Therapy and Trichotillomania: An Inside Perspective

by Abby Leora Rohrer

After spending fourteen years in counseling, working on my emotional pain and (sporadically) my compulsive hair pulling, twelve years ago I took my process solitary and learned how to heal myself.

I had never gone into counseling specifically about my hair pulling problem because I simply wasn't comfortable in discussing it, though I did bring it up on occasion over those years. Instead I repeatedly showed up complaining of inner emotional pain and chronic relationship issues with my former husband. In fact, all of these issues were connected but were never resolved as a result of counseling.

For a long time after I healed myself I was angry about my experience in therapy.  Angry that it took me so long to rely on myself, angry at my therapists for not being able to "fix" me, and angry at a culture that teaches that we can't be trusted with our own "inner space." My anger served me; it helped to motivate me and got me moving on saving myself.

What I didn't realize was that back then, counselors were not on the lookout for the hidden addictions that might be operating in a client's life. I guess I was just a little in front of that kind of therapeutic awareness.

My mission now is to help other chronic hairpullers to heal.  I've come to see that there is so much more that can be done to help.  Many a caring therapist has  contacted me who wanted to be a part of the solution but who lacked the knowledge to make it happen.  In large part, this is because there is a great deal of misinformation available about what causes compulsive behaviors in general and about how to concretely help end trichotillomania.

Because of this I'd like to share with you how all of that therapy could have been more useful and productive for me.

In my experience, one of the biggest myths about compulsive hair pulling is that it is an illness rather than an addiction. I'm not saying that the solution can be found in the conventional addiction model but the awareness of hair pulling's addictive nature can move one another step into the healing process. This is crucially important for me to mention because a big roadblock to healing my hair pulling was that none of my therapists addressed my addictive nature.  Because of this, it took me far too many  years to realize that I had any ability whatsoever to positively impact my situation. 

From this side of compulsive hair pulling, it is my opinion that the issue of addiction (taking personal responsibility) vs. compulsion (I am a victim of my baffling disorder) should be the very first conversation to be had with every trichotillomania sufferer.

Contrary to conventional addiction thinking, once I became aware of the positive implications of seeing my problem in part as an addiction, I did not make myself stop pulling or try to control it in any way.  Instead, I "wrapped my head" around my now conscious feelings and allowed myself to respect them for what they were; new awareness.  Because I viewed it in this way rather than further shaming myself, I was able to see that my hair pulling was a useful coping tool and that I was gaining a benefit from doing it. This cleared the way for real healing to surface. 

It would have helped me a great deal if I had been able to partner with someone knowledgeable about my inner process.  In doing so, I believe that my own healing would have gone more quickly, without so much need for trial and error and I would likely have built a level of trust with a counselor that I was never quite able to achieve.

Instead, my therapists tried to help me to address my childhood and family history and to seek an alternative (but healthier) habit to replace the hair pulling. It never worked and therapy for me became a revolving door and another addiction to seeking answers  outside of myself.

If you are a compulsive hairpuller who has tried therapy for your hair pulling without positive results, you may want to share and discuss this article with your counselor. If you are a counselor with a hair pulling client, I hope you will carefully (because hair pullers are so sensitive) broach the subject of addiction early on with your client or refer them to this website to read more about my experience of healing from trichotillomania.

This article discusses the principles in Lesson 1 of the Pull-Free, At Last! System.  For a deeper explanation of this topic and how it applies to healing compulsive hair pulling, please refer to my complete Pull-Free, At Last! System materials.

If you’re a hair pulling woman, you may wish to research TrichotillomaniaFree Women’s University where I teach the deeper lessons of how to stop your self-judgment and hair pulling for good.

If you’d like more help to stop hair pulling you can visit my 123TrichotillomaniaFree web site which discusses my book, What's Wrong With Pulling My Hair Out? It's a great place to begin. It is also available from this website and can be purchased right now using this order link >> What's Wrong With Pulling My Hair Out?

If you’re an adult male hair puller or a woman hair puller without internet access who is ready to commit to your freedom, you may wish to consider the Pull-Free, At Last! System available at

If you’d like more help to help your child stop hair pulling you can visit my HairPullingChild web site which discusses my book, Why Won't My Child Stop Hair Pulling?   It's a great place to begin. It is also available from this website and can be purchased right now using this order link >> Why Won't My Child Stop Hair Pulling?