Trichotillomania: Help at last!

Trichotillomania: Help at last!

Finally, finally, finally!! HELP AT LAST!!

My oldest daughter, now sixteen years old, has struggled with trichotillomania since she was 7 years old. Trichotillomania (trich) is an impulse control disorder (ICD), body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB), where a person unconsciously pulls out his/her own hair, eyelashes and/or eyebrows.

The first pediatrician said, “Don’t worry about it. She’ll stop pulling on her own.”

The next pediatrician “helped” by telling her, “Stop doing that. It’s not good for you.”

The counselors were sweet and kind, but clueless on how to help stop the pulling.

So she pulled out all her eyelashes and eyebrows, hit puberty, then pulled out all the hair from her head. So much so that it looked as though she’d just joined the army and received a “buzz cut”.

Imagine being a freshman high school girl and having no hair. Not hair that’s “different” from everyone else, but hair that’s barely there at all. If her hair loss was due to chemotherapy for cancer treatment, she would have been rallied around, called a “hero” and “strong.” Instead, since she “does it to herself,” she’s ostracized and isolated in a school of around 2000 students. It’s extremely difficult for her and heart-wrenching to watch as a parent.

Although we’ve always loved and supported her fully, and we’ve strived to help her avoid feeling guilty, there is an enormous amount of shame trichsters – as many refer to themselves – impose on themselves for not being able to control the impulses.

From all the research I’ve done to find a solution, I’ve learned the only treatment that works is behavior modification. Meds and counseling may help with some of the associated problems such as the shame, anxiety, depression, etc., that often accompany trich, but neither of these help the root problem – the pulling.

In the fall of 2017, I saw a crowd-funding ad for a start-up company creating behavior modification, artificial intelligence bracelets specifically designed for people with BFRB’s, called HabitAware Keen. The company was asking for quite a bit of money for products not yet in production, and I wasn’t comfortable jumping on that bandwagon, especially because it sounded too good to be true.

Fast forward to March of this year. I saw another ad on Facebook, and this time, the bracelets were in production, with color choices, a fully operational website and apps for both iOS and Android. The bracelets were more expensive, but this time I knew I’d receive the product if I ordered it.

There are other bracelets on the market that are much less expensive. However, their reviews were only mediocre and the wearer needs to have their cellphone with bluetooth active in order to function properly. The HabitAware only needs the app available while programming the bracelets. After that, the bracelets work independently. This was crucial feature for my girl, since she’s not allowed to have her phone out at school.

I ordered two, because she pulls with both hands; one of the few times being ambidextrous is a detriment! If you go to their website linked here, you can watch a video to learn why the bracelets were invented and how they work.

Finally, we had a strong flicker of hope. After they arrived, we programmed them together, and she wore (and wears) them all of her waking hours.

This girl, a young woman now, who has struggled for nearly a decade NEEDS A HAIRCUT! She needs a haircut. I never thought my child needing a haircut would bring me to tears, but in this case, it does.   img-0219

Not only that, but she has eyelashes! We’re still working on the eyebrows, but everyone is drawing them on these days, anyway, so that’s not such a big deal.

She no longer feels the need to wear a hat everywhere she goes; she wears a hat when she wants to wear one.

The bracelets have made her aware of when she pulls and how she pulls. She recently told me that she wants to pull her eyelashes really badly, but is now able to make the choice not to.

New technology is not perfect, however, and we had one of the bracelets fail. It simply stopped working. I contacted the company, they had us return the bad one and then sent us a new one at no charge; they even covered the shipping. My girl went an entire week with only one bracelet, and she did not relapse. The bracelets work so well, she’s trained her brain to recognize when she’s reaching to pull.

Her confidence is up, her smile is a bit bigger and her hair is beautiful – dark, thick and wonderfully wavy. I cannot wait to see what it’s like by Christmas!

The lesson learned in this is never lose hope in situations that seem hopeless. God’s timing is perfect, even when it doesn’t align to our wishes. I’d also like to issue a huge “Thank You” to the wonderful folks at HabitAware – your passion to help others has changed the life of at least one very grateful 16-year-old (and her mom).

***No one in my family has received anything for free, nor have any of us been paid to write this post. I’ve written this post simply to share our experiences with the hope that it will help someone else struggling with trich, or any other BFRB.***

Isaiah 40:31 American Standard Version (ASV)

31 but they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

Are you waiting for God to move in your life? Do you struggle with Trichotillomania and feel alone?

Reach out to me here, or like and message me on my Facebook page. We can pray together!

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