
If you have the resources for you and your daughter to attend the retreat, I can't recommend it highly enough. It's for both adults and kids, and there are lots of parents there with their children. The kids have a really great time, getting to be with other children who have similar struggles and where the pressure is off and they don't need to hide. It has the potential to be a life-changing experience, and you'll come home with loads of information and perspective.
Take care, and remember that it's possible your daughter really can't stop herself from pulling - if she could stop she would stop, so be gentle with her, and with yourself, since it's no one's fault. Good luck! Rahel
Can anybody give me some advice on hair pulling, I have a 3 year old who's been pulling hair for the last year, and it's getting real bad. I have started to hold his hands and tell him no and to stop because it hurts. and i also have swatted him on the side of his leg, but I think it hurts me more than it does him. He attends pre school ans pulls hair 3 to 4 times a day everyday! help
A few months ago I read a column in the paper by a child psychologist about hair pulling. I was impressed with his answer to a family who's little girl was pulling her hair...He said tell the child she may pull her hair, but she has to go into the bathroom to do it. She can stay in there as long as she wants and pull as much as she wants to, but she can only pull her hair in the bathroom...that is her hair pulling place.Not a punishment, just her place to pull her hair. Apparently this worked well for this family. The girl stopped pulling her hair within a week and her bald spots filled in with new and healthy hair.
THe parents stopped pleading and giving any attention to the hair pulling, except to remind the child to go into the bathroom. The point being that the hair pulling was getting so much attention for the child, that why should she stop pulling...even negative attention is acceptable when you really want attention. If you thnk this might help you, you'd have to ask the teachers at your son's school to help you out on this...same thing, if he wants to pull his hair at pre-school he has to go into the bathroom, or into a particular corner or part of the room, alone to do it. Good luck. anon
Hair pulling (trychitilomania--sp?) may have a neurophysical component and/or be situationally induced by something in your child's home and/or school life. At any rate, hair pulling is considered a behavior of anxiety. I would urge you not to slap your child's thigh or do anything punitive. It is frustrating as hell (my daughter has a friend who does it--they are adolescents--and my daughter used to be irritated by it (and want to smack her friend's hand) until I had my daughter read about the condition). The child, by the way, is being treated, successfully, with cognitive behavior therapy. I sympathize but urge you not to be punitive, mentally or physically. Your kid can likely not help him/herself. Meds and therapy seem to work around this one. Good luck
A 4year old girl in our family plucks her hair out and eats it. She has never had a haircut but is completly bald. There is more to her behavior than just pulling her hair out but I will not get into it. It seems to me that this behavior needs some attention. Does anyone have anything to say about it? Please help. worried relative
This condition is called Trichotilomania. You can surely find information on the web. It is treatable. Good luck
It's called trichotillomania and it's a treatable, obsessive- compulsive type disorder. There's a place in the South Bay, Santa Cruz maybe?, dedicated to helping people with it. Their web address is http://www.trich.org . Get her some help while she's young; maybe it'll be easier to deal with. anon
Her condition is called tricatellamania (sp?)...sorry, don't know how to spell it. I have it too and never got treated for it and wished that i did. I had it since I was 15 years old. I've heard that it is more common in women than in men, and it is usually associated with some kind of childhood traumatic experience. I've had some bad experiences from my childhood, but I never talked to a psychiatrist about it to know wether or not it is related. Apparently there is a specific medication that helps with it. One of the symptoms in older children and adults is shame and embarrasment. That is why i haven't seeked out help. I strongly encourage you to speak up or seek help for this child. It could be a sign that something very stressful or traumatic is going on for her. It shouldn't be ignored. My condition was ignored when I was young...a big mistake. I now have areas of my hair that will never grow back. Anon
Your child needs to see a pediatric psychologist. Another possibility would be going to a Pediatric Dermatologists first. These kids usually respond to medical therapy for a six month period of time. I had one patient who stopped pulling out her own eyelashes and hair and then even pulled out the hair and ate it of her Barbie. It is correctable. Don't Worry But get it Treated
I have a VERY similar sort of behavior. There is actually a name for it, trichotillomania. You can find out more about it at http://www.trich.org/ . It's basically a form of impulse control/obsessive compulsive disorder. It can be associated with other similar disorders/habits (for example, I also compulsively doodle, destroy napkins and roll them into little balls, chew pens, etc.) As with other disorders of the type the typical treatments are cognitive behavior therapy and drugs. The girl's parents would do well to take her to a psychiatrist with experience in this type of disorder anon
Hair pulling or plucking anywhere on the body is also called Trichotillomania and is a subset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and has to do with altered brain chemistry and possibly genetics. You can get a vast amount of information about it by searching with that word at www.Google.com - for example www.trich.org and others Also there is a yahoo group for people with Trichotillomania that you could join and ask questions. I found then just now for you, again by using Google groups.yahoo.com/group/Trichotillomania-friends/ ''A community to support people with trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling). We aim to discuss, help and mutually support each other in our efforts to understand and control this impulse control disorder. We are a group of lay people who have lived with this difficult condition for some time. Anyone who has trich or has a relative or friend with trich is welcome to join. We aim to include all opinions and age groups and talk on issues mainly related to trich but also sharing some of our other lives.'' Good luck! Christine