Seeing your child struggle with trichotillomania can be a very confusing experience. You can relate to anxiety, you understand depression, and even OCD at least makes some sense…but pulling your own hair? You have a hard time wrapping your head around why your daughter does this. She has started to pull from a particular spot on her scalp, and you don’t understand why she can’t just stop. Or maybe it’s her eyebrows or eyelashes, and there’s now an unsightly bald patch that requires some very creative makeup.
She has a hard time talking about it with you, and you wonder if you’ve done something to make her do this. She’s not sure why she pulls, she just knows that it feels good and provides relief when she is stressed out. She’s about to enter her teenage years and she’s already starting to withdraw, because she’s embarrassed about how she looks. You’re spending money on wigs and makeup to help her get by, but you’re looking for a long-term solution.
Trichotillomania (also known as “trich”) is the overwhelming compulsion to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows, or other parts of your body. If this urge isn’t satisfied, anxiety continues to increase until the trich sufferer eventually gives in. The pulling relieves this intense urge.
Most trich sufferers have a ritual or routine that accompanies their pulling. They have particularly sensitive areas from which they usually pull, so it’s not a matter of them grabbing hair anywhere and everywhere that they can find it. Some kids with trich play with the pulled hair, arrange it, or even eat it. All of this is part of the trichotillomania routine.
Yet after they have satisfied that seemingly irresistible urge to pull, trich sufferers end up dealing with a lot of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Many kids learn different ways to hide their trich from the world, whether it’s combing their hair differently, or learning how to apply makeup in creative ways at a very young age.
How Common is Trichotillomania?
Approximately 1 in 30 people have trich, and the average age of onset is between 9 to 13 years old. It is estimated that 70-93% of trich sufferers are female. These pre-teen years can be difficult for girls in the best of circumstances, so adding something like trich to the mix, which can be so damaging to her physical appearance, can amplify the stress of this often awkward part her life. If it goes unaddressed, it can cause her to withdraw during those crucial adolescent years.
The stigma that comes with trich can make her feel very alone, but think about that 1 in 30 statistic for a moment. That means that there’s a good chance that she has classes with a couple of other kids that are suffering (probably silently) with this. While it can be very difficult for a parent to understand trich, it is not nearly as uncommon as it seems to be.
CBT: Effective Trichotillomania Treatment for Children
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, is considered to be the most effective trichotillomania treatment for children. This is not to say that CBT is some quick fix that will magically get rid of your child’s trich with a snap of my fingers. Both you and your son or daughter will need to put in time and effort in order to overcome it. That is an essential element of how CBT is used as a trichotillomania treatment for children. They are given “homework” to complete that helps them to address and overcome their pulling. If you are solely relying on time during our sessions to help your child deal with trich, you will likely be disappointed. However, if you are willing to put in the time outside of my office, using the tools that I give you, you have a much better chance of success.
In your research, you may have come across Habit-Reversal Training (HRT) as a recommended trichotillomania treatment for children. This is a form of CBT, and what I primarily use to combat this disorder.
Therapy is too expensive for me.
This is a common and understandable concern. However, if you don’t address your child’s trich, it is likely that you are going to end up paying for expensive wigs and makeup instead. This is an issue of your child’s self-esteem, often during some very crucial years. Unlike other disorders, trich is something that others can see, and it’s an extremely difficult problem to struggle with as you’re going through adolescence. Invest in your child’s well being. It will be better for them, and probably a lot cheaper in the long run.
We’ve tried other therapists who couldn’t help.
Trichotillomania treatment for children is a specialized field within psychotherapy, and not all therapists are trained to treat it effectively. I have years of experience with trich, and am a recognized as a treatment provider by the Trichotillomania Learning Center (www.trich.org). As alone as you might feel in seeking help for your daughter, I have helped many kids just like her!
How long does treatment take?
Trich seems tricky, but CBT is intended to be a relatively short term trichotillomania treatment for children. While I cannot speak to the specifics or severity of your daughter’s situation, this treatment generally lasts between 12-16 weeks. You are looking for a solution to a problem, and she shouldn’t be in therapy for it forever. That being said, the effectiveness and duration of treatment is HIGHLY dependent on you and your child’s commitment to applying the tools that you learn in therapy. We have to be a team that works together both in our sessions and outside of them. I am always just an email or phone call away, even during the rest of the week.
According to the Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC), CBT is the most effective trichotillomania treatment known today. It is the best chance that you can give your child in combatting trich, and it is our specialty here CBT Treamment Center.
Trichotillomania can be confusing, so I encourage you to sign up for our Trich Newsletter to learn more, or to call me at (424) 262-2014 for a free, 15 minute phone consultation. I would be happy to speak with you regarding your child’s situation, and help you to understand what is going with her. Together we can work as a team to help her to stop the pulling.