Trichotillomania Help: You’re Not Alone!

“I just came back from the conference on Trichotillomania. I bought your book and attended your workshop and am so glad I did. You have showed me that hiding can really affect healing. I am completely ready to not keep hair pulling a secret anymore. I read your book on my flight home and could not put it down. I finished it by the time I reached home, tears flowing down my face.

“You are an inspiration. Your words came along at a time I needed it most. Thank you, thank you so much.”

          — Carmen, a hair puller for 12 years

If you live with trichotillomania, or are the parents of a child engaged in hair pulling, please take a few minutes to watch these heartfelt interview. The author of Urges and Doses of Comfort discusses how he now accepts and lives with trichotillomania. In these interview, Gary Hennerberg shares …

  • How he has emerged from a lifetime of shame
  • Reactions from people as he revealed his secret hair pulling urge
  • His strength and ability to accept life with trichotillomania
  • His faith journey
  • How his book, Urges, and CD, Doses of Comfort, have changed lives
  • Suggestions for parents of children who pull their hair

Keep reading for Gary’s personal story of how
three approaches have changed how he lives with trichotillomania

I remember the first day trichotillomania became a part of my life and I started to pull my hair. It’s like it was yesterday. It was the fall of 1962 and I was 6. While riding in the back of an old, beat-up pick-up truck going across a rough farm field, we hit a deep rut that threw me against a panel and I hit my head. A welt quickly developed.  

Soon I discovered touching the welt felt good. Then for reasons I don’t understand, I tugged at the hair growing from the welt.

The tugging felt good, and I took it a step further and started pulling out hair.  It was an instant release of adrenalin. The rush was euphoric! So I pulled again and again and in a few minutes had pulled out hair from the welt, about the size of a dime.

That day was the start of a lifetime of hairpulling.  A day I’ve regretted for my entire life. But I believe if it hadn’t been this trigger that something else would have happened to have prompted me to start pulling hair because I think we’re born with this impulse control disorder.

Throughout my childhood, I hid hair pulling by very carefully combing my hair so my parents wouldn’t see it. For the longest time, I thought they didn’t know, and I thought I was the only person in the world who enjoyed pulling out hair.

Then I was “Outed” . . .

One day, around the age of 7 or 8, we drove to a nearby city for reasons I didn’t know about. My parents were taking me to a doctor. The doctor shined a light on my scalp and casually asked “Why do you pull your hair, son? ” 

I froze.  

How did he know I was pulling out my hair? I didn’t say a word, thinking that if I didn’t acknowledge his comment, it would go away. But I felt as though I had been “outed.” I don’t remember much else of that day, except that he talked to my Mom and Dad privately. He didn’t recognize it as trichotillomania (TTM or trich as we sometimes abbreviate it). Nor did he offer any explanation. It wasn’t until writing my book some 40 years later that my Mom revealed to me what the doctor, who didn’t know it was trichotillomania, said that day. The doctor blamed her for giving my younger sister more attention than me (which simply wasn’t the case).

As a child, I prayed every day that God would take this mysterious desire to pull my hair away from me. My prayers were never seemingly answered. Having trich has tested my faith over and over again. How could God not answer the prayer of a child? I wanted a miracle! But it never happened.

Over the years I’ve worked through my issues and you may be able to use my strategies as trichotillomania help for you. I’m sharing those thoughts with you, in the hope that you may be able to adapt what worked for me to work for you (or if you’re a parent, to give you understanding of what you can do to support your daughter or son).

Three approaches that worked for me

These three approaches have enabled me to manage my shame and have given me tools for coping with trichotillomania

  1. Faith
    First, my faith in God has helped me carry on. I was taught that we were all individually created by God. I visualize a multi-faceted piece of fabric with threads, and weaves, and colors, and shapes, and frayed edges – all that symbolize the complex person that I am. All created by God.

    We’re all on this earth for a purpose. A few years ago, I started to wonder more and more what my purpose is to be on this earth. I realized that one of a handful of reasons for my existence is to be an advocate to educate the public about trichotillomania. Through being a public face, I can show the world that those of us with TTM who pull hair are normal people with families, careers, feelings, hopes and dreams. I dream of children and teenagers and their parents not feeling isolation or demonized for having this behavior. It’s my hope that through my words I can inspire hair pullers and others with compulsive disorders to embrace who they are.

  2. Self-Acceptance
    My second strategy to help me move on with my life has been my ability to accept who I am. With my faith that God created me, I accept that trich is part of being a complex individual. No one can take trichotillomania away from me. And I’m powerless to stop pulling my hair. Once I accepted that trich is one – just one – aspect of me, I was able to look at the overall fabric of who I am and know that my life isn’t defined by TTM.

  3. Using My Gifts and Talents
    My third step has been to discover and use my God-given gifts and talents. Yes, I pull hair. But I have a loving family. Strong communication skills, including writing and speaking. I’m a pretty good singer and perform with a championship choral group. I’m a person of integrity. Loyal. Always wanting good to prevail over bad. Those skills have served me well in my life and when put together are bigger than trichotillomania ever can, or will be.

With these approaches in mind, I’ve written a book and recorded a CD of inspiring messages that may reduce, or even stop at least temporarily, the urge to pull hair.

My book, titled “Urges,” is hope and inspiration for people with trichotillomania and other mysterious compulsive disorders. Writing and publishing this book is part of what I consider being my life’s purpose

The book includes a Foreword by Trichotillomania Learning Center Founder, Christina Pearson. My story is how I have come to terms with trich, mostly woven around my childhood while growing up on a farm straddling the Nebraska and Kansas border. Please take a few minutes to read Chapter One that tells the story of when I started to pull my hair and a chapter summary of my book, along with what people are saying about my book.

The other item I have created is a CD of inspiring messages that I have written and personally recorded. It’s called “Doses of Comfort for Hair Pullers.” There are ten tracks on this CD with about 42 minutes of programming designed to help reduce your hair pulling urges and perhaps stop – even if only for today – your compulsion to pull. I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to my voice and this sample message.

If you have a blog, please contact me!

I hope that in your journey with TTM, whether you are looking for help or how to cope with trichotillomania, that you may find peace and acceptance.
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Did you know? Common misspellings of trichotillomania include:
trichotillimania, tricotillamania, trichtillomania, trichomania, trichotilomania, tricholomania, trichtotillomania, trichotillamania, trichotrillomania, trichotillomaniac, trichotillmania

Terms sometimes related to Trichotillomania include:
skin picking, eyelash pulling, OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourettes, impulse control disorders