Fidgeting with one's hair is a relatively common nervous tic. Think back to when you were middle school and talking to your crush. I'd be willing to bet money that you were nervously twirling your hair the whole conversation. It was a thoughtless impulse that didn't mean anything. But what happens when someone's urges get out of control? For some people, "fidgeting" with their hair becomes a domineering part of their lives. Trichotillomania (or tichotillosis) is a disorder that causes people to experience intense impulses to pull out their hair.
Trichotillomania is relatively common, affecting 1 in 50 Americans. The disorder can range in intensity from mild to severe. It often presents itself in late childhood or early puberty, but it can begin at any time in a person's life. While trichotillomania affects boys and girls equally in childhood, in adulthood about 90% of the people affected are women.
While most people would never dream of insulting someone with hair loss due to chemotherapy, many children and adults with trichotillomania are relentlessly bullied. Unfortunately, friends and loved ones are often the biggest offenders- even if they don't mean to be. If someone you care about has trichotillomania, the most important thing you can do is support them. However, sometimes even well meaning comments can be offensive and hurtful. Here are 5 things that you should never say to a person with trichotillomania.
What You Should Never Ask or Say
Why Don’t You Stop Doing it?
People with trichotillomania don't want to keep pulling their out, but they cannot control this impulse. When we encounter someone with trichotillomania, we cannot view their urge to pull out their hair as a "behavior" that could be stopped at any time. We have to view it as what it is: a disorder. It would be ridiculous to tell someone with Type 1 Diabetes to just stop having diabetes; it's equally ridiculous to tell someone with trichotillomania to stop pulling out their hair.
Why Don’t You Just Cover it Up?
If you make this suggestion to someone with trichotillomania, they may interpret it as you saying that they are not already beautiful or that there is something wrong with the way they look. While there is nothing wrong with using hairpieces, false eyebrows, and fake eyelashes, there is also nothing wrong with choosing to not cover up. It is a personal choice - nobody has the right to make this decision for them. Many people decide to confidently rock their natural beauty and many opt to cover up- and they ALL look fabulous.
Having Less Hair Must Save You Money!
First of all, most people with this disorder still buy hair care products and get their hair cut professionally. In fact, many spend more money on hair care than people with long, luxurious hair – think hair extensions, false eyebrows and eyelashes, as well as therapeutic treatments. Secondly, making a comment like this may make a person with trichotillomania feel self conscious and uncomfortable.
You Are So Weird!
Unless this person is a mad scientist or eccentric artist and they think being weird is a compliment, this is something you should NEVER say to someone with trichotillomania! In fact, this is just downright rude to say to ANYONE. Not only is it mean, it's not true; trichotillomania isn't any weirder than any other disorder.
If You Had Hair, You Would be Attractive.
Yikes! This is flat out Mean with a capitol M. No one wants to be told that they would be attractive if they changed something about themselves. Just. Don't. Say. This. Do I really need to explain?
Hopefully this article has helped you to educate yourself about the disorder and made you a more empathetic friend, relative, or partner.
Do you have a friend, family member, or significant other with trichotillomania? Do YOU have trichotillomania? If so, Is there any advice we missed? Tell us in the comments below!