Trichotillomania: To Have Or Have Not

Trichotillomania is no laughing matter – particularly the longer one has struggled with it.  Anyone who has suffered with it for any period of time will quickly attest to this.  Trichotillomania controls almost every element of the person’s life, and permits little if any pleasure along the way.

Young woman with trichotillomania

Trichotillomania can control nearly every aspect of a person’s life.

But another interesting thing happens the longer one suffers with trichotillomania – some start to become convinced the reason they can’t stop pulling is because they’ve contracted a “mystery condition” that “makes” them pull against their will; they have trichotillomania.

But is this really the case?  Do people who compulsively pull their hair actually have something that makes them do it against their will?  Or could something else be going on?

The Hair-Pulling Compulsion – Where Does It Come From?

This question is worth asking (and investigating) because we react differently to conditions we think we “have” versus behaviors we’ve simply been “doing”.  And that’s because we have different ideas about what we’re capable of under each set of conditions.

The Hypnotic Power of “I Have”

When one consciously or unconsciously embraces the idea that they “have” trichotillomania, chances are, a couple of unfortunate things happen right away.

  1. You become convinced you “have” something – specifically, a mental disorder.  You become convinced you are beset by a condition you’ve somehow contracted that makes you do something terrible to yourself, even if you really don’t want to be doing it.  Not only that, but lots of things you see, hear or are told in the media will state that once you “have” trichotillomania, you always have it…  That the best you can ever hope for is to find some way to restrain, control or otherwise resist your urges to pull.  Truly, this is the majority of what you’ll read about trichotillomania online (or anywhere, for that matter).  Not exactly inspiring or encouraging news.
  2. Everything you read, hear or are told by the media reinforces the belief that you are a “victim”.  Unfortunately, a great many of our clients have shared with us that their (well-intended, we’re sure) medical and/or mental health professional(s) have been part of this group.  The problem with beliefs are, whatever we believe to real and true usually shows up as real and true in our world.  Of course, this isn’t a problem if your beliefs support you – and that’s really what this article is about.

A World Without

Yet, what do you suppose would happen if this were a world in which there WERE no labels to classify your behaviors as evidence of a disorder?  In such a scenario, all you could possibly know is that you’ve been pulling your hair against your will, and you haven’t yet found a way to stop doing it.

Notice that this then becomes relegated to a behavioral issue, and not elevated to the seriousness of a medical or mental health issue.  You would then simply seek to find ways to stop doing this thing you (presumably) really don’t want to be doing anymore.

Cause And Effect

As Board-Certified Master Coaches and Master Hypnotherapists, Glei and I are really good at what we love to do, which is help individuals and their families find quick, simple relief from the scourge of trichotillomania.  We accomplish this by creating a nurturing, supportive coaching environment in which we empower individuals and families to change limiting beliefs, and to create new ideas about what is possible for them.

It’s also true that because we are not licensed medical and/or mental health practitioners, Glei and I cannot and do not treat trichotillomania from the “disease model” so common to more conventional forms of therapy.  We cannot definitely say whether the act of compulsively pulling out your hair qualifies as a medical or mental health condition; yet it might be hard to continue doing so if you were to find a way to stop the behavior.

One thing we do know is this:  Once a person decides they have contracted a condition that “makes” them do something against their will, it becomes that much more difficult for the sufferer to assume control of the behavior.

Worse it is for those who seek help from professionals who ALSO believe trichotillomania is a condition that “causes” or “forces” someone to pull against their will – and that the best they can do for their client is to endeavor to find ways to help their client simply manage their symptoms over time.

A Quicker, Simpler Approach – An Alternative to The Disease Model

Glei and I have found time and time again that the “truth” – whatever that happens to be – doesn’t really matter when it comes to the potential for an overwhelmingly positive therapeutic outcome.

After all, mental disorder or not, once you start work with a given practitioner, all that really matters is do you keep pulling – or do you stop?  If you can find any way at all to stop pulling – especially if you can do so without a struggle – does it really matter what you used to believe?

Surely, your new experience of freedom from hair-pulling will help you create any new beliefs you want!

The Take-Away

The bottom line here is that at the Trichotillomania Relief Specialists, we choose to regard this behavior as something that is far easier to overcome than is commonly believed possible by the majority of conventional medical or mental health practitioners – not to mention the majority of trich sufferers themselves.

Studies have shown that the beliefs held by a given clinician about a client’s prognosis is strongly correlated with the degree of positive therapeutic outcome.  Perhaps this explains why we here at the TRS enjoy an industry unheard-of better than 90% success rate.

We invite you to think about all this next time you seek help for your challenge with trichotillomania.  We encourage you to interview your prospective mental health practitioner.  Seek to discover his or her sincere beliefs about what’s possible for sufferers of trichotillomania.  If you sense anything other than a congruent belief on the part of the therapist that complete, lasting relief is possible, we suggest you keep looking.

Question:  How many therapists have you seen in your search for a real solution to your trichotillomania?  If you were to review those experiences, how many of those practitioners do you think truly believed a complete, lasting cure is possible? 

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