TLC is a wonderful resource for people who have trichotillomania and/or other BFRBs, and anyone who wants to learn more about it.

They offer a lot of awareness materials like bracelets, ribbons, and brochures. They host an annual conference which brings a lot of us trichsters together. (Someday I’ll be able to go!) as well as offer a lot of outreach and support.

With that said, and with much love for TLC, I’d like to touch on something that I feel is important.

They offer a list with the title, “50 ways to stop pulling your hair.”  https://www.bfrb.org/learn-about-bfrbs/treatment/self-help/104-50-ways-to-stop-pulling-your-hair

I often get this list in the mail when I order anything from TLC.

So, there are some good things about this.

“Last but not least learn to love yourself. Only then can you start to heal.”
“Keep a journal of your feelings.”
“Help others, which in turn will help you.”
“If you pull some hair do not beat yourself up about it, just try again.”
“Be patient with yourself.”
“Join a support group.”
“Have a positive attitude.”

These are all wonderful suggestions if they’re out of context, but the whole point of this is “How to stop.” and I’m concerned it makes a complex disorder even more confusing for those who have trich and for parents of children with trich. There are a lot of words in there that are damaging.

“Take a long bath to ease the anxiety.” Again, great suggestion out of context, but it adds to the misconception that anxiety is always what causes pulling.

“Imagine your life without Trichotillomania and with hair.” This one will just make someone dealing with severe pulling feel like shit. Even if it is helpful to stop pulling, just because someone doesn’t pull for awhile doesn’t mean they’re ever going to be free of trichotillomania.

“Place notes that say “NO” or inspirational sayings about stopping hair pulling in places where you normally pull.” …..This is called shaming. This is what a parent will often do to get their child to stop pulling and it’s just as damaging to say it to yourself. Saying, “NO” to myself has never made my pulling any less severe…it just makes me feel worse about it at the end of the day.

“Lift weights. Your arms will be too tired to want to pull.”…..Bullshit. Some people have pulled to the point of injuring their wrist/arm/neck. It may make your arms tired but it’s not necessarily going to stop pulling.

“Pet an animal. Sometimes just running your hands through a pet’s fur can stimulate the same sensation that you need in order to ease anxiety.”…..Again, therapeutic maybe, but what if your urges aren’t due to anxiety?

“Take pictures of your bald spots and post them where you usually pull. When seeing these pictures you will not want to pull since bald spots are frightening.”…..Shaming, again. Yeah, looking at your damage constantly is going to scare you out of having a disorder! Tah-dah!

“Tell your friends and family to tell you to stop if they see you pulling.”….If you pull in public places, sure- bringing awareness to it can help in the moment…but we tell ourselves to stop all the time. It doesn’t work and someone else telling us to stop can add to the unnecessary embarrassment.

This is all 100% my own opinion, and doesn’t mean I appreciate TLC and what they do any less. It’s just an honest perspective. My concern is that people will go through this list, try everything, and still feel like shit about their bald spots. Eventually these things can be damaging and even make pulling worse. Trying not to pull can become all consuming and turn into an obsession. You are not your hair or lack of hair. The expectation to stop something that little is known about and that DOES NOT HAVE A CURE is ridiculous- and it’s everywhere. I’m not saying don’t try or that these aren’t worth trying, but the whole point of this is to illustrate why there is a great need for more focus on accepting it and knowing you can still live a happy life with it. The dialog about stopping is so intense and in your face when it comes to trichotillomania that people have contacted me and they could not grasp the concept of acceptance. There is something wrong here.

-Ann

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