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Trichotillomania and Relaxation

The relationship hairpullers have with their compulsive habit or BFRB (Body Focused Repetitive Disorder) is an ambiguous one. Trich is a difficult beast and can be quite the chameleon.

On the one hand

As a hairpuller, you know that pulling out your hair, eyebrows, lashes, or other body hair increases any existing muscular tension. It adds to any anxiousness and creates a negative never-ending loop

  • An anxious thought or situation triggers hairpulling and physical tension

  • The hairpulling once it subsides triggers self-sabotaging negative thoughts and leaves you contracted and tense

  • The negative thoughts trigger more hairpulling

Yet on the other hand

When I work with people who suffer from trichotillomania you also talk of the pleasure, the release, and the self-soothing comfort blanket that hair-pulling offers.

You can escape from what is worrying you, zone out, and leave everything behind as you zone in on your hair.

The ritual of pulling out the ‘wrong’ hairs, and the joy of finding that ‘good’ hair for example provide you with a much-needed outlet for stress, worry, anxiety, boredom, feeling tired, or anything else that upsets your balance.

It can be used to distract, to entertain to soothe, to feel in control.

You know with the logical side of your brain that what you really need is not to pull out your hair when you are engaging in this behaviour, yet the trich thoughts are egging you on to ‘go on just find one and then you’ll stop’.

One client described Trich as their Frenemy (a contraction of the word enemy and friend) which kind of sums it up.

You want to stop, and you dream of being free of trich, but as soon as you stop pulling, after a few days or weeks as soon as tension creeps in, you feel it’s the only way you can cope. And your frenemy is back.

There is no known ‘cure’ for trichotillomania, however, you can learn to use effective coping strategies to overcome hair pulling. For some this means never pulling again, for others this means knowing how to control and manage urges.

One coping strategy that is an essential part of the solution is to learn and regularly use destress techniques. These can include physical or mental relaxation or mindfulness exercises and also self-hypnosis.

When you relax your body, your muscles move from tension and tight contraction to soft, gentle relaxation. Your body unwinds, releases tension and your mind stops overthinking. You gradually find a space of inner peacefulness that Trich cannot penetrate, you feel no urge to pull. Your breathing quietens, and you release the burden from your shoulders and the tension from your face as you LET GO, not only of your hair but also of stress.

Once in this beautifully calm state of mind, you can use self-hypnosis to add positive visualisations and mantras that take root deep in your unconscious mind.

When these techniques are used consistently and with focus they are proven to help reduce hairpulling.

You strengthen your resilience, deepen your resolve and grow your ability to answer back to that trich voice that whispers: ‘Go on just find one and then you’ll stop’ with ‘Heck no! I’ve got so many better things to do!!’

You check in with yourself more often and notice when stress appears in your mind and body so you can nip it in the bud.

Yes, this necessitates work and practice but oh so worth it to feel the freedom of not being shacked to trich!

Everyone can learn these techniques, whether you find it easy or hard to relax, whether you find it easy or difficult to concentrate. The only thing you need is an open mind ready for change!

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