“There are good hairs and then there are bad hairs"

Name: Anonymous
Age: 26 years
Lives: Stockholm
Suffers from: Trichotillomania
Treatment: Group CBT

Anonym. Photo: Emil Nordin

“I suffer from trichotillomania, or hair pulling. It started when I was ten. It came out of nowhere. For a couple of months, I pulled out almost all of my hair. When it started to show, I had to wear a head shawl to school to hide it.

When I pull it’s like I’m clearing my mind. If I feel anxious or stressed I pull my hair to sort out my thoughts. I need something to fiddle with or I panic. I’ve tried loads of other things, but nothing works.

You pull one hair at a time and look for strange ones. Those that are thicker or courser.  It must sound completely insane to someone without OCD but there are good hairs and then there are bad hairs. The good ones stick out.

When I was little my parents didn’t know what I had, I saw lots of doctors but they didn’t understand either as trichotillomania wasn’t a thing back then.  But then last year, I was feeling bad and went to see a psychologist and I told them I had been pulling my hair. She was shocked that I hadn’t received help sooner and referred me to the Anxiety Unit at Karolinska University Hospital. Then I got to go to group CBT treatments, 16 years after my OCD started. Since then, I’ve been almost completely able to stop the pulling. Sometimes I still get the impulses and then I get to pull on my partner’s hair instead. Or I’ll paint my nails or distract myself some other way to resist the yearning.”

As told to Fredrik Hedlund, first published in the magazine Medicinsk Vetenskap no. 1/2020.