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The Stigma of Trichophagia - Eating Hair

July 2, 2013 Guest Author

I'm Sandy Rosenblatt. I have trichotillomania and I want to come clean about something.

When I first decided to blog about trichotillomania, I was very clear with myself. I knew what I would write about and what I wouldn’t. I knew I had no problem being vulnerable, sharing my own story. I also had no issue writing blogs that were fact-based. I did, however, make a conscious decision of what I, 100%, would not include. I was not going to write a single sentence about one of the possible behaviors that one may have with trichotillomania. I was absolutely NOT going to include anything about eating hair. (trichotillomania symptoms)

I promised myself I wouldn't write about trichophagia, eating hair - even though I have trichotillomania.The name for eating one’s hair is trichophagia, and I actually have no problem with it. It is a behavior that manifests in some people with trichotillomania, that just never did in me. There’s no reason why I don’t. Similar to the fact that I pull out all of my upper eyelashes and my friend Sarah does not (she has the most beautiful long eyelashes that I’ve ever seen), it just so happens that I don’t eat my hair after I pull it out, and others do.

Trichophagia. Not Me!

Why was it, then, that I refused to write about it?

When I first took a look at this, I brushed it off. Of course I wouldn’t write about trichophagia. I have no experience with it. Why not leave that for someone who does?

Except that I know myself pretty well and I knew that was really just a cop-out. Something else lay underneath.

As I peeled back a layer, I realized I was b.s.ing myself. What was really there was this: it is estimated that between 5-20% of those with trichotillomania display trichophagia, and I didn’t want readers to assume I was one of that 5-20%. Now, that didn’t feel good to see, but it was true.

What also didn’t feel good was that while I had spent many years feeling shame about having trich (effects of pulling out hair), I thought I’d moved past all of those feelings. The fact that I felt ashamed about one of the symptoms (that I didn’t even have!) highlighted the fact that I still feel some sort of embarrassment. Even worse, I want people to look at me like they would anyone else. I want people to treat me with kindness, compassion and understanding. Not only do I want that for myself, but I want it for everyone with the disorder. That is my whole drive behind The Trich Opportunity Blog.

Yet instead of accepting those with trichophagia, I was shaming them by choosing to distance myself from that symptom of the disorder. Distancing myself allowed me to disassociate from all of the painful memories I experienced growing up. I could forget that I was called "freak" on a daily basis. I could forget that I was bullied in school.

Standing Up For Those With Trichophagia

No More Stigma, No More Shame

But here is the truth: those are all just that – memories. And memories are not what is happening in my life today. I’m no longer a little girl being made fun of, with no skills to stand up for herself. I am now a grown-ass woman who is proud of herself. I’m thrilled with who I’ve become and pleased that I’ve chosen to reveal my true self and my life living with Trich.

So I'd like to make a new agreement with you, my readers, including those of you with trichophagia: I give up the right to feel ashamed that I have trichotillomania. I give up the right to go into my little girl and allow myself to feel like a “freak.” I give up the right to separate myself from anyone else walking around with the disorder, no matter what signs and symptoms any of us have or don’t have. I swear to love myself and everyone else with the disorder and treat all of us with the kindness, and understanding that we deserve.

Finally, I promise to bring myself fully. No matter what topic is associated with trich, I promise to write about it so that each and every one of us is represented.

After all, we’re all in this. Together.

(If you have trichotillomania or any other mental health disorder, come join the Stand Up for Mental Health Campaign. Put a SU4MH button on your blog or website or a cover on your Facebook, Twitter or Google+ profile. Let others know that you're done with mental health stigma.)

This article was written by:

Sandy RosenblattSandy Rosenblatt has been living with trichotillomania for 32 years. After tiring of being ashamed and suffering alone, she chose to leave the shadows and come out and share her story in the public eye. "I am here to let others know that they are perfect exactly like they are AND exactly like they are not. I am here to listen and share my story. I am here to be the person I always wished I had had in my life. I am here to eradicate the shame around trich. I am here to love myself and all of you. I was meant to be a voice."

Sandy's blog: The Trich Opportunity. You can also find Sandy on Twitter.

To be a guest author on the Your Mental Health Blog, go here.

APA Reference
Author, G. (2013, July 2). The Stigma of Trichophagia - Eating Hair, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, April 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/yourmentalhealth/2013/07/the-stigma-of-trichophagia-eating-hair



Author: Guest Author

Ann
July, 7 2020 at 4:46 pm

Does anyone know if there are dangers to chewing (very) small bits of hair?

Laura
March, 27 2020 at 11:48 pm

Okay I am 16 years old and it started when I was 7. I was 7 and my sister was using tweezers to pick out stray eyebrows in the mirror, and the moment she left i did the same. At first it was pulling and 3 days later i began to eat. I pulled out all of my eyebrows and eyelashes, continued to do that until 9th grade. I try and leave my eyebrows and eyelashes alone but it's hard, I still give into temptation sometimes. Now my new addiction is pulling out my pubic hair and eating it. It is horrible but i like feeling of pulling it, crunching it up in my mouth. It hurts though sometimes the hair manages to get stuck in between my teeth, in my gums, ect.
I can't say for sure if seeing my sister use the tweezers started this or if me being sexually abused is to take the blame. I am trying to stop and it isn't easy I am currently 0 days clean and my longest record was a week. I just found out this was a mental condition I don't know how to even talk about to my family, friends, psychologist, doctor, I feel so weird knowing I do it, and i can't begin to imagine how disgusted my family will be if they found out. If anyone has any tips about how to stop or even talk about the subject with friends and family I could really use them.

Nikki
November, 18 2020 at 5:55 am

Hello. I'm 17, I've been doing it for a while. I've always read about people eating hair, eye brows, and eyelashes, but I've never read anything about pubic hairs. I always was ashamed because I thought I was the only one. I felt weird and i haven't told anyone. I'm glad I saw this today. It really helped me feel like I'm not alone. Also I think you might be right, I was sexually abused and that might be what causes the urge.
I've tried hard not to because last Thanksgiving I got really sick and was in a lot of pain. It lasted for 2 weeks and I lost 20 pounds. I went to the doctor but I was so ashamed to tell them that they couldn't help me. I dont know if I could even tell them now if it were to happen. It will take me awhile but hopefully i won't be ashamed anymore.
Again thank you for sharing, it helped me out alot.

Nicola
December, 22 2018 at 6:08 am

I have been pulling and eating the hair from the age of 7 im now 32 years old ive not pulled for two days and im going to try to stop and keep my hands busy else where .also new years resolution get to the doctor speak with her to get help and demand a scan.stay strong peeps theres nothing to feel ashamed about its about opening up to how u feel and when your ready to stop.only u can do it .good luck to u all.x

A. Verma
October, 14 2018 at 5:04 am

I'm also suffering from that problem since I'm 22years n I don't know how to get rid of that I don't have much expanses to treat that type disorder if someone have suggestions regarding that plz suggest me that things

Lori M Flynn
September, 14 2017 at 2:13 pm

I have Asbergers and apparently it comes with the territory ?

Mansoor
September, 15 2016 at 5:05 pm

Hi, i am 27 ...i have been pulling my hands hair with my mouth since 9 years..before tricophagia i shaved my hands just for fun ....and when touch the routes of my hands hair with my lips it felt very joufull like a addiction...and then slowly slowly i started to pull out my hands hair with my teeths...i don't swallow them i just chew them..i can't stop myself to do that...it has become addiction for me...when i get depressed i do it more... I don't know what to do ..is there any medication or therapy to stop this...plz do inform me i want to get rid of this ...

Ray
September, 14 2016 at 11:03 pm

I have suffered since I was 3 years old, and in 2015 i had a large hairball removed by laparotomy, i am now 18 and am still pulling and eating my hair.

Ed
June, 19 2016 at 8:06 am

As a child I had severe dandruff, and would pick and chew thick flakes, with tiny snips of my front teeth. This changed to hair pulling, seeking out thick hairs with the root bulb. There would be a special "goody!" emotion when I got a thick hair with a big root bulb. These also were snipped with the front teeth, always the same teeth. As a young man I discovered that moustache hairs were especially satisfying to chew. I would grow a moustache, then pluck and chew, trying to spread out the hair loss over several weeks. Eventually I would shave and give my lip time to regrow. During those times, eyebrows became my hair of choice.
Over the years I have had times of heavy or light plucking, sometimes stopping for a few months. Eventually I had to have my front tooth recapped, and this may have helped, as since then the snipping is not as satisfying as it used to be. I've given up on growing moustaches and my eyebrows no longer produce the thick hairs that I loved to chew. At 67 years old I still pluck and nibble a few hairs a day, but don't often get into the hypnotic bliss that chewing used to produce. I don't expect I'll ever be entirely free of this behavior, but I have made peace with it, and with myself.
I want to express my deepest compassion to all who struggle with these baffling behaviors, and urge you to get on with your lives. I friend of mine has severe trichotillomania, has plucked herself bald since her mid-twenties. She also has a loving husband and daughter, and is a leading children's art teacher. Love yourself and do the best you can, don't require perfection!

Evita
June, 15 2016 at 4:06 pm

My birthday is tomorrow, I have trich for 30 years now, and it started when I was 16. So I have a long battle behind me, failing most of the time, but I'm going to stop it tomorrow. No more hair pulling and no more hair eating. I know how to do it, and I want to share it with you. If you're a teenager, do not worry. I know how hard it is when you're young and the way you look is so important. Even havig trich you can have a wonderful and successful life, and you should NEVER give up. I graduated, did my PhD, got married and have 2 kids. A house, a dog and a cat. My dreams came true.. But nobody ever knew about my problem, that I've always been so ashamed of. But being so scared helped me to control myself in public places. In the first years I didn't know there were other people like me. Thank you for sharing your stories – we should do it to support each other. Interestingly, my hairpulling stopped twice with no effort, and it happened when I was pregnant. And that made me think. I repeated the behaviour but there suddenly was a change in the circle. The taste. I suddenly didn't like it, and it made me stop. I still pulled my hair for a while but there was no need to do it anymore, the automatic way of repeating was disturbed, and it just stopped. I do understand now, that eating hair is my reward. And to brake a vicious circle I must stop touching my mouth with the hair that I pull, and stop playing with it. I did succeed once - was free for one year but then let myself do it again. And I lost control. It really is an addiction so no turning back when you manage to stop. If you have control - do not waste it. First hair is like a first cigarette after you quit smoking. Maybe someone will find this helpful - just set the date, make it a special day, and since then on - any single hair pulled should never be focused on, never put any close to your mouth. Even if you think - what a waste, it’s already pulled so what the difference..? Just try not to focus on your pulled hair at all, and it may help. At least to some, like me. Write about it. And do not eat sweets instead!

Bill
March, 27 2016 at 7:09 pm

I started biting the hair off my arms when I was 11. It progressed to pulling from my head and grinding into small bits. very odd behavior but I have been doing it for 52 years. i am still alive no stomach issues ever so i think everyone will should be fine. My episodes come and go but never seem to fully leave. GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE

Dasiy
December, 11 2015 at 10:46 pm

I have been eating hair since I was in the fifth grade. I'm now 20 and I'm still doing it. I want to stop but the triggers of it get me everyday. I'm also pulling my hair out and eating it and so with my pets. It's beyond awful and my spouse has tried to help but I'm so ashamed . Just something that is beyond hard to kick.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Cleire
March, 26 2018 at 2:32 am

I totally understand you. I'm 19 and I've been doing it since I was born... I only started chewing it when I was around 12 I think. It's horrible but I feel i cant stop it. But I found something that helps... Just imagine pulling it out, dont pull it, just imagine. It sorta helps to resist the urge. Good luck x

joanie long
October, 21 2015 at 6:26 pm

I'm now, 56, I look back, I first started pulling my hair out, when I was in high school, at 17, I was abused at school, physically, and made fun of, and so was my friends. I lived in fear everyday. That's what started it. Throughout my life I have done it off and on, my parents would just yell at me and say quit pulling you hair out
. I would stop on and off over the years, and was ashamed of my thin hair. It took me years to finally, stop this behavior. I'm on medication for depression and anxiety, because mow my hair is kinda long and thick, there are still spots that are thin. I get worse or want to pull it out when really stressed, but doing pretty good on Prozac. I look back if I wasn't bullied and abused at school in the 1970's I probably would have never done it, I will never recover from the abuse, and still being abused now in a naraccist relationship. Which I'm ending mow, what can I do where do I turn ?

Ashli
October, 16 2015 at 1:39 pm

I have a 5.5 inch scar from a hairball and ulser in my stomach. I hate to break it to you all but you need to get it fixed before you almost die. Death feels like you can not take deep breaths and it feels like someones trying to rip out your organs.

Rongo start
April, 2 2015 at 2:55 am

I'm 16 and I've has it for about 3 years and it calms me down, I like to run the root bulb against my lips and then eat it, I only eat the thick hairs though. It calms me down when I am stressed out.

Erin
March, 29 2015 at 7:43 am

I am 33 years old, and have had trichophagia since I was about 7or 8. I didn't start pulling until I was 12 or 13. I quickly ended up with a small bald spot and tried to quit. This is the first time I've actually looked it up and put a name to it. I only nibble on the few millimetres of root tips from my own pulled hair, not anyone else's or even the entire strand, and I haven't noticed any digestive issues.
I seem to do it more often when I'm stressed or tense. Lately, I've been dealing with anxiety and depression and noticed a huge increase in my hair-pulling and root-eating episodes. I'm now taking anti-depressant meds and it seems to be helping. I still find myself going there from time to time, but doing less pulling, and when I notice it I am able to stop myself. I don't really have any advice to offer, except that it seems related to underlying psychological/neurological issues. I'm a Type-A overachiever with severe insecurity issues recently diagnosed with an anxiety-depression disorder. Eventually, I realized I had a choice: sit by and let shit happen, or do something about it. I'm running my fingers through my hair even as I write this, feeling for a good strand likely to have a sizeable root bulb, but am resisting the urge to pull.
It's like any addiction I think, even if you can quit you're in recovery for the rest of your life.

hannah
February, 12 2015 at 4:54 am

my name is Hannah I am 17 years old and have had trichophagia since I was 11.. I have no hair on the left side of my head and i have a bald spot on the top of my head and on the right side from picking it all out. I have been to countless therapy, counselling, psychiatrists and different people that have tried to help me, nothing works. the urge is to strong I just cant stop. I have been seeing another lady at the hospital that is trying to help me but its the same shit as before. she tells me the same shit and asks me the same stuff. i don't know why i cant stop, its controlling my life. if this lady doesn't help me i don't know what im going to do anymore, i cant go on like this, i care so much about my appearance, i have to wear stupid clip in hair ectensions every day which leave my head so sore and its painful, doing my hair every morning sucks, having to worry about it all day is the worst. i cant go swimming, i don't even have enough hair to cover the hair extension clips so i probably look stupid with clips showing. people have no idea what i go through everyday. i have my school year 12 formal coming up in a month and im probably going to have to wear a wig, i cant even wear my hair down for my year 12 formal. all my friends talk about "my hair looks gross today" "i wonder what im going to do with my hair for formal"
its just not fair that we have to go through this. i probably eat about 40 hairs a day, god knows if i have a hair ball in my tummy. i just don't know what to do anymore, i cant live like this anymore, i also suffer from huge anxiety problems and depression, some days i want to end my life so bad but my parents have no idea. don't worry though i would never do that to them. i don't know what to do, if someone has been cured please please please help me

Tani
January, 29 2015 at 12:28 pm

I'm 19 years old and I've had trichotillomania for 9 years. I had no idea what thrich was till a few nights ago when I came across it. And just now I've come across trichophagia. I've never eaten my hair but I have eaten the root of my hair.. should I be concerned? And does this mean I also have trichophagia? thanks

Shilo
January, 12 2015 at 12:15 am

All I can say is, any little thing can trigger it. The trich started when I was about 8, and developed into trichophagia when I was 13. I am now 22 years old. When I was younger I had the most beautiful, long eyelashes. One day when I noticed one lash was longer than the others, I did what any typical 8 year old would do, get out the scissors. Cut half my lashes down to the nub, my first thought was "I'm a freak of nature!". That night I decided to pull out the remains of the cut lashes. One thing led to the next. Little did I know that that I was going to suffer the consequences for the next 14 years.

Brittany
December, 24 2014 at 8:56 am

This is my second year with tricophagia. I've been pulling my hair out and eating it ever since the ending of eighth grade and I just have to tell you, being a 16 year old girl with already millions of insecurities and just adding this really made me feel crappy about myself. I was angry and confused - still am angry and confused. I try to stop but I can't. As I am typing this my stomach is hurting really badly and I'm so scared knowing that I may have a hair ball in my stomach that could potentially be life threatening. To make matters worse, christmas is almost here and I don't want to ruin it with this mess. I've been having stomach pains for a little over 2 days now but if it continues after Christmas I plan to tell my mom. It'll be hard because I know how much money she's spent to get my hair to grow. Abd I know it's killing her not really knowing WHY my hair has broken off so badly. I really hope shes understanding and sympathetic about it because I don't know what i would do if she got mad with me or disgusted with me.
I'm just so scared.

Kat
December, 27 2013 at 4:33 am

I am 14 and I have been eating my hair since I was about 7 or 8 maybe, I eat it everyday and a lot of it. So far I haven't noticed any health problems although I am concerned I may be hurting myself in my stomach or my intestinal tracks perhaps. I'm too scared to tell my mum because I don't want to disappoint her Maybe she will think I'm crazy :( when I eat the hair I chew it up into extremely small pieces so it isn't as if I'm eating long strands but I'm still terrified of the consequences. I have never told anyone except my best friend and she is so supportive and I know she would never tell anyone but at the same time I'm scared I may need more help then her. :(

Sylvia
November, 25 2013 at 9:08 am

I have had Trichotillomania and Trichophagia for 25 years. So far, no symptoms have developed, and I keep telling myself the hair (which I chew into tiny pieces) is getting flushed out by what I eat at meals. It's not like I'm swallowing long strands, like what you find down your shower drain, but for all I know, I could be fooling myself. I finally 'fessed up to my doctor, but he really didn't have much to say about it. I don't know whether I should get a CT scan or not.

lisa
October, 27 2013 at 9:23 am

I have have never pulled my hair but typically after I brush my hair I eat the strands left on the brush. I've done that with other people's brushes as well. Sometimes I run my hand through my hair and eat any strand that naturally comes off... But I've never actually cut/pulled any out of my head.
I had never looked this up until today. I'm a bit scared about the health issues but I reckon if I chew it to small bits enough it will be fine, or sometimes I just chew it for a bit and spit it out.
I started doing it when I was about 11, I'm 21 now and I haven't had any problems. One day, as a teen, my mum found out and she totally flipped. But then, I don't really see anything wrong with it. It hasn't damaged my health or anything and I think I'm quite a sane person.

lauren
October, 15 2013 at 10:19 am

My daughter turned 2 october 1. We shaved her head sunday due to her having trich. She is consuming so much hair it was terrifying

Lyndsay
September, 23 2013 at 3:45 am

I think I have the same problem except I'm 16 and have been biting off the sides of my hair since I was like 11... When using went through a custody battle... Stress is what causes it for me and I can't stop. I'm also an extreme nail biter and skin picker... But now I'm afraid that if I've been ingesting my hair it could be causing some of my stomach problems

Sandy
July, 19 2013 at 12:00 pm

Could you go to another doctor that you would not have to see again to share this info so that you feel comfortable sharing it? Also TLC, I bet if you gave them a call, they could give you some suggestions also. I would definitely have it checked out to be safe. I also get why you feel the way that you do.

C
July, 19 2013 at 7:30 am

I have had Trichophagia since I was around 10, today is the first time that I have looked up information, I am 28 now and worry that all the bits of hair I have ate are going to cause me physical problems. I feel too ashamed to go to my doctor! No one knows about my problem. I feel if I went to the doctor or another professional that I would never want to see them again after I'd confessed. I don't know what to do.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Meghan
September, 28 2018 at 1:24 am

I had it when I was in the second grade but after a year I stopped up in tell this year in the 8th grade. I haven’t told anyone I’m doing it again bc I don’t want to make a huge deal. But I’m starting to see some baldness and I’m getting scared

Sandy
July, 3 2013 at 10:19 am

@Heather thank you for sharing that with all of us. I feel so sad knowing that people have to hide who they really are and fear how others may react. It would be so nice if we as people could be less judgemental and show some compassion.

Sandy
July, 2 2013 at 9:38 pm

Thank you TLC for sharing where people can go if they do have Trichophagia and where they can get more information.
Wendy I really appreciate you being open and sharing your experience with Trichophagia. I feel like we really do not see this spoken about as much. I wonder if it is due to shame or something else?

Heather
July, 2 2013 at 8:04 pm

I have had trichotillomania now for 16 years now. Even to the people closest to me they know about the pulling but never the eating. It is a silent shame that us with trichophagia have.

Wendy
July, 2 2013 at 6:04 pm

I used to engage in trichophagia and had to have my teeth replaced as it caused severe wearing down of certain teeth and damage to my bite. Have never seen tale of this anywhere else. Even as a mental health professional I admit to pulling but not to this.

Trichotillomania Learning Center
July, 2 2013 at 1:00 pm

Trichophagia can have serious and life-threatening consequences as hair is NOT digestible and can essentially cause severe intestinal blockage.
For more information and TLC's Suggested Recommendations Regarding Medical Assessment of Trichophagia (Hair Ingestion, please visit: http://www.trich.org/dnld/Trichophagia_2012-TLC.pdf

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