Many physicians and even mental health care providers do not know about these disorders. They ostracize or act in disgust toward their clients upon hearing the about compulsive skin picking, hair pulling, nail biting and related behaviours which causes further suffering and isolation in the lives of many Canadians.
On January 17, 2014, my hair and my head were in rough shape. I would say that about half of my hair was gone. After ten years of struggling with trichotillomania, I had reached a breaking point. The evening before, I had begged my father through tears to get his electric razor and shave all my hair off. My scalp burned and itched, my hands shook with the need to pull out whatever was remaining. Mom and dad gave excellent council and told me to sleep, and to make my final decision after my (VERY timely) therapy appointment the next day. After my appointment, I had made my choice.
For the past six years I have been a vocal advocate about a disorder that not many people have heard of: dermatillomania. This means that I have been compulsively picking at my skin for years without any end in sight of how to break free of this chronic condition.
I will tell you that I know you've tried what feels like everything to create a tolerable existence, but it hasn't worked thus far. I also know that you have hoarded your past expired medications in your toy hamper waiting for this day when you finally get "the nerve" to go through with ending it all. Please don't let today be your last, I want you to experience what it's like to smile for real again and you'll be taking that opportunity away.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like for a film crew to follow you day in and day out, documenting your daily rituals all in an effort to create a successful film? I have a chronic condition called Dermatillomania, which has left me scarred and disfigured on the outside, alienated and "different" on the inside.
I am just one of the millions of people in Canada who has a condition called Trichotillomania, a.k.a. Hair Pulling Disorder. These conditions are also under the umbrella term Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours. In Canada, there are currently only two doctors who treat these conditions, and they have waiting lists for up to a year or more. This is unacceptable.
"I never knew this was a problem until I read that skin picking is a disorder- so there's something wrong with me?" The answer to this is no. If you have went through life unscathed by your skin picking until an article brought it to your attention, then you addressing it as an issue will only undermine those of us who face scrutiny, even by the mental health community.
At the age of 12, I developed a disorder called Trichotillomania, also known as "Hair Pulling Disorder". Trichotillomania is defined as an irresistible urge to pull out hair from one's scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of the body, resulting in noticeable bald spots/patches. It is classified as a Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour, and roughly 1 to 2 million Canadians live with one. It's time to spread awareness.