Trichotillomania treatment – is it even possible?

Trichotillomania treatment – the power of our habits

Trichotillomania is a serious medical condition during which people feel the irresistible urge to pull out their own hair as means of relieving sorrow or stress. Trichotillomania is thus a habit-induced condition, and often results in substantial hair loss, which can in turn create a serious emotional impact. And although most people tend to focus on trichotillomania’s physical effects (i.e. hair loss), it’s actually the psychology that should be prioritised when it comes to treatment. Hair loss is just a consequence of the mental health issues, the root of the problem lies much deeper than we think, and is much more difficult to define and cure. But to answer the original question, it is possible to apply a correct and successful treatment, though it will depend on the patient.

The power of our own habit makes trichotillomania actually quite difficult to treat. After all, habits define our lives. They represent repeated actions that define our identity and personal preferences. We pass the time by repeating actions during given periods of time. This gives our lives substance and idiosyncrasy. Interestingly, habits are the most powerful and the most prominent when we’re experiencing stressful situations. Our bodies are made that way – they will pick a certain habit to deal effectively with anxious circumstances. We’ve been programmed like this to lower our stress levels.

In terms of trichotillomania, it’s the act of pulling out hair that is the counter-stress habit, very negative one at that. Pulling out one’s hair does indeed relieve people from stress and equips them with illusory self-control. But the price they pay for that is severe. In the end, pulling out our hair is a very harmful habit that leads both to mental distress and physical damage. So the question remains, is there an effective trichotillomania treatment?

Trichotillomania treatment – the practical tips

Trichotillomania treatment can be actually very challenging. First of all, people suffering from trichotillomania tend to hide their problem and cover up hair loss with head scarves or head bands. Therefore, it’s sometimes very difficult to properly diagnose trichotillomania. A lot of people are either in denial about their problem, or simply don’t want to admit it. Secondly, trichotillomania treatment relies on psychological therapies, which are by definition long and possibly expensive, and their effects aren’t certain. What matters the most is not what therapist we choose or how we go about the procedure, it’s whether the patient will be willing to cooperate. The process mainly relies on the fundamental technique, which is to replace our negative habit, with a different non-harmful one e.g. use of a stress ball. But cognitive behavioural therapies are often a lottery. Although, if self-determination and will of power is present, it’ll always be possible to replace a harmful habit with a safe one, even though the road to this success may be long and tedious.

Shaping new habits is without a doubt a long-term process, and stressful situations are nowadays present on a daily basis. This is especially the case for anxious and oversensitive people, for whom it’s enough to generate stress through a simple order of a meal in a restaurant. So there won’t always be a single trichotillomania treatment suitable for all. Psychologists working with trichotillomania patients need to devote a huge amount of time to firstly understand their individual patients, and then to find a proper treatment approach. Tempering with one’s behaviour and shaping new habits isn’t easy and smooth, but possible nonetheless.

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