Thursday, April 5, 2012

Self-diagnosis

Today's post is probably going to dive into the medical world for a bit. I am going to talk about a problem I've had for about 8-10 years but have never deemed it prevalent enough to seek medical attention about.

It's called Trichotillomania. And I just found out the name of it tonight when I decided to google this habit I've had for so long to see if it's something that exists elsewhere in the world.

It's a condition in which people have a compulsion to pull out their hair (some people eat it as well. I DEFINITELY don't do that), whether it's from anxiety, depression, stress, or low self-esteem, the last of which I'm still trying to figure out. In severe cases, it'll cause patchy baldness and create more self-esteem issues and create a crazy cycle in which you're self-conscious, pull out your hair, and get MORE self-conscious. See how I don't understand the self-esteem-motivated cause? Weird.

I am definitely not someone with a severe case. But it's been prevalent enough in my life that I am aware of pulling out at least 1-2 hairs a day since I was 13, maybe earlier. I think that was really when most of the stresses of my life started. I was going through an identity crisis in which I had my "rebellious" years, which didn't consist of anything too rebellious except dressing like a non-conformist and claiming that I need a therapist because that was what everyone else was doing. Yeah, I was weird. If only I knew then that I had picked up something that would REALLY make me stand out, since only about 4% of the population has this condition.

I'm not sure why I do it. On wikipedia, it states that it mostly happens when the person is sedentary, meaning that they're sitting, laying down, maybe watching a movie, reading a book, doing homework, something where you aren't entirely conscious of certain compulsive behaviors. This is also true of nail-biters (which I used to be before I met and started dating Ryan). I just know that it's something that I do more when I'm stressed and don't do when I'm fairly okay in life. So tonight, when I was searching around my scalp, looking for a good hair to pull, I decided to finally pinpoint what in the world was wrong with me.

Allow me to digress for a bit. I usually don't peruse the internet for things that could be wrong with me because I tend to mis-diagnose myself. I am a self-proclaimed hypochondriac (very mild. I won't go so far as to get my blood drawn just to see if I have some rare disease), and so when I go to the internet, I start wondering if I have a brain tumor, or maybe a hemorrhoid, possibly mono (which I was RIGHT about, by the way), allergies to a specific person, and many other strange disorders. But tonight, I feel confident that because I am expressing the same symptoms as this rather odd disorder, that I am not wrong this time.

I should also inform you how I got to thinking that I wasn't the only one with trichotillomania. I read this site called "Post Secret", where people mail in anonymous post-cards with their deep and sometimes dark secrets to a guy and he posts them on the internet, gets all of them and puts them in books, tours around the US as an inspirational speaker...It's really quite amazing how large this community has grown. Well, I was reading them a couple of weeks ago when I saw one that had taped to it a single hair and the message "this is the last hair I'll pull out". I thought it was odd, yet familiar since I, too, pull out my hairs. And then the next week there was another one, very similar to it. And then I saw response emails under them with people stating that they were going to stop as well. So then it got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, this was something that was common enough that it was a diagnosable disorder. Lo and behold, it is.

Much like nail-biting, it can be cured simply by stopping the habit. So I confessed to Ryan about an hour before I started writing this that I possibly have this condition and to be on the lookout for when I start "scratching" my head and seeking out the perfect hair. They say it could be linked to OCD, which is quite possible. I am one of those people who counts my steps, brush strokes, stairs I've climbed, and sometimes I make sure I never step on cracks if it's possible to do. So, who knows? Maybe I have an inner OCD person, trying so hard to get out.

This post ended up being really self-reflexive. More than I anticipated, actually. About three hours ago, I was going to blog about the events in my day. But I felt that this was something that I shouldn't just admit to Ryan but to this community of close friends/family and you strangers out there who happen to stumble upon this blog. I also feel that this condition is in want of awareness. It is very uncommon, but there could be people out there that are just like me, unsure if what they do is something that someone else suffers. It's nice knowing I'm not alone, and it's nice knowing that I've got the very VERY basic/mild form of this condition. And it's also nice that it hasn't been clinically diagnosed so that there's still a chance that I maybe just developed a strange habit that has nothing to do with my psyche.

Yeah, that would be nice.

3 comments:

genevieve said...

Kirsti! I *just* came across this term a couple of weeks ago. I was so surprised to learn that my 'weird' habit was common enough to have a name. Relieved, too. I didn't know what to do with the information, but I didn't know if I should tell anyone or not because I guess I was afraid of being judged...?? I don't know. Anyway, I really admire you for putting it out there. Maybe I'll have the courage to do so as well.

:)

~genny

Kirsti said...

Oh my gosh, I had no idea! It was nice to know that I wasn't alone in the world, but it's REALLY nice to know I'm not alone in my group of friends! Yeah, I'm not sure what to do with the information, but at least I know it's not just something I do by myself and that other people have the condition as well! Thanks for sharing, Genny!

Ellaniemae said...

I felt the pain from the man who vowed to stop pulling his hair out. I just told my therapist this very week that I pull out my eyelashes and eyebrows. My scalp hair is not a favorite place for me, but enough falls out by itself, I guess.

I am not sure what therapies are available for this, but I can imagine that stopping is not as easy as just redirecting efforts to another channel.

If you bring it up to a professional, please keep me informed. I am very interested in learning more about this. And just know You ARE NOT Alone!