Trichotillomania (Hair pulling)
Many people experience a compulsion to pull out hairs, eyebrows or eyelashes, and have no idea that other people experience the same thing, as a result they feel isolated, different, and often ashamed. But, in fact, this condition is quite widespread, and is known as Trichotillomania; a condition where a person experiences a conscious or subconscious urge to pull out hair from some part of the body, including eyebrows and eyelashes, and the resulting pulling of hair causes noticeable hair loss. It is a type of impulse-control disorder, a psychological condition where the individual is often unable to stop themselves carrying out an action, and is also one of a number of conditions categorised as body focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs).
Generally, people with trichotillomania feel a strong urge to pull hair out, with tension growing until they do so. Once the hair is pulled, relief is experienced, although it may be short-lived if another urge follows quickly.
The cause of trichotillomania is not entirely clear at present, with several different theories connecting it to addictions, anxiety or self-harm, and in fact there may be more than one reason why people engage in this particular behaviour. There often seems to be a connection with raised levels of anxiety, and one theory is that hair pulling may provide relief from feelings of anxiety, despite the obvious physical discomfort or pain that can come with pulling out hair. Any relief may not last long, and the mind may convince itself that if another hair is pulled, greater relief will follow. This leads to a cycle of behaviour that can become ingrained, and move from conscious control to subconscious control; seemingly becoming automatic. Indeed, some pullers say they do not even realise that they have been doing it until they see a ball of hair on their desk.
Quality of life can be seriously reduced by trichotillomania; it can lead to difficult and distressing emotions such as shame and embarrassment, and also to behaviours such as avoiding social situations.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of good medical research into trichotillomania treatments; SSRI (anti-depressant) medication is sometimes used, as is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and there have been some studies using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) which show promising results, but are small in scale. Hypnosis is a natural choice for working with trichotillomania as it is often helpful when dealing with repetitive or habitual behaviours.
I work with a protocol that combines hypnotherapy with ACT (a mindfulness-based behaviour therapy), which is designed to be highly adaptive, and thus can be tailored to the specific needs of each person, rather than being a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. I believe this is essential as trichotillomania symptoms and behaviour patterns are highly individual; my approach is always to accept the person and their experience without judgement, and to seek to find the most suitable and rapid ways of providing relief. As a guide, typically between six and nine sessions are required.
If you are ready to work on bringing an end to this condition, please contact me by phone or e-mail, and I will be happy to work with you.