My husband suffers from trichotillomania. It is a little known mental health condition, which consists of the impulsive pulling of hair, which can be from anywhere on the body. This can result in bald patches and feelings of guilt and embarrassment. I’ve interviewed my husband on his experience of trichotillomania, in an effort to help raise awareness. I have only read stories of women having it online, so I’m hoping that it may help some people to read about a man with the condition.
How long have you had trichotillomania?
I think I’ve had it for about 15 years.
What hair do you pull out?
The hair on my head and sometimes my chest hair. In the past I’ve also pulled out eyelashes.
Do you pull out one hair at a time, or multiple hairs?
Usually one hair at a time, but it varies. Sometimes I pull out multiple hairs, but generally it’s just one.
What do you do with the hair once you’ve pulled it out?
I look at it and twiddle it between my fingers. Sometimes I then pull it apart. Often I run them over my lips and chew on or bite them.
Do you notice that you’re pulling hairs out?
Sometimes and sometimes when I do I stop myself. Other times, I carry on even if I’ve noticed. I don’t think I notice most of the time, though.
Why do you pull your hairs out?
I don’t really know. I find that sometimes it’s more prevalent under stress or boredom.
Do you think something caused you to start pulling your hair out?
I would expect there was, but I don’t know what. It could have been related to my mum dying, it could not, I don’t know.
Do you get a sense of satisfaction when you pull a hair out?
I don’t get a sense of satisfaction. Sometimes I get some satisfaction from playing with a pulled out hair.
Do you ever pick out a particular hair?
No, because I can’t ever see them when I’m playing with them. Sometimes when I’m examining them, I like a hair that has more of a root.
Why do you think you like a hair with more of a root?
I don’t know, I just find it more interesting to play with. It feels better if I’m playing with it on my face or eating it.
Do people often comment on your behaviour?
Not really, just you, my dad and grandma.
Do you ever feel embarrassed about it?
Only when it’s picked up on. I feel guilty about it, because I know I shouldn’t be doing it. It’s not a healthy behaviour and it might contribute to balding!
Have you ever had bald patches from it?
When I was younger I had a small bald patch, or at least an area where my hair was much thinner.
Has it impacted your self-esteem?
It did when I had a bald patch. I also feel a bit low sometimes if I feel guilty about it.
Some experts think it is a type of addiction, what do you think about that?
Yeah, I can see that it could be considered a mild type of addiction. It’s very difficult to stop.
Have you ever tried to stop?
Yes, I got counselling to help me stop. It helped for a while, then the counselling ended. I carried on okay for a while, but then life got more stressful and it went back to how it was before. I haven’t got any more help since.
What techniques were you taught to help and would you consider getting help again?
Wearing an elastic band on my wrist and pinging it whenever I found myself fiddling with my hair, or about to fiddle with my hair. I would consider getting some more help again.
Do you or anyone you know have trichotillomania? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
You can find more information on trichotillomania here. If you think you may be suffering from it, it may be worth visiting your GP or healthcare provider if you’re outside of the UK.