5 Myths About Trichotillomania
As I've started talking to people about trichotillomania, I've noticed there are a lot of misconceptions and myths about the disorder out there. On the tail end of last week's blog, 10 Things to Know About Trichotillomania, I'm focusing on dispelling some of those common myths this week. If y'all think of any other myths or have any questions, please send me a message or leave a comment below.
1. People who pull out their hair can "just stop."
Trust me - if we could stop, we would. I've lost count of the number of times people have told me I should "just stop" pulling my hair. That's just about the last thing anyone with trich wants to hear.
It's more than just a bad habit. People with trich do not have control over the impulses and urges to pull their hair, and sometimes they don't even know they're doing it. The hair-pulling disorder is also believed to have a genetic component. It's not something we choose to do - we're predisposed to our trichotillomania.
2. Hair pulling is a type of self-harm.
We pull out our hair because it feels good, not because it hurts. Imagine what it's like to scratch a really bad itch - that's (kinda) what it feels like to pull out hairs. On the other hand, people who self-harm intend to hurt themselves. While we might hurt ourselves in the process of pulling out hairs, our intent with pulling is not to cause any harm or damage.
Trichotillomania and self-harm are classified as distinct from one another in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
3. Your hair will always grow back.
Let me be the first to say from personal experience that your hair does NOT always grow back. I have a section on the left side of my head that does not grow beyond patchy peach fuzz. Having said that, a lot, if not all, of your hair will grow back, especially if you haven't put a lot of stress on the hair follicle from doing things like pulling repeatedly in the same area or picking the skin where the hair is growing from.
Another fun fact about your hair growing back... sometimes the hair grows back a different length or texture. I had one section in the back of my head that would always grow back super curly, while the rest of my hair is naturally wavy.
4. Only women have trichotillomania.
Research indicates that boys and girls experience trichotillomania equally in childhood. However, by adulthood, 80-90% of reported cases are women. There are some questions as to whether the adulthood statistics are as skewed as represented. Some research has shown that more adult men have trichotillomania than may be reported. Those men affected by trichotillomania might choose to conceal their disorder by shaving their problem areas (ex. beard or head); while societal norms for women affect women's decision to shave their head.
5. Trichotillomania is rare.
Trichotillomania is way more common than you think. Research shows that about 1 or 2 in 50 people experience trichotillomania in their lifetime. That means that just in the United States between 6.5 to 13 million people have trichotillomania.
I never met anyone who was open about their trichotillomania until I was 23 (and that's after nearly 2 decades of having the disorder!). Since I started opening up about my trichotillomania, I have had so many people tell or message me that they have trich, have a family member with trich, or know someone with trich.
Whether or not you feel comfortable speaking about your experience, know that you are not alone and there are more of us out there than you think!