Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Does Pulling Split Ends Count? )

Q. Does pulling split ends count as pulling? I'm not pulling the root out... Or is that like an alcoholic licking an empty but frothy beer glass... ?

A. In a sense, yes, since it will likely trigger you to pull other hairs out.  Also, many people who pull do not pull hair out by the root. Many others do. This does not define whether you have trich or not. But it all comes down to what you can live with. I've had clients who find playing with or smoothing their hair with their hands to be a trigger, and others who do not. For a few, being able to smooth their hair down actually makes it easier for them not to pull.  For almost everyone else, that's not the case. If pulling split ends somehow did not lead to you doing more, and you could live with the result of just doing that, that's perfectly fine.  However in 98% of cases, it's going to be a trigger to continue to pull. If split ends both you, I suggest getting your ends trimmed regularly.  

The key is to stop pretending there is certain kinds of pulling that "doesn't count." If you pull out gray or coarse hairs, that is compulsive hair pulling, and that's how we give ourselves permission to start picking or pulling. (I'll just pull this coarse one.) After we pull that one hair of course we disappear into trance and it's 30 minutes to two hours later till we "wake up" filled with shame or disgust and wonder, how did this happen? It's not unlike the alcoholic who tells himself, I'm not drinking to get drunk, I'm just having one glass of wine at dinner. Yet for this guy, every time he has one glass of wine at dinner, he is compelled to have 10 shots of tequila later on in the evening. This guy has to acknowledge that the glass of wine at dinner, for him, is part of the addiction. Next time he needs to be honest with himself: I know I'd love to be able to have a glass of wine with dinner, but the reality is it will lead to drinking alcoholically and I'm not going to pretend if isn't.  

In order to recover from compulsive hair pulling, we have to get out of denial. Even if one is not ready or able to consider pulling any less, all you need to do is simply acknowledge that the coarse hair you are pulling is in fact a response to the craving to pull. And to tell yourself--with kindness and compassion--I know I really want to make it OK to pull this ONE coarse hair and pretend this isn't the trich, but I'm not going to do that right now. I'm at least going to admit to myself that the desire to pull that hair is the same craving that causes me to keep pulling my hair out. I may not feel able to resist that urge right now, but I'm not going to pretend that it won't lead to more pulling. What I will do is acknowledge that even though it will cause me emotional pain, I feel unable to resist this urge to pull. Which just shows how very powerful this addiction is. 

If you are just beginning recovery, or if you haven't done this yet, the important thing is that you acknowledge what's happening. If you start to tell yourself, I'm just going to pull a gray or coarse hair or pick at my split ends, bring mindfulness to the situation. And acknowledge that chances are, you will keep pulling once you start, if you start.  You might say, ah, there's the trich wanting to convince me to start. OK I see. That's how it works... Just observe it, without judgement.  Trich is a disorder, and it causes people to crave this experience of pulling out our hair.  It actually feels good and soothing and that's why we keep doing it. Trich is NOT you WANTING to deface yourself or sabotage yourself or anything of the kind.  It's a pleasurable sensation that frustratingly causes hair loss. 

It's better to choose to pull knowingly than to feel or believe "it just happened." Better to choose to pull the gray hair knowing where it will lead (and being compassionate about how hard it is to resist this urge) than to keep saying, I don't know how this happened.  If you can CHOOSE to pull, ONE DAY you will be able to CHOOSE NOT TO. You WILL be successful. Just don't give up.  

Please send me any questions you have about recovery: