Trichotillomania, often referred to as hair-pulling, is best described as an uncontrollable urge to pull out and twist hair until it breaks off. You may think so what? All of us at one point in time play with our hair or twist it and may even pull some out. Well imagine these urges being recurrent, uncontrollable and suffer from them for decades on end. The repetitive pulling of hair from the scalp, eyebrows or other area's leaves people with broken, thin hair or bald spots. In some cases the pulled hair is swallowed by the individual and causes obstruction in the digestive system and must be removed surgically.
It is estimated that a whopping 5% of the American population is affected by this emotionally painful impulse. To put this statistic in perspective: 5% of the WORLD population is American, 1.8% of the American population is Jewish. Needles to say we all may know somebody suffering from trichotillomania and may not even know it!
Compulsive hair-pulling is often associated with feelings of shame, guilt and isolation. It is often difficult for people not suffering from this condition to understand why somebody just can't control the pulling. Let me shed a little light by comparing it with different situations we may have an easier time understanding. Have you ever known somebody that was a smoker, truly wanted to quit but just couldn't stop no matter what they tried? Have you ever been in a situation where the food was so delicious and appetizing and even though you were no longer hungry you just couldn't stop yourself from eating a bit more? Now why is that? Food, cigarettes, alcohol, and many other experiences provide us with something. That something can vary: gratification, filling a void, covering up emotional pain, a sense of relief, keeping us busy, a sense of satisfaction and so much more. Well simply put so does hair-pulling in the case of people suffering from trichotillomania.
Why some do and some don't
Recent studies have shown that in some instances genetic factors may be at play. I would add that it is a matter of what we are suggestible to. In other words for someone to have a problem, they must be suggestible to it. I will illustrate with an example. A Boeing 747 carries over 500 people flying from one destination to another. During their flight the passengers experience some turbulence. Some of these 500 people sleep right through it, some look up and go about their business and some may feel fearful. On the flight back most people have forgotten about the turbulence experienced on the first flight however there are a handful of people that have now developed a fear of flying. Why? Simply because they are suggestible to it.
This is why hypnosis and hypnotherapy are so effective, since all that hypnosis is, is a heightened state of suggestibility allowing us to alter and replace the response to old triggers. Simply put; the triggers are the same yet the response is different. Where in the past boredom, stress, anxiety, mistrust, ... may have resulted in hair-pulling, after the necessary hypnotic sessions these triggers now result in a more desirable outcome such as calmness, breathing, relaxation among other possibilities.
The most important message I would like to share is that trichotillomania CAN be overcome. Taking control of what was once uncontrollable is not a myth...it is reality!