Trichotillomania, also known as compulsive hair pulling, is a way some people cope with uncomfortable feelings but it can quickly turn into a virulent habit or addiction.
Hair pullers pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or other parts of the body, often causing noticeable bald spots. Many do so uncontrollably for hours each day. Hair pulling doesn’t hurt a compulsive hair puller. In fact, most report that they find the behavior soothing. Trichotillomania is estimated to affect up to fifteen million Americans.
From the ages of twelve to thirty-nine, I suffered from compulsive hair pulling. For the past twelve and a half years I have been successfully healed from this compulsive behavior. Based on my experience, I believe that fully healing from a compulsion or addiction is a universal journey that is available to anyone. It requires that the sufferer look inside, take responsibility for his own problem and remain flexible while following his own guidance.
Along my journey I learned many things. Here are three of the most important.
1. In order to heal, I had to believe that healing was possible for me.
In order to change, I needed to get to the point where I really understood deep inside that my beliefs create my reality. If I couldn’t believe that it was possible for me to stop pulling, then I would never be able to do it.
Visualization became an important step. Because I could actually see myself on the other side of hair pulling with a full head of hair, I was consciously and unconsciously able do everything necessary to achieve my goal.
I read books like Real Magic and You’ll See It When You Believe It by Dr. Wayne Dyer, which helped me to incorporate the concept of how my thoughts create my reality. This gave me the tools to align my thoughts with my intention to stop hair pulling.
2. In order to fix a problem, I had to be willing to focus on it. Not just make it a priority in my life, but to make it the top priority in my life until I accomplished my goal.
Can you fix a flat tire without making it the focus in your life; even if just for a few minutes? Although this seemed obvious to me in terms of dealing with any external problem, it wasn’t obvious when dealing with my compulsion.
Making your hair pulling the only priority in your life takes work and commitment. It takes a conscious effort to bring it to the forefront of your life.
At 12 years old, I put my hair pulling problem on the back burner and decided to get on with my life. After all, there was no known cure–what else could I do? Many of us fear that if we focus directly on a problem like this, it and our inner pain will worsen. So most of us are unwilling to take this risk. This fear is real and justified, but to heal you must be willing to move through this stage. As I began to focus on my hair pulling, my problem did get a bit worse. As I continued to front-burner it, I found that I was strong enough to deal with a temporary worsening in order to reap the greater rewards of ending the problem for good. Hanging in through this process required me to trust in the process of natural healing.
3. Everything in life is a gift – even painful compulsions like hair pulling. Use your gifts to learn and grow.
Hair pulling was not the problem, but a symptom of much larger underlying early traumas that I had endured. I had no memory of many of them. Consequently they remained hidden and unresolved and created a great deal of pain in my life. By facing my hair pulling, I was forced to recognize and heal the other problems in my life.
I learned to maintain a childlike excitement about discovering my repressed feelings even in the midst of pain and sadness. I began to embrace my emotions and to feel that I was on a treasure hunt, knowing that in releasing old feelings, no matter how painful, I could get closer to my goal to end the compulsion. At each step I uncovered clues as to what to let go of and where to look next.
Remember, it isn’t just about letting go of something from the past; something you may enjoy. It’s also about reaching out to a new and exciting future. A future that you can choose to live anyway you desire.
Abby Leora Rohrer is a consultant and self-healing mentor, and author of What’s Wrong With Pulling My Hair Out? and of the Pull-Free, At Last! System, a complete at-home healing program for sufferers of Trichotillomania. Visit http://www.pullfreeatlast.com or call 303/546-0788 for more information