Trichster

By , Rockville Centre, NY
My girlfriend has a mental disorder called trichotillomania, or "trich", as she usually calls it. It is a stress disorder, meaning it gets worse when the person is under more stress. People with this disorder have an uncontrollable obsession with picking hairs out of their body. Many people who have never heard of this disorder will likely have the same thoughts I first had when she told me about this: so what? Picking hair seems like a simple annoyance, just a little quirk some people have. Some people bite their nails, these people pull their hair. It seems harmless enough right?

A "trichster", as many of them call themselves, doesn't stop if the hair won't come out easily. Instead of letting it go, they pick it out with tweezers, or dig it out with a thumb tack, or anything they can find that will get it out. This means that aside from missing hair, the person will probably also have scars all over the areas where they pick most often. Experts believe that a main reason they pick hair is that many of them see it as unattractive, so it must be removed. However, the scars that come with pulling out the hair makes the person feel even less attractive, adding stress, and causing them to pick even more.

People who have this disorder feel guilty when they pick, so they often will not tell anyone. Their loved ones usually must figure out on their own that something is wrong, then try to treat it. There are no drugs proven to cure it, but some can help. The main treatment is usually therapy. My girlfriend has been seeing a therapist since she was in fourth grade. This treatment can be difficult because people will often deny their picking. Those who try to help them deal with their problems often only make them worse, because those with trich do not like to talk about it.

There is usually no specific part of the body where a person picks at. They usually pick at any hair they find. Luckily my girlfriend does not pick at the hair on her head, but many do, and they have oddly-shaped bald spots, so they wear wigs or hats. They also pick at their legs, arms, underarms, and most other areas where there is hair on the body. When they get too stressed, they will sometimes pick at their eyebrows.

People with trich often feel alienated or worthless, because the picking makes them guilty and the scars make them feel ugly. They often have a hard time finding love because many people see the scars as a major turn-off. Luckily for both me and my girlfriend, I can see past the scars and see her for the sweet and beautiful girl she is, but many are not so lucky. I still have problems trying to convince her she is beautiful, or that she is really a good person and not worthless as she often says. Those who have loved ones suffering from trich should talk to them about it indirectly, telling them how important they are to you and how pretty or handsome they look. Whatever you do, do not talk specifically about trich unless the other person brings it up, a lesson I learned the hard way.

Trich may not be a deadly disease or some kind of horrible epidemic, but it does affect millions of people, changing their lives forever. It is not easy, but it can be overcome. For all those who have loved ones with trich, be there for them in any way possible, and never underestimate it. For those who have trich, know that there are people out there who have beaten it or who can live happily with it, and you can do the same.





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