Just home after a hard day’s work, Maisie takes off her hat and prepares to relax for the evening. She’s been wearing hats and scarves a lot lately, with patterns and colors to match every outfit. It’s not that she cares about fashion, it’s just that she’s hiding a very visible bald patch.
As they settle for an evening of television, Maisie’s husband, Jack, notices that she’s not pulling her hair tonight, as she usually does. Every evening she habitually pulls out her hair, strand by strand. Tonight is different. Tonight Maisie is pulling out her eyelashes. Jack notices that she doesn’t even seem to realize what she’s doing. Thinking of Maisie’s recent behavior, Jack becomes concerned. She won’t go out with her friends anymore, not even for antique shopping or a light lunch. She always has an excuse not to join them.
The fact is that Maisie is embarrassed. She’s self-conscious of the bald spot and missing eyelashes due to the hair she has pulled out, and her confidence and self-esteem are quite shaken. And yet, she can’t seem to stop.
Maisie is experiencing trichotillomania (TTM).
What is trichotillomania?
Trichotillomania (pronounced trick-o-till-o-mania) – or TTM — is a condition in which individuals pull out their own hair– from the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, beard, chest or legs — often leaving bald spots or sparseness. Many don’t realize what they are doing; they may be bored and pull out there hair as a way to relax, while others look to hair pulling as stress relief.
More importantly, TTM may lead to depression and embarrassment as the behavior and resulting bald patches become apparent.
Healthcare providers are uncertain whether TTM is a habit, an addiction or an obsessive-compulsive disorder — and there is currently no specific test to diagnose it. However, it is initially important for the individual to realize what they are doing and to identify the triggers that lead to it. A professional will help them understand their behavior and introduce methods for coping. A health care provider will also help them relax and divert their attention to another activity that is less harmful.