Right now, if you are suffering in silence, you may feel like no one can understand your desperation and distress. It may be impossible at this moment to imagine a way of managing your symptoms, but you do not have to face this alone.
Around the world, roughly 1–3% of the population have trichotillomania. The compulsive urge to pull hair has a psychological source, with two-thirds of all adults with this condition having depression and almost 30% of children having a co-occurring anxiety disorder. However, there is a significant biological component in people who suffer. In fact, one comprehensive study found that adult participants with trichotillomania were ‘more likely to have a first-degree family member with obsessive-compulsive disorder.’
What we do know is that there is much secrecy around this condition, primarily due to the shame and embarrassment that those suffering experience. But, there are now communities that are standing together to share resources, ideas, support, hope, and love with those who are yet to learn how to manage their pulling symptoms.
If you don’t want to hide any longer and want to find a better way to live, let’s delve deeper into some reasons why an online community could be a great start for you.
Through a network of individuals who have been dealing with trichotillomania, debilitating anxiety, or other body-focused repetitive behaviour for a long time, you will access support from them around what has helped reduce stress and obsessive-compulsive behaviours.
By sharing ideas, resources, and tips, you are likely to find a lot of practical support that can help you improve your life from the first day. With exciting communities, like GROW, creating a diverse global reach, you are guaranteed to find techniques and useful pieces of information in the most unsuspecting places. From strangers across the world to someone who may in no time feel like family, the trust that is forged between community members who share so vulnerably is truly transformative and healing.
One thing you will learn about very quickly is habit reversal training, methods to help you identify your triggers and manage your behaviour. Learning from other members about which behaviours work well to substitute when you are experiencing an urge to pull can increase self-awareness, create stronger boundaries, and can alleviate your suffering.
From the moment you join the group, you will be understood. You will not be abnormal, crazy, mentally ill, or the ‘freak’, you will be accepted as one of the community.
Being able to connect intimately with others who understand the hardships and consequences of living with this condition, your deepest vulnerabilities and insecurities will be normalized. And before you have even done anything, the debilitating impact on you might bring you more comfort and peace since your pulling started.
As pulling and other compulsive disorders are usually lifelong, those who suffer may feel that this is their destined burden to carry. But, seeing evidence that others are improving is extremely affirming and is sure to give you hope of the chance that can change too.
After doctor’s visits and perhaps some sessions of cognitive-behavioural therapy, you may have become despondent at ever getting better. After the professional intervention, you may find that the guidance of someone who has suffered and managed their symptoms for much longer than you, somehow gives you the hope that you can deal with it too.
One of the most isolating factors about hair pulling is the stigma and secrecy around its prevalence. Not knowing who to talk to can make you question whether you could even be insane, but there are hundreds of people waiting to tell you right now that you are going to be ok. If you’re unsure, give it a try! For many support groups too, especially online, you can protect your personal identity.
Successful groups, especially if they are held online, are mostly anonymous. This means you will know the other members’ first names and as much as they’re willing to share. However much you will come to learn about others will be completely relevant to you. It is significant that you are relating to the problems that connect the group, the reasons you keep returning to the group, and the faith that shared knowledge and support will change your life.
What is important is that you are open-minded and willing to tackle your condition. You will need to be brave to admit – mostly to yourself – that your problem is severe enough to get the help you deserve. If you are ready to reduce the hold that debilitating pulling has over your life, then be prepared to be changed by the power of community.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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