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My 12-year-old daughter is pulling out her hair!

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Dear Life Coach,

My 12-year-old daughter has been pulling her hair out. A small section is beginning to look thin and I am afraid that she may eventually become bald if she continues. I need help right away.{{more}}

Concerned Mom (CM)

Dear CM,

You are concerned that your daughter may become bald from hair pulling and you want to know what to do.

Your Situation:

Here are some factors that have contributed to your present situation: Trichotillomania – definition, causes, and treatment. I will address these briefly.

Definition of Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania refers to the recurrent, compulsive pulling out of one’s own hair (from the scalp or other body parts, using the fingers or small implements such as a tweezer), which often results in permanent hair loss or damage to the skin.

Causes of Trichotillomania

Prior to hair pulling, the individual is likely to experience tension and a strong urge to carry out the act, which is followed by a feeling of relief or pleasure. Hair pulling may occur when one is calm, stressed, angry, anxious, or sad. The behaviour may also be conscious or unconscious.

What to Do:

Reduce Stress in the Environment

Sometimes a child may find life on a whole too stressful, even when nothing is seemingly going wrong, because the day-to-day hassles may be experienced as being too much. Trauma caused by exposure to incidences of domestic violence, sexual, physical and emotional child abuse, being bullied, and loss of loved ones only serve to compound the situation. Figure out the potential trauma creating situation in your child’s life then seek to correct it. Do everything in your power to keep your daughter safe and calm in order to reduce her stress level. Also ensure that she is getting adequate sleep and exercise, and a balanced diet.

Determine the Cause of Trichotillomania

Talk with your daughter in order to determine the triggers of her hair pulling behaviour (stress, negative mood, or other factors). Find out what thoughts entered her mind just prior to hair pulling and what was happening in the environment. Keep a journal and note these events (for example, someone made a negative comment or asked her to do a task), as well as the time and the date. Also focus on the school environment and situations that may be stressful. Talk to both teachers and peers.

Protect your Daughter from Bullying and Stigma

Children are likely to make fun of your daughter’s hair pulling behaviour (and baldness if it occurs), which will in turn increase her stress level and hair pulling. It is therefore important to educate the school and the community about the illness and encourage them to assist, rather than ridiculing her.

Educate your Daughter about Trichtillomania

Explain to your daughter about the dangers of hair pulling and ask her to try to resist the urge.

Teach your Daughter New Coping Skills

Teach your daughter new skills of coping with stress; teach her how to distract herself by doing something else whenever she feels the urge to pull her hair, for example, eating a candy, counting to 300, reading a book, or talking to someone.

Constant Supervision

Your daughter should be supervised or monitored by a responsible adult at all times who is aware of the situation and who is able to provide re-direction or distraction with patience, love and tact (including at school) when she begins to pull her hair.

Set Up a Reward System

Once you have determined the cause of the hair pulling (thoughts and stressors) and the frequency, set up a reward system. So, if, for instance, hair pulling occurs every five minutes, ask her to resist pulling her hair for five minutes (and assist her to achieve this). When she succeeds, reward her by giving her a sweet treat (eg a candy). Do this often and reward her every time she is able to achieve non-hair pulling for five minutes. If done correctly, after a while she will associate non-hair pulling with a good experience (eating candy). If done over an extended period of time, she will eventually learn not to pull her hair. So, be patient. This takes time.

Increase your Knowledge Base

Read about the Trichotillomania (in books, pamphlets, Internet, etc) so that you are fully aware of the issues involved in order to adequately monitor your daughter.

Seek Treatment

Trichotillomania may be treated with cognitive behavioural and other forms of therapy, as well as medication. So, have your daughter assessed medically and psychologically.

CM, all the best, as you work with your daughter on this concerning issue.

Life Coach

Need help with relationship and other problems? Ask DYNACII’s Life Coach. Email your questions to dynacii@gmail.com. To chat with the Life Coach, visit: http://www.dynacinternational.com. Dynamic Action Center International Inc. (DYNACII) a non-governmental organization committed to social and spiritual empowerment.

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