Problems with Pulling Your Hair or Picking at Your Skin?—Try a Little TLC

Have you ever heard of trichotillomania or the wonderful organization called the Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC)? See below to learn more.

What’s Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania—or “trich” for short—is a problem that’s a little obscure even for professionals, but it impacts a lot of people. People with trich pull at their hair so often that it causes noticeable hair loss. The most common place is the scalp, but it can be a problem anywhere there’s hair, including the eyebrows and pubic region. Because others may notice the damage, people with trich are frequently embarrassed by their appearance. They may wear hats or wigs to hide the hair loss.

Although the word “trichotillomania” refers to hair pulling specifically—“trich” is Greek for “hair”—many experts see trich as a close cousin to skin picking. People with problematic skin picking develop marks and scabs on their faces and body. Like “trich,” people who struggle with skin picking may feel self-conscious in social situations. Unfortunately, there’s not a specific name or diagnosis for skin picking, so it fall under an umbrella category of “impulse control disorders.”

Additionally, it’s hard for other people to understand. People who pick and pull often want to stop but have great difficulty without help. Unfortunately, many professionals aren’t trained to evaluate, let alone effectively treat, these problems. Research shows that picking and pulling don’t tend to respond to basic talk therapy. Instead, addressing these problems requires a structured and multifaceted approach.

The Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC)

TLC was started 1991 by Christina Pearson, a woman who herself struggled for years with hair pulling. Her grassroots effort to create a resource for other people who struggle with pulling and picking took off. It‘s now aided by a Scientific Advisory Board made up of the biggest names in this area of research. Their website is an incredible resource for laypeople and professionals alike.

Although TLC has grown since Ms. Pearson first created it more than 20 years ago, vestiges of its grassroots beginnings remain. I ordered some books from them recently and handwritten in green ink on corner of the packing slip was, “Thank you – Donna – TLC.”

If you struggle with picking or pulling or know someone who does, I urge you to visit the TLC website. It’s the go-to place for information on picking and pulling. I also think it makes for wonderful model of how to make resources available to professionals and non-professionals.

If you want specialized treatment for trich or skin pulling, that’s available too. Feel free to contact me (503-281-4852 x14)  and if I can’t provide treatment, I’d be happy to help connect you with resources.

Author: Brian Thompson Ph.D.

Brian is a licensed psychologist and Director of the Portland Psychotherapy Anxiety Clinic. His specialties include generalized anxiety, OCD, hair pulling, and skin picking.


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