Overcoming Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling)

I’ve been pulling my hair out for 15 years or to put it another way, half my life. It feels like I’ve tried every textbook piece of advice and the longest I’ve been successful for is one hour. Then three days ago I stopped just like that.

The first problem was that I would pull it out before I realised what I was doing and so it was too late to prevent myself. The second problem was that once I had started, I found it incredibly difficult to move my hand away and stop.

A doctor suggested wearing an elastic band on my wrist and pinging it instead of pulling my hair. I did it a few times but pulling my hair felt so much more satisfying and I returned to it within minutes.

A psychologist suggested creating a physical barrier so I couldn’t pull my hair out. I started wearing a pair of socks on my hands when I was at home! It stopped me pulling my hair, but after around 30 minutes I would get fed up of the socks stopping me doing anything else either and would take them off.

As an alternative, I tried wearing a headband that covered up the areas of hair I pulled out. Before I knew it, my hand would work it’s way under the fabric and start pulling.

A friend suggested aiming to stop for a short amount of time so it felt more achievable. I intently focussed on the act of not pulling and managed one hour. It required so much concentration, I was unable to do anything else at the same time and gave up.

Then, three days ago, I was absentmindedly reading an article titled “36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits and no doubt pulling my hair out at the same time.

I got to point 14 “Get good at watching but not acting on urges.”. From then on, instead of focussing on telling myself off every time I pulled my hair out, I watched out for the urge I felt prior to pulling it out. By catching it before my hand had even moved, I was able to let myself watch and experience the urge without acting on it.

It’s been three days now and I’ve snapped just two pieces of hair.  Each time I catch the urge I think “I’ve caught you, I win” and the urge turns into a feeling of success.

Note: I still recommend trying the approaches that didn’t work for me, because many other people have had success with them. It is about finding the approach that works for you and not giving up because the approaches you’ve tried haven’t worked.

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