6 Steps to Stop a Hair-Pulling Episode
I needed to leave my house at 1:00 on Monday.
12:45 rolled around, and I was in front of my bathroom mirror with a pair of tweezers in hand.
By 1:15, I’d pulled out 60+ hairs.
I'd had a hair-pulling episode. I’d like to tell you that I have them once in a blue moon, but I’d be lying. The truth is I have one about once a week, and they can last hours. They can disrupt an entire afternoon and stop me from getting my work done.
If you’ve never experienced a hair-pulling episode before, imagine being in a trance. Everything around you is a blur - the only thing you're focused on is the hair you're pulling out.
When you're in the middle of one, stopping feels impossible. I often tell myself "just five more hairs," knowing that I don't really intend to stop. I've put together six steps to stop a hair-pulling episode. These strategies are as much for my fellow trichsters as they are for me, so we can all successfully find our way through our next hair-pulling episode.
1. Recognize that you're in the middle of a hair-pulling episode.
This may be the hardest step for people, including myself. There are times when I don't realize I'm pulling out my hair. Other times, I'm so focused on pulling out a particular hair that I forget that I'm not supposed to be pulling in the first place.
Knowing your hair-pulling triggers will allow you to identify an episode more easily. Are you more likely to pull when you're watching tv or after you've gotten into a fight with someone? Identity your triggers ahead of time, so you can be on alert when you're more likely to pull.
2. Put your hands down.
I've always struggled to put my hands down after I realize I'm in the middle of a hair-pulling episode. I'll think to myself, "put your hands down now!!" But I keep on pulling.
I've recently switched over to saying "put your hands down" out loud. By doing so, I break the trance that I'm in; I'm no longer stuck in my head picking out the next hair to pull. If that doesn't work, try closing your eyes and envisioning a stop sign - anything that stops you from pulling out another hair!
It might also help to keep your hands distracted with some fidget toys. I keep some jagged washers in my purse at all times. Everyone has their own preference for fidget toys - make sure to always have some nearby!
3. Change your environment.
Even if you're able to stop pulling, it's easy to jump back into another episode. Leave the tweezers and mirrors behind and change your environment. This can mean changing rooms in your home or leaving your home altogether. Anything that distances yourself from your episode!
4. Know when to ask for help.
The people around you mean well, but they might not know what to do when you're having a hair-pulling episode. If you have roommates or family whom you live with, let them know how they can help you get out of a hair-pulling episode. Tell them what they shouldn't do (like say "you've pulled so much of your hair out") as well as what they should do (maybe you want a scalp massage or someone to sit with while you're watching tv).
5. Treat yourself.
Yes, you've just had a hair-pulling episode. Regardless of how big of a setback this was for your hair, you shouldn't punish yourself. Focus on what restores you and do something that makes you feel positive again - watch a funny tv show, listen to you favorite podcast, call a friend. Don't continue to live in the negative - life goes on and so should you.
6. You are not your trichotillomania.
I have trichotillomania. Trichotillomania does not have me. This has been the mindset shift that has allowed me to slowly accept and love myself and my trichotillomania. Don't be hard about yourself when you relapse. Remember, relapsing is a necessary part of growing and progressing.
Seeing yourself without the hair that you'd been working so hard to grow out is painful; but you deserve to be happy with or without hair. Realizing that you are not your trichotillomania puts the power back in your hands. You have the strength to support yourself when your trichotillomania strikes. After all, we've survived every hair-pulling episode until now, and we're still doing great.