The first time hair pulling was diagnosed as a separate medical condition unto itself was in 1889 by François Henri Hallopeau (1842-1919), a French dermatologist, according to OCD UK. (Pince-nez glasses style on point, ammiright?)
Hallopeau was observing a young male patient who had “torn hair out in tufts.” He wanted a way to describe the man’s disorder and combined the following Greek words:
- thrix (hair)
- tillein (pulling)
- mania (madness)
In the original French, it was trichotillomanie or trichomanie. The current English term is trichotillomania (trich/TTM), pronounced “trick-oh-til-oh-mania.”
The “Mania” in Trichotillomania
Personally, I hate the “mania” part of trichotillomania. It literally means “madness.” I feel this misrepresents trichsters as being inherently crazy. Just from the name alone, some people might already have a stigma forming in their minds. I would love to see trichotillomania changed to something else. Something that doesn’t automatically undercut my sanity.
Does Naming Something Give It Power?
There’s a saying that naming something gives it power. However, as of today’s Google search, “trichotillomania” yields just 1.09 million search results. You may think that sounds like a lot, but consider that “why do I pull my hair out?” yields 3.63 billion results while “why do I pull out my hair?” yields 3.49 billion results. Those aren’t typos. Billions!
Apparently, while naming trichotillomania happened in 1889, not much of the rest of the world knows about it. I’m referring to both people with TTM and those without it. Billions of people have searched for the answers to hair pulling behavior, while not knowing the proper name for it. So, in answer to the question, no–naming it did not give it power.
Why Isn’t Trichotillomania More Well-Known?
I believe that the reason trichotillomania was thought to be a “rare” disorder for so long (when it really isn’t) is due to stigma associated with the disorder. Trichsters feel high levels of embarrassment, guilt and shame, all of which are compounded by the general public’s complete obliviousness to the fact that hair pulling is a real medical condition. We see this when people use expressions like “I’m just so stressed I want to pull my hair out” or similar variations. Most people just don’t know what they don’t know.
How Trichotillomania Can Gain Power
The answer lies in awareness. It seems cliché, I know. But, take suicide jokes as an example. People used to make suicide jokes all the time (it is not and never was okay, but joking about suicide used to be somewhat socially acceptable). Over time, as more and more awareness was raised around suicide, the stigma lifted and open discussion happened. Society collectively realized that it wasn’t a rare occurrence—that everyone probably knew at least one person struggling with suicide. So, then, because society realized it wasn’t rare, and was, in fact, so devastating and not at all funny, suicide jokes became taboo. Now, making a suicide joke marks a person as a completely unfeeling boor or a person with no social skills whatsoever. The stigma has now reversed, attaching to people who would make fun of such a serious condition.
I am in no means saying that trich is like suicide. I am, however, saying that it would greatly benefit all mental health communities if each mental disorder could be raised to that level of social awareness–where open discourse could change the stigma narrative. That is the level of awareness that trichotillomania needs. Once trichsters reach the level where hair pulling jokes are met with disapproval and wig inquiries are frowned upon, then trichotillomania will have finally gained the power due to its name.
Help Raise Awareness
As I always say, sharing is really the best way to raise awareness. Facebook and Twitter have some amazing groups to share, listen and learn. Find awesome trich articles and share them on your platforms. Get a conversation going! That’s my sole goal here at Why Do I Pull My Hair Out? All of my articles are made to inform, provoke meaningful discussion or provide insight into the life of a trichster (coming from a trichster).
Here are some of my recent articles which may be of interest to you:
- Top 10 Survival Tips: Back-to-School When You Have a Bald Spot
- Hair Pulling in the Sharp Objects TV Mini-Series & Novel
- 4 Trichotillomania TEDx Talks: Watch Discuss & Share
- The Ultimate List: Books with Trichotillomania
- Trichster Toolbox: 10 School Supplies to Keep Your Fingers Busy
- Big Time Rush to Eminem: 100+ Examples of Hair Pulling in Music
- Beauty in Baldness: What Trichsters Can Learn From #AlopeciaIsFashion
- Is Trichotillomania Genetic?
- Trichotillomania in Movies: Hair Pulling on the Big Screen
If you have any topics you would like covered, let me know! I write about what interests me or what I think people would be interested in knowing about. So, drop me a comment down below if you have any good ideas you’d like explored 🙂
Comment & Chat
Do you agree with what I’ve said? Do you, too, wish the “mania” part of trichotillomania was changed? Do you think awareness is the answer to erasing stigma and opening up more avenues for communication? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads for more BFRB goodies. As always, thanks for reading and take care. xx Rexie
OCD UK, “Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder)”
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