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Coping With Trichotillomania

By: Jody Ehrhardt - Updated: 28 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Trichotillomania Anxiety Disorder Coping

Trichotillomania is a type of anxiety disorder that results in the pulling out of one's own hair. People who suffer from this medical condition are compelled to tug on their hair even when purposefully trying not to. When the need to pull becomes too great, the sufferer will pull on the hair strand until the hair is tugged out at the root. Because of the anxiety frustration, embarrassment (this condition can lead to noticeable bald spots on the scalp) and Stress associated with this illness, trichotillomania can be a very difficult condition to cope with.

Coping Through Education

One of the best ways to learn about coping with trichotillomania is through education. The more you know about the disorder and its symptoms, the easier it will be to accept it and prepare for treatment. Plus, the stress of dealing with the unknown aspects of the disorder (Am I the only one who does this? Will people think I am odd? Can I ever stop pulling my hair?) only adds to the frustrations associated with this illness.

An excellent way to educate yourself and others about trichotillomaina is through books. There are a lot of informative and support books have been written on the topic and many of these titles contain great resources for coping with the disorder.

Coping and Support Groups

Another great resource is local support groups, where you can meet fellow sufferers. By frequenting these meetings individuals can learn more about the disorder, hear stories of coping and survival from other sufferers, and find a circle of friends that can offer support, help, love and friendship. Regular attendance of trichotillomania support groups can increase coping skills and help individuals conquer their illness.

Local support groups can be located through the phone book, through online Internet searches, doctor or therapist referrals and local health care facility referrals.

Coping and Therapy

The most important coping mechanism when dealing with tricholtillomania is therapy. Through specific therapy, sufferers of this disorder can learn management techniques that help them control their compulsions and cope better with the illness in everyday life. There are two main types of therapy that have shown great results with the coping of trichotillomania: self-talk therapy and Habit Reversal Techniques (HRT).

Self-Talk Therapy

Self-talk therapy involves repeating positive phrases or statements to yourself when the compulsion to pull your hair begins to overtake your thoughts. The idea behind the therapy is to change the subconscious signals that the brain sends so that you are less likely to be overcome with thoughts of hair pulling. The technique behind this therapy involves replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you were thinking "I need to pull my hair", you would force yourself to think or say out loud "I do not have to pull my hair".

The self-talk technique must be used in conjunction with other therapies for real results and must be practiced many times a day for real change to take place.

Habit Reversal Techniques

The second coping technique, Habit Reversal Techniques (HRT), is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy that helps individuals overcome their need to pull their hair. The technique has three steps, each of which are learned and mastered separately before being combined for real effectiveness.

The first step involves becoming truly aware of the hair pulling. Many sufferers pull their hair without really thinking of the act. For example, they may pull their hair while talking on the phone, reading, driving or watching television, and not even realise what they have done until they notice a fistful of hair. So the sufferer is required to log the events of hair pulling and the circumstances surrounding the hair pulling for one to two weeks.

The second step involves teaching the body to relax, so the individual is taught breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques. Once the individual can deep breathe for 60 seconds and manually relax all major muscle groups during times of stress or anxiety they move on to step three.

The third step of HRT requires the sufferer to clench their hand into a fist and press their arm strongly into their side each time they feel the compulsion to pull their hair. They must hold this position until the compulsion passes. Once all three steps are masters the individual is taught to run through the steps in order at the slightest indication of anxiety or hair pulling compulsion.

With the proper therapy, support and education many individuals can learn to cope with trichotillomania and go on to live happy, full, exciting lives.

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