Trichotillomania, commonly known as Compulsive Hair Pulling Disorder or TTM, is a clinically recognized mental disorder, characterized by the irresistible urge to pull your own bodily hair. It is one of the most misunderstood, under-diagnosed clinical conditions, largely due to the behavior being mistaken for the common habit of casual hair pulling. Hair pulling, nail biting and other body-focused habits are behaviours that are widely engage in and tend to be perceived as undesirable, yet generally accepted responses to stress, nervousness or boredom. However, for some people hair pulling is so much more than just a bad habit. When hair pulling results in damage to follicles or noticeable hair loss, but you are unable to stop pulling, despite wanting to, it may be an indication that the behavior has a clinical component. Many trichotillomania sufferers even report that the urge to pull becomes stronger when they try to resist it.

The shame of pulling

Aside from hair loss, the more debilitating effects of compulsive hair pulling is the emotional burden that results as a consequence of hair loss and not being able to control the behavior. Trichotillomania often results in feelings of extreme shame and guilt, with the sufferer doing their best to keep their pulling a secret even from close family and friends. This can have a negative impact on daily functioning, including:
• Not being able to go out in public without covering up the pulling site, e.g. wearing hats, scarves, sunglasses
• Avoidance of social situations or activities when conditions are windy or wet, e.g. swimming
• Constantly being late due to spending extended periods of time pulling
• Avoidance of intimacy and developing intimate relationships

Shame is a very lonely burden to bear. Avoiding social situations or activities can result in you feeling socially isolated and perpetuates the feeling of that you are left to deal with this condition alone.

Breaking the cycle of shame

Ironically shame and embarrassment, and the fear of being harshly judged by those you care most about, is preventing you from the very thing you need to help you recover from trichotillomania. Realizing that you are not alone, having a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on, these are cornerstones to successful recovery. Many ‘trichsters’ are pleasantly surprised when they open up about their struggles with a loved one and receive warmth and understanding rather than scorn and judgement. Breaking this barrier of fear helps you break the cycle of shame that prevents you from accessing the help you need to overcome compulsive hair pulling.

When talking about it is too hard

Unfortunately the harsh reality is that living with trichotillomania guilt for long enough can entrench these negative emotions you feel toward yourself, making it near impossible to openly admit your ‘weakness’ as it is so often erroneously perceived. This is where advances in digital technology has had a hugely positive impact on the lives of many individuals with psychological disorder. There are many brave souls out there who take to the virtual web to share their experiences of trichotillomania with the world. Virtual communities that follow these courageous blogger, vloggers and social media sharers find solace in their stories, sometimes even benefiting from some of the tips and advice given. But support is only the foundation of recovery. For some there is a real need for professional or expert help. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be the most effective form of treatment for trichotillomania. However if speaking face-to-face with a stranger about your deepest shame is no easy feat. This is where the anonymity of an online therapy program like the one offered at can be hugely beneficial in helping you obtain expert, judgement-free CBT help you need. Trichotillomania is not your fault and there is help available. Speak about it and get the help you need today!

Author's Bio: 

Tasneem is an occupational therapist, with lots of experience working with BFRB clients utilizing online therapy programs and CBT as main treatment modality. She works with trichotillomania clients on