Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Struggling with Trichotillomania

Well, after quite a few months of a newly acquired habit (started before I cold-turkey quit smoking), I've started to get thinning hair in the spot I pick. It does happen to be in the back of my head, right where the hair twirls outwards from the start.

Jesus, it's been hard putting it aside... Especially since it doesn't really hurt and kind of feels good. I've felt like my scalp was itching since I was about 15/16. I forced myself to stop picking after a short few months of doing it when I was younger, after trying dandruff shampoos and they did nothing. I didn't know why I was doing it, just that I was pulling out hair in the process.

I've come to the conclusion (as perhaps I did the first time, if my memory was perfect) that this is a self-perpetuating habit. I may scratch my head once out of curiosity, or because some outside source has made it itch. From there the perpetuation follows: Slightly scratching stimulates skin which feels good, the skin is damaged so it needs to regrow, the process of healing and regrowing creates more itching, it's scratched more, it re-heals causing itching, then is scratched again, eventually the skin hardens and it takes harder scratching for the same amount of stimulation, so it's scratched harder, eventually to the point where hairs cannot stand the scratching.

I keep finding/making up reasons on the fly for why I should allow myself to scratch. Sometimes it's because "maybe it will be different this time?" I'm actually pulling out hair follicles that for some reason, perhaps because their roots remind me of pimples seem to be bad, and thus GOOD to be pulled out. I'm probably wrong with my conception that those little knobs on the end of hairs are bad for any reason... I shouldn't rule out the environmental factor, possibilities in food consumption or natural surroundings not agreeing with my particular body makeup- or hair follicle make-up to be more precise.

The one thing which is most hard, but most necessary to not even consider stopping my trichotillomania is public opinion. I shouldn't let what others think of my "looks" determine how I look.

I've begun pulling hair out in other places as a test. While I've developed those places to a point where the hair is easier to pull out, it still hurts and at its best never feels good - it doesn't even itch. So perhaps the re-healing/perpetuation theory is out... It's still slightly up in the air.

I know I don't have lice, unfortunately I wasn't lucky enough for it to be something so easily identifiable as this. I've been scratching my head on and off for years and have even shaved my hair within less than a quarter inch to my scalp. There's no flakyness, so I'm not even sure if it's dandruff. Even when shaved though, my scalp still itches. It feels so good to scratch it and that usually ends up being my final justification to allow myself to do it... It's like scratching a mosquito bite... Something which I've prided myself on having self-control over by not scratching... I've prided myself on self-control a lot. Perhaps this is my punishment... Perhaps since I believe I should be punished this is a psychologically self fulfilling prophecy. That would suck. There's so many things it could be. I know what I really need to do (but for what reason?) is to just stop scratching. All of the other mumbo jumbo doesn't matter... But what is my motivation!

It's possible that UV rays may be causing the itching, at least that's one of the things I assumed from this article. I used to have psoriasis when I was younger, but I stopped giving it attention and tried willing it away. I'm not sure if that's why it's gone, but it's gone now. Modern science would suggest that's crazy, but modern science doesn't integrate will power into their calculations far too often. Will power is often an absolute deciding factor in some situations. I'm just curious what will happen if I continue to scratch my head? Will the ultimate lesson be that I should have stopped myself when I thought it might be the right thing to do earlier? Or will the ultimate lesson be I've evolved past the necessity of hair? Hahaha. Who the hell knows? I'm pulling my hair out over this question! :D lol, that's right... laugh... it's not that serious anyways. well, at least not for me since i seek spiritual peace and know that my body will never be as i want it, unless i want it as it is.

I've also thought that perhaps slight scratching of the head, so long as it's greatly controlled and moderated may be good for my hair, since it may stimulate growth.

Who knew I could go on so long about hair? I'm surprising myself right now.

Since global temperature has been rising, and evolutionarily speaking, the hair of my race (white) has been formed to keep warm, the hair is becoming less necessary, perhaps even obtrusive, potentially causing overheating and the scratching of the head is induced by an adaption to environmental changes.

Perhaps I am getting too little or too much UV exposure? Perhaps I need more direct exposure or less? Hahaha. So many things it could be and it could be more than one or even none! Should I shun this for lack of fun? I think I should stop pulling my hair and without pun this matter is done!


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain brother.
God knows how im going to stop
as well.
Any luck yet?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Rader II said...

Well I started to scratch this morning and I stopped myself. I haven't scratched since today. I've been thinking about wearing a hat just so I can't scratch my head... Sort of muzzling myself... I've done it a little bit before, because when I scratch my head particles get into my eyes and cause itching, pain, and sty's. So I wear a hat to prevent my eyes from burning while I'm driving. Sometimes I have an eye sty all day long, or more than one... They're usually about the size and feeling of a grain of sand. lol. Sometimes I even keep an eye closed for 20 minutes or so... I've gotten so used to washing my eyes out that I very often just put my head under the sink and run water in my eyes... I suppose that's one way to get over my problem of opening my eyes while swimming.

So yeah, with some humility via muzzling, some luck.

marmaladeskiesblog said...

I have trichotillomania - I pull out hair mainly around my crown. I came across this post just doing a search for trich. I have to say I do not have the same symptoms as you involving the scratching, but I bet you there are others that do. Perhaps you might find it helpful to get in contact, through forums etc? Anyway, i have my own blog too and I find writing about it is good as it makes you accept it as part of you, and not just completely hate it. But you seem to be doing a good job at that already. Good luck.

Bags said...

I'm actually going to visit a Psych (specifically a behaviorist)later today for the first time to see if they can help me get rid of the habit.

I'll be throwing up the details on my blog.

Anonymous said...

you were good until you mentioned global warming....le sigh
I pull my eyelashes, and im with you re: it plain ass feels good! No excuse as you mentioned self control. Confusing stuff, this is. Keep on talking about it; helps a lot out here, esp. peeps like me

Secret Seer said...

Thank you Anonymous...

I'm glad it's helping people.

I've actually been doing a lot better lately (up until about 4 days ago- when I realized I was doing a lot better).

For the past 2 days though, I've been restraining myself from scratching and pulling... Not completely though.

When I look back at the time I started doing better with trich, I notice it was when I started taking more pride in my appearance. I wasn't dressing nice because I had to, I started dressing better because I love my job and for my boss and my co-workers, I wanted to project the best image possible of the company, because I like it and I believe in it...

For years I've found it hard to care about my appearance, considering it conceit. Now I realize I can care about my appearance for other reasons than myself and just because I care about my appearance, doesn't mean I have to start judging people for theirs.

When I'm at work- or not, whenever the occasion does arise to scratch or pull, I've been continuing to not just make an attempt, but to actually force myself as much as I can to start doing something else. Distracting myself in essence, which ends up taking away so much time from allowing trich that it becomes somewhat forgotten about...

I do believe that eventually, I will conquer this problem and I'm on the path to it now. However, just like when I quit smoking, I think I will forever have a small part (though large at first), which wants to continue the old habit. Every time I see someone smoking or smell it... The urge should go down with time as most habits or desires seem to when we've gone without them for a long while.

If I hold my hands together, although it may look like I'm praying, I'm really seeing myself winning the battle right before my eyes. Because if my hands are together in front of me, or even in my pockets, or crossed at the arms, then they're not somewhere else. I am physically taking an effort to win the battle by relocating my hands... Perhaps even finding a reason to like them being in their new-found position... E.g. fiddling with the lint in my pocket, or counting the change, or appearing attentive as I sit with hands crossed.

On an unrelated, though somewhat inspirational note... At least it has been inspirational for me... My history teacher from high school told us a story about a Track Runner who held a ball in his hand, I think kind of like a hacky sack or stress ball. With that ball, he ran faster and better than everyone else. It was his power ball so to speak, his focal point of attention to divert other attentions. Any attention to "I'm losing" should be diverted to "I'm winning." I suppose the lint, seams, and strings in my pocket could be my power and no one would be the wiser. Even if they knew, I'd feel so much better about having self control that I wouldn't care so much about what people think about my lint.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence is not an act. It is a habit.” — Aristotle

When we change our habits we change ourselves. It is impossible to live without habits. Even if one does nothing, they're in the habit of doing nothing. One habit must be replaced by another. Who cares if it's lint, twiddling a pencil around, flipping or coin or whatever, as long as we can control our habits we can control ourselves.

A key to knowing what we want to do or to be in our lives is knowing which habits to add, change or drop. I think eventually consciously changing habits will be easy and common knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I can't believe I found someone who has such a similar issue as me. It makes me feel better.

Basically, I rub and scratch my scalp, feeling for little bumps. Like you said, the bumps seem to be hardened oil or extra skin or like a zit- so its seems "good" to scratch it off. Once I feel a bumb, I scratch and pick it till the bump comes off. About 1/3 of the time, there is a hair connected to the ball. This usually happens when I'm studying or at the computer- either stressed or bored, and whenever my scalp feels itchy (which is a lot, it seems- also trying anti-dandruff shampoo). This started about a year ago when I decided to stop biting my nails, and the habit switched to this. It was a very stressful time, as I had recently stopped anti-depressant/anxiety medicine (Lexapro) and had a bunch of life changes. I kept hoping the habit would stop on its own, but now its April and still here. I'm so frustrated.

Anyway, what I liked about your blog was that your issue is more about scratching than pulling the hair. All I had read about Trich was about hair-pulling, so I wasn't sure what my issue was. I just came across this site http://www.trich.org/index.html
that explains how Hair Pulling and Skin Picking are both Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). Maybe the scalp scratching issue is more of the Skin Picking type.

I got some good tips I'm starting to try- like balling up my fists and relaxing when I feel the urge. And I like what you said about dressing up and feeling better about yourself. I find that I have less of an urge to do this when I style my hair and am dressed well with a purpose.

Anyway, thanks so much for your post. I wish us both- and everyone else- the best of luck.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to be reading about other people with the same problem as me. I feel like its twice as bad because no one knows i have this disease except for my parents and i struggle with it alot. I have done good at just yelling at myself continuously when i feel the urge to pick my hair. I just say stop multiple times and sometimes smack myself really hard in the face haha it seems to work alot. But other times its like something takes over me and i cant keep my hands out of my hair. when i dont pick at it for a while my scalp will form bumps on my head and they will throbe kind of like my body is trying to make me pull my hair out. and i like pulling it out by the bumbs because it makes it sting and the pain of the follicle coming out of the scalp feels so good to me and calms me down. I have been real good at stopping lately but its something serious and i would love someone to get back at me with suggestions

Secret Seer said...

Honestly, I thought I'd be over this by now. But here I am again, talking about it again- For some reason I've found admitting it to people, but more specifically to myself to help sometimes.

I know the feeling of the bumps. I'm no expert, but I guess that is the feeling of a new hair growing or an infection resulting from pulling on the hair... The thing that is sort of "laugh in my face" about it, is that because it's out of my eyes view, it's almost as if it's not even happening sometimes. Why can't my habit be part of pulling the hair out of my face? I hate shaving.

I honestly even feel comfortable scratching my head in front of people sometimes, because I know that head scratching is a common sign of "thinking..." A person doesn't really need to scratch their head to think, but when others are around, it lets them know you're busy or that you're trying... I find that when I'm alone working on a mechanical-completely non-personal project, I more readily notice scratching and quickly stop scratching my head and find it utterly wasteful of energy and horribly boring. More than anything I'm ashamed to admit that the habit is so strong that I begin to take any action, in this case scratching without considering it first. I sometimes woefully pride myself on self-awareness.

I really think that my head scratching is somehow related to community relationships (what others think).

In some ways, I am worried that I may go bald. I think that's a big fear of mine. It's especially frustrating because in my heart, I believe ones looks are valueless. One time I picked at my head a lot intentionally with the thought that I may bald myself intentionally and get it over with! Within a week my head began to hurt and I was finding less hair to pick. That pain reminded me what what I was doing was irrational. Cutting out a mans tongue doesn't necessarily make him want to talk any less.

For the past few weeks, I've been steadily slowing myself down, but I got a sharp pain in my head that made me feel like I was going to fall down. Things may have even gotten blurry for a second.

Something else which seems to make me want to pull more is when I get little sleep and I'm not thinking well.

Running on E:
Stress seems to arise when I have too many priorities high on the scale, competing for amounts of contemplation leaving a pond of thought with only mud to extract water from. It is painful.

That "mindless" activity settles my desire for control with humiliating and apparently all-comforting acceptance. The fear that arises when I think of this wasteful mindless activity being what it is- a waste when something better could be in the process of completion... That fear feels like a hammer to a nail... Ignorance makes it go away along with the knowledge and power to change... Which feels like nothing... Numbing. Worthless. Which is why I can't just go through life pretending or actually not caring about my habit, whether physical appearance matters or not.

Anonymous said...

I have a question. I have been picking my hair out since i was 14 or 15 but its gotten really bad now that i am planning my wedding and am a mother of a 1 year old beautiful baby girl :) I pick when i am stressed and i chew on the follicles at the end of the hair not for taste just like a bad habit of biting your nails i guess would be more comparison to why i do that. Anyways few and far between i get random follicles that have a little red ball at the end instead of black and its reeeally crunchy. I'm wondering if these hairs are normal and what it caused from...

Julia said...

What you have my friend, is a mixture of Dermatillomania, and trichotillomania.

I have been going through it myself. It's a b*tch.