Trich Truths is a social media campaign that seeks to raise widespread awareness of Trichotillomania. We seek to gain a greater level of understanding and support for patients, so they no longer have to feel restricted or ashamed by a condition they can’t control.
Trichotillomania (TTM) is not uncommon- 2 in 50 people experience the disorder in their lifetimes. Yet why do so few people know what it is?
What is trichotillomania?
TTM is an impulse control disorder that causes individuals to compulsively pull out their hair, resulting in noticeable bald spots. Pulling does not only occur from the head, but can affect sufferers in other areas such as the eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic area, and beard. Many TTM patients pull as a way to cope with their anxiety and other stressful emotions. For those with TTM, resisting the urge to pull out their hair feels as hard as resisting the urge to scratch a very itchy itch. Often, it is done subconsciously, and can leave individuals surrounded in piles of hair after a pulling session.
The disorder is extremely hard to treat, with many cases prolonging throughout a lifetime.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are five criteria which must be met in order for TTM to be diagnosed. They are:
- The hair pulling is recurrent and a noticeable pattern of hair loss is observed.
- The patient feels increased tension prior to the hair pulling.
- This tension is relieved upon pulling hairs.
- The pulling is not associated with another mental condition, and there is no medical cause for the hair pulling.
- The behaviour interferes with or disrupts the patient’s social and work activities.
Studies have explored the psychological symptoms, indicating that the visible changes in appearance result in low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and feelings of unattractiveness. Patients who pull may feel a strong sense of shame, embarrassment, and anxiety, and frustration. They may feel self-conscious about what others say or think, and criticised by those who don’t understand that they have little control over their pulling. The hair loss may be disguised by wearing wigs, hats, scarves or hair clips, or by applying make-up. The act of hair pulling is a private one. Rarely does the hair pulling occur in the presence of another, except for close family members. Because of this, social alienation is common in TTM.