Let’s face it – one of the most difficult parts of having trichotillomania is the seemingly constant struggle to keep your urges to pull at bay. It seems like a never-ending battle. After this has gone on long enough, one can be tempted to give up the fight. It’s just too exhausting.
Over the years, Glei and I have met with with many hundreds of trichotillomania sufferers. Before discovering us, a significant percentage of these had gotten to the point where they had decided their only hope to conquer trichotillomania lied in the desperate decision to shave their head.
But is shaving your head really an effective long-term solution for trichotillomania? Does it work? Even if it does work, is it really the best – or the only – option when all else seems to have failed?
Trichotillomania sufferers often come up with a variety of ways to help manage their symptoms. These ideas may either occur to the trich sufferer themselves, or may have been suggested to them by caring loved ones, or by an attending mental health professional.
It’s One Or The Other
Generally speaking, there are two ways to eliminate symptomatic behavior.
- Make it difficult (or even impossible) to do the symptomatic behavior itself. In the case of trichotillomania, common examples of this kind of approach include putting grease on one’s fingertips, gloves on one’s hands, wearing a hat, bandana or other head covering, wearing a shower cap to bed, installing hair extensions – or even sublimating all that energy into squeezing a stress ball whenever you feel the urge to pull.
- Satisfy in more resourceful ways the need that is attempted to be met by the symptomatic behavior. This second strategy requires understanding and acceptance of the notion that people always do what they do for a reason. People spend the vast majority of their time trying to satisfy needs or interests.
Interestingly, it’s often the case that people have no conscious idea why they do what it is they do. This includes hair-pulling. They simply get caught up in patterns of behavior that, practiced over the course of many years, become ingrained – even seemingly automatic.
Once you have a working idea of the need that is attempted to be met by pulling (e.g. stress relief, better focus, alleviate boredom,etc.), you would then design strategies to meet that need in more healthier ways – thus eliminating the unconsciously driven urge to do the behavior in the first place.
“Heads” – You Win, Tails – You Lose
Clearly, the former strategy – simply making it harder to pull – is beset with problems.
Greasing one’s fingertips, wearing hats or other objects on one’s head, putting gloves on your hands – and shaving your head – these are really nothing more than one’s best attempt to wall themselves off from their ability to pull – to literally place a barrier between themselves and their otherwise (seemingly) uncontrollable urges to pull.
But how long can that last?
Of course, shaving one’s head is nothing more than just another extreme example – albeit an extreme one – of an attempt to make it impossible to pull.
And, of course, as long as you keep your head totally shaved, this can keep you pull-free – as long as the only place you pull from is your head.
But what about the other parts of your body? Once bald, what’s to stop a person from experimenting with pulling from other parts of their body?
And what if you skip a week or two of shaving? Then what?
How long can someone keep this up?
Perhaps most importantly, what about a person’s – particularly a woman’s – feelings about herself, being stripped of her hair, commonly considered a woman’s crowning glory?
Sure, from a purely functional standpoint, shaving one’s head may keep one pull-free… But at what cost?
After all, isn’t the purpose of being pull-free in the first place to have one’s hair back?
Satisfy The Need in Other Ways, And Eliminate The Urges
Not surprisingly, we’re not great fans of (let’s call a spade a spade) merely prophylactic means of managing trichotillomania.
Here at the Trichotillomania Relief Specialists, we have always made it a priority to discover the need attempted to be met by the pulling behavior, and to then find more resourceful ways to meet that need… ways that can actually support a person’s long-term interests – not detract from them.
Which do you think is the better way to go?
Question: Have you ever considered shaving your head as a means of solving your problem with trichotillomania? Have you followed through with it? What was your experience like?