Trichotillomania in children may be the most frustrating experience a parent can endure. As a child with TTM, and then a teen who pulled my hair, I couldn’t have asked for better parents. As an adult, I now know that they did one simple thing that helped me tremendously, and it’s this:
They left me alone. No nagging. No telling me to “just stop it” or other words that would have done nothing to help, and would only have hurt.
And they loved me unconditionally.
If you’re a parent of a hair puller, or have a loved one you care deeply about who happens to be engaged in eyelash pulling, plucking hair or scalp picking, no doubt you’re looking for a treatment for trichotillomania.
But unfortunately, there is no known cure.
So in the meantime, may I suggest that you choose your words carefully. You probably feel frustrated and helpless that there is little you can do to help your child or teen stop these uncontrollable urges. But no words you say are going to make it go away.
I was “outed” in front of my parents was when they took me to a dermatologist to see if he could help me stop pulling hair. I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I remember him putting a light on my head and moving my hair around. And he ever so casually asked “son, why do you pull your hair?” I sat there in silence. What kind of a question was that? Yes, he was correct, and while his question may have seemed innocent, it was devastating to me. I had been “outed” in front of my parents.
But my parents told me (many years later when I was an adult) that the doctor gave them a directive that day. And that was they were to not nag me and give me unconditional love.
I think that was pretty good advice.
But there may have been a dark side to that advice: When my Mom told me of his advice, she said another reason the doctor thought I pulled my hair was because she was giving too much attention to my younger sister. No parent should ever go through life feeling guilty that they are the cause of a disorder in their child.
If you’re a parent, you may feel guilty, like you’re done something wrong. I’m sure my Mom felt that way after this misguided doctor’s advice. But don’t blame yourself. As a hair puller, I doubt there is anything you could have done differently to prevent your child from this disorder.
You may wonder if my book, Urges, or my CD, Doses of Comfort, is appropriate for your child or teen. First, let me observe that I think youth and teenagers who pull hair are more mature than most. I certainly was, and the few teens I’ve encountered at conferences have struck me as being mature for their age. I think it’s because of the emotional weight we carry as kids.
I have written my book, and written and recorded Doses of Comfort, to speak to hair pullers of all ages. As a parent, you many want to listen to the first track about coping with TTM. You can also read the first chapter of my book about the day I first started scalp picking.