Chronic Hair Pulling Essay

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It has been two months since Makahla Rivers has pulled out her hair. In fact, that’s the longest she’s gone without pulling out her hair since she was 12 years old, she said.

Rivers, a 19-year-old from Harrisville, Rhode Island who works in a local restaurant, has struggled with the impulse control disorder known as trichotillomania, the urge to pull out one’s own hair. Trichotillomania, often referred to as trich or TTM, was first documented by the French dermatologist, Francois Henri Hallopeau over 100 years ago and derives from the Greek words, “trich” (hair), “tillo” (to pull) and “mania” (impulse).

While extensive medical research on this disorder has only been conducted within the past twenty years, it is estimated that
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“I was like, ‘Oh my God, what did I do?’ I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and that’s when I saw my [hair] was gone and I was in a state of shock. I fell down on the bathroom floor and started to cry,” she said.

While she has pulled hair from her arms, eyelashes and eyebrows, she has mainly pulled from her head. She would pull when she was watching television, was bored or tired, or when she was upset or depressed. She would even spend hours pulling in the bathroom.

Pulling during sedentary activities such as watching television or reading and pulling during times of stress, anxiety or depression are the two general patterns of trich, according to the website, “Trichotillomania Learning Center” in October 2015.

Anxiety, depression and other emotional problems like eating disorders and substance abuse can trigger pulling but can also result from pulling, said Dr. Nancy Keuthen, who has been the director of the Trichotillomania Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for 15 years.

“Someone who has pulled out their hair will not be thrilled with themselves,” she said.

Because hair is a cultural mark of beauty, pullers will be concerned about social acceptance, said Keuthen. On the other hand, “pulling hair manages the anxiety they’re feeling.”

The “Trichotillomania Learning Center” website reported that major depression may affect up to 50% of pullers while 30% may have simple phobia and generalized anxiety disorder, up to

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