7 Things Not to Say to Someone with Trichotillomania
I understand the curiosity; not many people know what trichotillomania (aka hair-pulling disorder) is. As is the case for many trichsters, I was once terrified of openly talking about my disorder. I was afraid of being found out. I was afraid of answering people's questions.
But a lack of discussion and recognition means that even a well-intentioned question can be received as offensive and hurtful. Education and awareness are the first step to promoting a more positive perspective of the disorder and eliminating any stigmas surrounding hair-pulling. This week, I'm breaking down some of the most common questions and statements that people with trichotillomania do not like to hear.
For more general information about trichotillomania, please check out:
1. Why don't you just stop?
Many, if not most, days we ask ourselves the same question. Trust me, if people with trich could "just stop," we would. Trichotillomania is defined as a "mental disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body, despite trying to stop." Asking this questions assumes it's easy to stop pulling; however, by definition, trichsters fight their urges to pull.
2. Maybe you wouldn't do it if you weren't so stressed out.
Yes, stress might be a contributing factor to some people's trich, but that doesn't mean it's the only reason we pull. We pull for a variety of reasons. There are even trichsters who pull without realizing that they're doing it. When we're fighting the uncontrollable urge to pull, we usually need more than relaxation to reverse them.
3. Are you really bald?
I actually get this question more than you would think. If only we lived in a world where pulling out your hair didn't lead to hair loss, but sadly that's not the case. Hair loss in general can be shameful, and it's all the worse when it's self-inflicted. Please don't remind trichsters of their own baldness.
4. Have you seen a doctor? There's probably some medication you can take.
There is no cure for trichotillomania. In fact, research for trich is relatively recent. Most of us have seen a doctor for our disorder, but there is no one pill we can take to get rid of our urges. It remains a mystery to many in the medical community. Believe it or not, I was the first trich patient that a few of my doctors had when I was growing up.
5. You look so pretty with your natural eyelashes, eyebrows, and hair.
Once again, trichsters don't like being reminded of their hair loss. Many of us dream of the day when we'll have a full head of hair and/or full set of eyelashes/eyebrows again.
6. It's just a habit. You'll grow out of it.
If that were the case, then I haven’t done enough growing in the last 20 years. Disorders are not habits.
7. Why do you want to hurt yourself?
Pulling out our hairs is pleasurable for us, not painful. We pull to relieve an urge, not because we want to hurt ourselves or intentionally cause hair loss. On the other hand, hurting oneself is the intention when it comes to self-harm (ex. cutting). The damages caused by hair-pulling are just a result of pulling and not the goal of pulling.