What is Trichotillomania? My Experience

Friday 17 January 2014

source - edited
Veering slightly off topic today with something a little more serious and pretty personal to me but I thought it might be good to write about as it's something that has been a part of my life for about 10 years now. It is kind of strange, so please try not to judge me here, haha. I don't often hear very much about it and it took me a few years to realise what I was doing actually had a name.

Trichotillomania is in simple terms, a condition where you feel compelled to pull your hair out. It is classed as what is called an "impulse control disorder" where you are unable to stop yourself from carrying out a certain action. It's most common that people will pull their hair out from their scalp but for me, I've always pulled at my eyelashes and eyebrows.
There doesn't seem to be a specific cause for why people start doing it but it has been related to stress and anxiety, OCD, childhood trauma and even self-harm. It's more common around the ages when hormone levels frequently change such as puberty and that probably explains why I started with it when I was around 13.

It's hard for me to try and pinpoint an exact time when I started to pull my eyelashes and eyebrows out but I know I started when I was in the earlier years of secondary school. I was feeling a bit stressed with some situations with my friends and I started doing it absent mindedly when I was sat thinking or worrying about something. I'd make a conscious effort to stop but I'd find my hands pulling at them again before I knew it. Short of sitting on my hands, there wasn't much I could do to stop myself from doing it.

Another trigger was pulling off my mascara at the end of the day, occasionally an eyelash or two would come out with a clump of mascara and I found the feeling satisfying or I'd find an eyelash or eyebrow hair that felt "wrong" or irritated my eye and I'd keep on pulling until I got that particular one out, usually at the expense of quite a few others. I even tried not wearing mascara as much but once I'd formed the habit, it was too late really.

This was when I was 14, probably one of the worst times and I'd pulled out most of one of my eyebrows and I've had to wear eyeliner to try and hide the eyelash damage.
At first, the effects of the pulling weren't really too noticeable, an eyebrow here, an eyelash there - nothing made too much of a difference. I'd tend to keep pulling at the same patch and overtime, it would thin out and I'd be left with a bald patch in my eyebrow or eyelashes. Sometimes I could try and hide it with eyeliner or filling in my eyebrows but there were times when I'd pulled out so much, there was not much that could be done to hide the damage and I'd feel awful and lacking confidence whilst it took time for them to grow back in. I'd promise myself I would never pull them out again but before too long, I'd be staring at another bald patch and feeling frustrated with myself.

I wanted to know why I kept on pulling my hair out so I searched the internet and found information on a page talking about Trichotillomania. The symptoms summed me up pretty much perfectly and so I looked further into it and discovered that I wasn't alone and there were other people who had the same condition, I was relieved that it actually had a name and that I wasn't alone.

This has pretty much been an ongoing pattern for me over the past 9/10 years and there are times when I rarely pull at all for even up to a year but then I'll have something stressful pop up in my life and it seems to be anxiety that triggers me to start pulling again. I've not told many people about it, I'd usually just lie if anyone noticed and say that I'd gotten a bit tweezer happy or that my eyelash curlers had snapped my lashes off (I pray this never actually happens!)  My family know about it and are supportive and try and keep me from doing it if they notice me pulling.

Fortunately, I do think that it has definitely gotten better for me as I've gotten older. When I was a teenager, I think I spent most of one year pretty much without eyebrows and eyelashes save a few. Now, I do notice when I'm doing it and really try to distract myself by doing something else to keep my hands busy. Not only that, but I love taking pride in my appearance (as you can probably tell by this being a beauty blog and all) so I don't want to cause myself to have low self-esteem but sometimes if I'm really worried or even just bored, I don't even notice I'm doing it. I have had to invest in a few pairs of false eyelashes over time to hide the damage or give me a confidence boost if they're looking particularly sparse.

I feel like there isn't a great deal of awareness about Trichotillomania (even though I did notice that Sam Faiers from TOWIE spoke out about it saying she had it a year or so ago) and I thought it could be helpful put my experience out there so if there's anyone who reads this who also has it but doesn't know what they're doing, then it might be of some help.


  1. This is brave of you to do! I haven't really heard much about it, stress can do funny things to us! I'm glad you have grown out of it a bit more now :)

    Kerry @ lLived With Love | Parenting & Lifestyle Blog

    1. Thanks Kerry! I really wasn't sure on posting or not as I didn't know if anyone would be interested or even know what I was talking about haha. It is strange what stress can do x

  2. Definately so brave of you being so open about it. I've heard of this where people pull at their hair without even realising they're doing it and end up bald. The mind is a funny thing. Hope you never have to go through it again.

    Rachael from beautypea.com xx

    1. Thanks Rachael, it is such a weird thing to do and I never hear anything about it! Apparently 4 in a 100 people have it which is as common as Anorexia yet there's never much mention of it. xx

  3. Such a brave post, but so inspiring. I am sure there are many others who have gone through the same thing that can relate to this. Stress is just such a awful thing!!

    Belle x
    Mascara & Maltesers

  4. This is such a brave post! I'm so glad things aren't as bad for you now xx


  5. Interresting! There is a tv show here in Quebec where one of the main character does pull her eyebrows when she is stressed out. They haven't said it was a conditon but we clearly see her doing it.

    Isn't it relieving when you can put a name on something you have? I myself have 2 instances where I was relieved when that happened. it meant i was not crazy!


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