Trichotillomania (TTM), also known as hair pulling disorder, is an impulse control disorder characterized by a long term urge that results in the pulling out of one's hair. This occurs to such a degree that hair loss can be seen. Efforts to stop pulling hair typically fail. Hair removal may occur anywhere; however, the head and around the eyes are most common. The hair pulling is to such a degree that it results in distress.
I recently met someone who has been dealing with this disorder since the age of 12. I offered to microblade her brows in hopes to help her save the integrity of her brows before it is too late. Her name is April and she agreed to do a little interview with me before her session.
KS: What made you interested in microblading?
AC: I've had issues with my eyelashes and eyebrows for as long as I can remember. When I was about 12 years old I remember seeing an article that my mom left in the bathroom talking about a disorder called Trichotillomania and I immediately identified with it and knew that is what I had.
KS: When do you struggle with it the most.
AC: Anytime boredom or stress sets in I find myself, with whatever finger nails I have, just pulling or picking at whatever hair I could grab, whether it was my eyelashes or my eyebrows, it doesn't matter.
KS: So you seem to do it most during high stress times... when things are going well and everything is under 'control', do you still struggle with it?
AC: Well as much as it is heightened by stress or boredom, it's like a compulsive disorder for me. I'm a big face toucher, so if I run my fingers over my brows or lashes and I feel a hair that is "out of place" that would trigger me to start pulling in that area to get rid of it.
KS: And would you stop after you got THE hair?
AC: Sometimes. Normally I don't do it in front of a mirror, I'm usually sitting on the couch or doing something that is distracting me so I will just pull and pull until I feel like it's gone but by the time I get to the mirror, there is usually a big hole because I've totally overdone it and I look ridiculous with a big chunk missing.
KS: When you were young, did you ever talk to anyone about what was happening?
AC: I don't think so. Years later I told my mom and she oddly started laughing and said that she does the same thing.
KS: Do you remember seeing her do it when you were a child?
AC: No, I remember that she did and does have sparse eyebrows but growing up I really never noticed which as an adult means that she was probably just really good at hiding it.
KS: You've gone back and fourth pulling your eyebrows and eyelashes, is it ever at the same time or always one or the other?
AC: No, its usually one or the other. I can't remember ever doing both. In fact it's usually just one brow or one eye, not both.
KS: Does it seem to be your right or left side more?
AC: I don't think so. It's just both.
KS: When we first started talking about you being a candidate for microblading, I told you for your best results you would have to grow your brows out which would mean forcing yourself to stop pulling. You've obviously done that because your brows are so full! How did you keep yourself from succumbing to the urge?
AC: I think just having a goal. Knowing that if I truly wanted a good result I couldn't keep pulling. There were plenty of times where I caught myself, stopped myself and restricted even my access to tweezers. I had to try so hard not to touch my face because I knew at the end of this KS: There was a reward. AC: Yes, my goal was the reward.
KS: I am blown away at your brows right now and how much brow you have because when I met you there was barely a single line of hairs.
AC: Honestly I've never seen them like this either. I know even if I grow them out they are still sparse, that I'd never have the brows I wanted so to me it didn't matter. Then when I found out about microblading and you told me how great my results could be if I just grew mine out before doing it, I thought, this could finally be the way to get the look I've been hoping for.
KS: Have you noticed that you've been pulling your eyelashes out since you can't do it to your eyebrows?
AC: No. Actually I started an anxiety medication that I feel is helping with those compulsive things right now. That has been really helpful. Honestly I've been more stressed in the past few months than ever but I think with the medication and the goal of getting this done, I think that has really helped. Plus I constantly see your before and afters and that is encouragement for me too when I'm feeling weak.
KS: I assume you've spoken to various doctors over the years about this, what has been their advice in conquering your disorder?
AC: They really haven't given much. I guess because it's not a health issue, they don't see it as a problem that needs attention.
KS: That's what's really shocking to me because I've been several people with Trichotillomania and it doesn't seem like they get any help or guidence. That's odd to me because obviously I'm not a doctor but if something is happening internally to you that is causing you to harm yourself externally, there is clearly a bigger issue at the core and if the actually ACT of pulling your hairs out isn't a concern, what's going on inside should be.
AC: I don't feel like it's looked at very seriously. Maybe eventually it will be. It's embarrasing. There was finally a point where I showed my husband what I was doing. He didn't know. That was really hard for me. Letting him see me being very vulnerable. Seeing that embarrasing side of me. It looks awful. It looks ridiculous.
KS: What is the worst point in your life that it has gotten?
AC: I mean, to the point where I've stayed home from work to give it a few days. I've had to get more into makeup to try to hid it. Sometimes I'll draw my brows on really really dark to camouflage it and that looks really crazy. I used to dye my hair really blonde so penciling my brows in so dark it looked really bad. I avoid eye contact with people or direct face to face conversations.
KS: In the long run, how do you see having your brows microbladed will impact you dealing with tricitillomania?
AC: I hope by doing this it will make me feel more proud of how they look and be an incentive for me.
KS: Well thank you for being so open and honest. I hope by doing this interview, anyone out there suffering with this can find somewhere in their area who can give them an incentive through microblading and so that those suffering know that they are not alone.