We all have challenges. For some, it’s baggage, family drama or intimacy issues. For others, it’s trichotillomania — the compulsion to pull out one’s hair. Issues always come out in relationships, sooner or later. If you get close enough to someone, it’s not a matter of if — it’s a matter of when. No one is perfect and we all have “something” going on that will impact a romantic relationship.
Dating someone with trich presents its own set of challenges, which someone without the disorder may find difficult to navigate. After speaking with quite a few people living with the disorder, some in wonderful, loving relationships, and some not, I have put together five things that are helpful in allowing your relationship to blossom if you are in a relationship with someone with trich:
1. Trichotillomania is More Prevalent Than One Would Think
Trich can start at any time during one’s life, but most often presents during late childhood or early puberty. In childhood, the disorder is evenly split between both males and females; in adults, as many as 80-90% of those with it are female. It is estimated that 1 in every 50 Americans deals with this issue on a daily basis.Take a look at your Facebook page and how many “friends” you have. The odds are very high that between 5-10 of them have trich. They just aren’t talking about it. Your partner is no different from them, except s/he can’t hide it from you.
2. If We Could Stop, We Would
I (and many others) can’t stand the question, “Why don’t you just stop?” Trust me, if we could, we would! It’s not a choice, even if it appears to be.
I suggest steering clear of that question. When asked, I start to feel extremely uncomfortable, and wait for the conversation to change. I don’t mind talking about the disorder and what it’s like to live with it; I just prefer not to be asked a question I ask myself often anyway. I don’t have an answer, so what am I supposed to say? For me, the way the question occurs is that there’s something wrong with me, and I’d rather not feel that way.
3. Our Hair Does Not Define Our Beauty As People
American culture dictates that women with thick, long hair, along with eyelashes that seem to extend forever, are beautiful.
But that’s not all that makes a person beautiful. Perhaps your loved one is bald or missing their eyebrows. That doesn’t mean they’re not lovely. Take a moment and look at them. Really take a look. What is the color and shape of their eyes? Do they have long, dancer legs, or are they short and athletic? What is physically beautiful about them?
Take a look into their eyes and see the love coming from them. See the way their smile lights up a room. Check into who they are being in the world. Hair pullers are writers, social workers, police officers, teachers, Mrs. North Carolina, doctors, mothers and fathers. These are the same people who are committed to making the world a better place to live in. These are the same people who love you.
4. Trichotillomania is a Real Disorder
Hair pulling has been categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) as an “impulse control disorder not elsewhere classified.” It has been placed in the same category as skin picking and nail biting.
People with trich are not trying to harm themselves. They are not crazy or freaks. While some people with trich may show signs of anxiety, stress, trauma or depression, it also occurs in people who are neither stressed nor depressed.
While treatment options exist, there is no one cure for trichotillomania. For some, simply keeping busy can curtail some of the hair pulling. Some treatment options include pharmaceutical medications and/or cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). However, some with the disorder don’t respond to treatment and will deal with the disorder for the duration of their lives. There are many of us who have tried everything and nothing as of yet has worked. For those that have had success in stopping, many work hard on a daily basis just to ensure they don’t pull.
5. We Want to be Treated with Love, Compassion and Acceptance
For some, living with trich leaves them feeling extremely vulnerable. It can lead to isolation, loss of confidence and feelings of shame. And relationships can often become routine. As time goes on, we stop making an effort to see our partner’s point of view.
So, perhaps the most valuable thing you can do is to take a moment and place yourself in your partner’s shoes. Imagine what they must feel like. What would it feel like if you had bald patches on your head that you couldn’t cover up unless you wore a wig or a hat every day? What would it be like to be a young woman who is bald, going to work every day? If you can really get what life must be like with trich, compassion and acceptance will automatically show up.
There are some days when your partner may be really down. There’s nothing like a loving embrace to have them understand that there is someone out there that truly loves them, no matter how they look. Show your partner the kindness and love that everyone deserves – even if they pull their hair. I know for me, the more accepted I feel, the easier it is to be fully me, and full of joy.
Written by Sandy Rosenblatt; as appeared in Huffington Post 9/20/2013