Supporting a Loved One with Trichotillomania

It doesn’t matter who it is, whether your daughter, sibling, partner, or friend; if they are suffering with Trichotillomania, they need your support, but that in and of itself can be a challenge; even more so if you don’t understand what is happening. For many of us, we try and help by offering advice, but without a clear understanding of the situation, that advice may only frustrate an individual with trichotillomania and that can make them feel helpless.

There are some important guidelines you should follow so you better understand what the person you care about is going through. Trichotillomania is a hair pulling disorder, and this is how you can help them and give them the encouragement that need in a positive way.

  1. If you don’t fully understand trichotillomania, that is okay; just don’t pretend that you do. Just listening without making suggestions or giving your advice can be enough. You can be there for that person emotionally with praises, hugs, and acceptance. There are more individuals affected by trichotillomania than most people think. If someone you care about has this disorder they are not crazy, there are many that fall into a more broad category called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
  2. Believe me, if those with Trich could stop, they would. Many people with trichotillomania hate hearing the question, “Why don’t you just stop?” Asking this question may make your loved one feel that there is something wrong with them. This can lead to more frustration and can exacerbate the situation.
  3. Hair pulling can be a way of life those inflected by it. There will be days when the signs are minimal and others where they are rampant and without warning.
  4. Do not be the hair pulling police! Hair pulling occurs for the most part as something that happens on a subconscious level. By speaking up every time your loved one starts to pull their hair, you might feel like you’re helping, but actually what you are doing is causing more harm. It can eventually put a strain on your relationship, as over time they begin to view you as a negative person inflecting shame and guilt upon them.

The question remains as to just what you should do if you see a loved one pulling. The best thing could be as simple as a distraction. Try handing them a cup of tea. Trying to engage their brain can for many, stop the subconscious hair pulling. Perhaps invite them for a walk. Getting them out or just moving around can often help. Activities like reading and watching TV can be triggers for hair pulling. Playing chess, computer games or anything that involves the use of hand are great activities. Boredom can be a bad thing for those with this disorder, but helping them to be active and getting them interested in things can be a big help to them.