Sometimes a journey begins when you have the ability to look at something in an entirely different way. Though this article deals with just one facet of my healing journey, it is a crucial one indeed. For me, this change in perspective began when I decided to free myself from the inability to stop hair pulling after years of professional treatment proved unsuccessful. From the moment that hair pulling took hold of me, I both wanted to do it and wanted to stop doing it.
After 27 years, I finally got the strength to determine that I no longer wanted it in my life. I now began to see that I could look at my hair pulling in one of two ways: as a compulsive behavior or as an addictive behavior. Compulsive behaviors are defined as acts of performing trivial or repetitive actions against your will.
There are no proven medical cures for compulsive behaviors such as hair pulling. Addictive behaviors are defined as abnormally strong cravings. I had always looked at my hair pulling, or Trichotillomania, as a compulsive behavior. Yet from the start, this left me as the victim; it made me feel totally powerless. Only when I changed the way I thought about it was I able to step forward, and take control. People develop addiction to numb themselves from the pain of a more deep-rooted problem.
Whether you have family problems, problems with school, or problems with friendships, an addiction provides you with control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. Because of the lack of proven treatments, a compulsion mindset makes you think you'll have to suffer your whole life-long to find a way to live with the affliction instead of treating it and ultimately recovering from it. But, by changing the way you think about hair pulling, you are changing the control it has over your life. A tremendous number of people conquer addictions every day. We know that it's hard work, but people actually can come out on the other side, stronger and happier for their efforts. Often times the hardest part is taking that first step, and admitting that hair pulling has become an addiction for you.
There's a stigma associated with an addiction that prevents us from saying we are addicts. Even though to do so could empower us, hair pullers rarely use the word addiction to refer to ourselves. Make a commitment to empower yourself by taking this first step. Spend some time thinking about the cause of your hair pulling.
Learn to find a way to honestly express and honor your feelings whatever they are--without judgment. The more honest you are with yourself, the easier it will be to begin healing. To continue with the healing process, first learn how to discover and completely finish your old, trapped feelings, before moving on to interrupt the cycle of addiction. Acknowledge how you feel about hair pulling, and recognize the pleasurable aspects. Allow yourself these feelings without the fear of judgment or consequences.
Recognizing and accepting your feelings will put you more in control, and allow you to move to the next step of choosing to actually let go of your hair pulling. Willpower is rarely a solution for difficult compulsions like hair pulling because there are often serious unresolved emotional issues or early traumas that fuel the behavior. Another misconception that people have is that letting go of an addiction means that your urge will automatically disappear as it does during times of remission those times when you're just not feeling the urge to pull.
It's easy to stop pulling in remission because you are not confronted with your urges. Willpower does eventually have its place; but only after you have completed your inner work to discover and heal the source of your hair pulling. Then you can hold to your intention and choose to confront your urge again and again. If you do this, it will ultimately give you power. And the more power you gain, the more your addiction will lose its power over you. Your urges will gradually decrease and when they do come, you will easily and confidently be able to manage them.
Abby Leora Rohrer is an expert on compulsive hair pulling and author of What's Wrong With Pulling My Hair Out? and Pull-Free, At Last!, an at-home program for ending Trichotillomania. Visit www.123trichotillomaniafree.com or http://www.pullfreeatlast.com or call 303/546-0788 for more information.