hair pulling and skin picking

Photo’s courtesy of Psych Central and Meridian Peak Hypnosis.

 

Have you ever looked at someone and noticed they don’t have any eyebrows and/or eyelashes? Well, I’m sure we all have at some time or another. I’ve noticed more and more people both male and female missing eyebrows, eyelashes and some even wearing wigs. I’ve always thought of it as more of a medical condition and not a form of self harm until I did some research on“Hair Pulling” and this is what I found:

What is Hair Pulling?

A disorder called trichotillomania also referred to as “trich” is a disorder that causes people to pull the hair from their eyebrows, eyelashes, scalp, arms and legs resulting in bald patches. Trich is currently defined as an obsessive-compulsive disorder and  is often a technique of self harm. The onset of trich is between the ages of 9-13 years of age.

What causes it?

Research into the causes and treatments for trich is in the early stages and evidence shows it is a neuro-biological disorder (which is an illness of our nervous system). Therefore, those with trich generally have a neurologically based predisposition to pull their hair as a self-soothing mechanism. The pulling behavior is a means of self harm that serves as a coping mechanism for anxiety and other difficult emotions. It does not hurt and they are not trying to damage themselves. The average age for hair pulling is 11 and can be found in children as young as one year of age. The condition can be triggered by itchy eyelashes, or by stressful life events. Trich also occurs in people who are happy and well adjusted and may occur in people during times of anxiety, stress, trauma or depression.

What are the treatment options?

No one treatment has been found to be effective for everyone. Children and adolescents have different needs than adults. Therefore, you may need to experiment with different treatment combinations to find out what works best for you.

What is Skin Picking?

Skin Picking is a serious disorder that derives from self harm. People who suffer from this repetitively touch, rub, scratch, pick at or dig into their skin, often in an attempt to remove small irregularities or perceived imperfections. Skin picking can occur when a person experiences feelings of anxiety, fear, excitement or boredom. Some people report that picking their skin is also pleasurable.

Skin picking often occurs on its own-unconnected to other physical or mental disorders, however, it is important to identify whether or not it is a symptom of another problem that needs treatment. This could be cause by the following: self harm, dermatological disorders, autoimmune problems, obsessive-compulsive disorders, substance abuse like opiate withdrawal and developmental disorders such as autism. Determining whether skin picking is an independent problem or a symptom of another disorder, is an important first step in creating the appropriate treatment plan.

What causes it?

Skin picking may serve as an emotional outlet for people suffering from self harm or is a way to increase activity levels when they are bored. Some may pick their skin as a way to control their emotions when feeling anxious tense or upset. The fact that some individuals can actually regulate their emotions by picking their skin may be why they develop this problem in the first place.

What are the treatment options?

Currently, skin picking disorder is treated much like trichotillomania. There is not one treatment that has proven to be effective for everyone. You may need to experiment with different combinations of treatments. A mixture of cognitive behavioral therapy and medications has shown some success.

It is important to remember that this form of self harm is not a life sentence, learning to cope with your symptoms is the most important part of your recovery and your treatment plan will be unique-since there is no set formula that works for everyone. It may take time to find the best combination for you.