I Don't Want to Live the Rest of My Life Addicted to Pulling My Hair Out

Published: August 23, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
sorry in advance if this is long because it probably will be but I just want to make sure I'm getting everything I need to say, said. so it's kind of gross and weird but for the past six months maybe a little bit over that I've been pulling out my hair on purpose, specifically my pubic hair. it started when I was in the shower and I had an itch on my tummy so obviously I scratched it but my nails went a little too far and I pulled out a couple of pubic hairs accidentally. it wasn't too much but it was enough to hurt a little bit. I didn't think much of it and I finished my shower. I don't really know why or how I decided to purposely pull them out but I know it was soon after that incident probably within a week or less. before I pull out the hair, I almost always am feeling nervous or on edge, sad, or bored which is more or less when it occurs but it can really happen any time because half of the time I don't even realize I'm doing it until I notice I have pubic hairs on my hand. sometimes I start pulling when I'm using the bathroom but most of the time I do it when it originally started which is in the shower. most of the time I don't actually pull the hair but I rub my hand really firmly against it not masturbating but just firmly rubbing my hand against the hair and/or combing my fingers through the hair. it feels like a tug but it doesn't really hurt to me it honestly feels good to me and almost soothes me and when it hurts, I almost feel like I'm doing "the job" right even though I know that's horrible. I get this sense of relief whenever I pull it out, but then I start to feel kind of guilty and grossed out and I throw the hair away and always wash my hands afterwards because I'm kind of a germ freak. now considering I obviously can't pull out my pubic hair whenever I want, I've grown used to gently tugging on my eyelashes or grabbing a large chunk of the hair on my head and just tugging on it, which has started to become a thing in my everyday life, like sometimes I'll notice that my hand has been on my head the entire class or my mom will tell me to stop pulling out my eyelashes when I'm watching tv. I've never pulled out my eyelashes or head hair and I've never pulled out enough pubic hair to really make much of a difference because I'm sort of a late bloomer and my pubic hair is nowhere close to being fully developed like it just grew out of that "tiny barely noticeable whisker like type hair" but sometimes when I separate the hair I can see noticeable bald spots, and I've never even let the hair more towards my butt area grow because I've never stopped rubbing off the hair. so I guess it does make much of a difference. I think that shaving the area would likely help me to stop mostly because plucking at stubble really disturbs me for some reason, but at the same time I don't think I'm responsible enough to take care of a newly shaved area that is that sensitive at least not yet. I'm also scared that if I shave my pubic hair that the hair pulling will worsen towards my eyelashes and my head. because you can shave your pubic hair, you can't take off your eyelashes or shave your head unless you want to which I don't. at the moment I don't have enough money to get a therapist of any sort and I feel really uncomfortable telling anyone even if it weren't mostly directed toward my pubic hair I think I would still feel the same because nobody really wants to hear that a teenage child is pulling out their hair and likes it when it hurts. I really don't want to live the rest of my life being addicted to pulling out my hair but I don't really know where to start. I'm sorry that this is so long but PLEASEEE help.
Signed: I Don't Want to Live the Rest of My Life Addicted to Pulling My Hair Out

Dear I Don't Want to Live the Rest of My Life Addicted to Pulling My Hair Out,

TeenHealthFX wants to start by saying that we are glad you reached out to us about this. You do not have to apologize about your message being long. What you have to say is important, so we were more than happy to read through everything you had to say. We also want to assure you that there is nothing “weird” or “gross” about what you described. You are definitely not alone in this issue and you have your reasons for feeling compelled to do this – so try and go easy on yourself and have some compassion for yourself.

There are two main issues here. The first is that the behavior you are describing is compulsive in nature – meaning that it can be very hard to stop the behavior even if we want to. The second is whatever anxiety or agitation you are experiencing that is leading you to pull your hair out. To deal with these issues, FX recommends the following:

It would be really helpful for you to speak to a therapist about what is going on with you to deal with compulsive nature of the behavior and whatever agitation is contributing to it. If you have concerns about cost, a school counselor or your medical doctor would be able to talk to you about options in your area where you could receive mental health services despite any financial constraints. FX can appreciate from what you said that the idea of talking to someone about this feels scary. It sounds like it is hard for you to imagine that anyone will care about what you are going through and offer you compassion and understanding. But FX wants to assure you that any reputable health professional knows you are not alone in hair pulling (no matter where on your body) and will want to better understand what you are feeling and experiencing that leads you to the hair pulling so that the agitation you are feeling (and subsequent hair-pulling) will decrease.

FX also thinks it would be helpful for you to find ways to deal with whatever agitation, stress or anxiety you are dealing with. Two great ways to do this would be through daily physical exercise and meditation. As for exercise, think about what you like to do and make sure to do it every day. Whether it is going swimming, biking, walking, running or whatever else interests you – it is important to get your body moving on a daily basis to work off some of that anxiety and stress. As for the meditation, you could check with your school nurse or school counselor if they know of classes in your area that teach meditation. You could also try some of the free guided meditations from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. This would also be something helpful to do on a daily basis.

TeenHealthFX can appreciate how hard it is to reach out for help, especially if you are concerned you will not be able to rely on others to be caring and understanding about what you are going through. However, FX knows there are people out there who will want to be helpful to you. We also know that you will have a much better chance of effectively dealing with these issues if you have the support and guidance from trusted adults. So please reach out for help as soon as possible.  

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Signed: TeenHealthFX