Our self-help columnist Athena Laz is a qualified psychologist and the creator of the self-help programme Own Your Inner Power. She works with women worldwide, helping them to reclaim their lives and their ability to feel good. You can see her work here.
Q/ Hi Athena
I’m feeling very stressed at the moment and find that I’m pulling out my own hair. I’ve done it for a long time (and when I was younger too), but it’s gotten so bad that I have like a patch of hair missing. Can you please help me? – Anonymous
A/ Dear Anonymous
It sounds like you are dealing with something known as trichotillomania – a compulsion in which you feel the urge to pull out your own hair (or your eyelashes/body hair) in an effort to self-soothe the anxiety or stress you are experiencing. Just know that you are not alone in this. According to contemporary research, about 3.6 % of the population deal with this and there is treatment available out there.
Dialectical behaviour therapy is a form of psychotherapy that combines behavioural changes with mindfulness techniques. It is an effective form of therapy that has been proven to help manage what you are going through. If you choose to access therapy, it can help you regulate how you feel, any anxiety/depression that you may be experiencing or any avoidance strategies that you have put into place because of your hair-pulling. Part of writing to me shows me that you are ready to get support, so take the next step and access direct one-on-one support here.
Post-pulling behaviour is also clinically relevant and idiosyncratic. While some women simply discard pulled hairs, others may play with the hair between their fingers, inspect the hair, bite the hair between the teeth, or ingest all or parts of the hair. Ingesting hairs can result in undigested masses of hair called trichobezoars, which can potentially cause gastrointestinal injuries. Are you eating your hair? If so, I highly recommend you see your GP concurrently with a psychiatrist or licensed clinical psychologist so that you can also manage any physical concerns you may have.
You can get through this.
You can follow Athena on Instagram here and see more of her work at Athenalaz.com. You can also receive her free video course, designed to help you heal negative self-talk. If you have a question for Athena, email her here.
Read more mind health