Friday, February 1, 2008
Medical Reports: Urge to Pull
For many women, their hair is an important part of their identity, but, for some, it can become an obsession that leads to an unusual disorder. In today's Healthcast, Seven's Christine Cruz shows us why playing with your hair could be more than just a bad habit.
WSVN -- Julie Cerrito: "Because I always had long hair, I had a fascination with playing with my hair."
In her early 20s, Julie's fascination with her long locks turned into a disorder known as trichotillomania. It started with pulling out gray hairs but soon got out of control.
Julie Cerrito: "Because of years of doing it, I do have areas of hair that permanently won't grow back."
Experts aren't sure what causes people to pull, but some patients say they feel relief of tension or anxiety. Others say they do it out of boredom.
Dr. Ben Johnson: "It's crucial we figure out what that individual's getting out of it in the short term, so we can find other ways to help get their needs met."
Julie believes stress triggers her hair-pulling, and, now, after years of traditional therapy, she's undergoing cognitive therapy.
Dr. Ben Johnson: "We help people learn to identify the urge early, to be aware of the urge before they start pulling and engage in what we call a competing response."
For this mom, it means using two hands while reading and getting help with chores from her children, and, now, Julie's learned that positive distractions help her resist the urge to pull.
Julie Cerrito: "But to say that you pull out your hair is just so strange, that's why there is a veil of secrecy."
By ending that secrecy, she hopes she and others can get the help they need to stop.
Christine Cruz: "Experts say people are usually diagnosed around age 12. However, the disorder can affect those as old as seventy or as young as one."
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