Stephanie is 24 years old and lives in Virginia. She’s had Trichotillomania for 3 years but recently realized she likely had a BFRB for much longer. In her own words, Stephanie shares how she is Conquering with Keen Awareness.
I have Trichotillomania, but I recently realized that my journey with Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) started with Dermatillomania. I used to pick my skin. Every time I had even the smallest blackhead, I would spend hours in front of the mirror picking at my skin. But after I found treatment for my skin, I was no longer a skin picker. Instead, I became a hair puller.
At first I would only pull my hair at home so I was not too concerned. Then, it became worse. I was pulling my hair in public and while I was in class, and I could not just stop. It was not that simple. It got to the point where I would have to shave underneath my hair because I had bald spots. When I went to the hairdresser to get a trim, it was embarrassing to explain why my hair underneath was either gone or a million different lengths from pulling it out.
I started nursing school and we were told that we had to keep our hair up. I was embarrassed because I knew people would then see the bald spots and the habit I had been trying to hide. I wanted to wear my hair up in cute styles even outside of school and clinicals, but it was embarrassing. I felt isolated from my peers because I thought everyone could see it and was talking about me. I did not want to go out in public and I felt ashamed of myself for not being able to “just stop” pulling my hair out. My mother was concerned and kept telling me to just stop and I told her numerous times that it was not that simple, but I knew she did not understand.
My life practically revolved around my hair pulling. If I was sitting in my car at a stoplight and pulling, I would wait until I had the hair in my hand before I allowed the vehicle to move through the green light with people behind me, beeping their horns. I did not tell many people. I was alone.
I decided to look for a Trichotillomania solution after discussing options with my psychologist. She told me to put a rubber band on my wrist and snap it when I felt like pulling. When that did not work she told me to hold a piece of ice in my hand so it would somehow turn off the urge in my brain to pull because my hand would become wet, cold, and even a little numb. I was also told to keep telling myself “hair belongs on my head,” but nothing worked.
I wanted to be a normal young woman who could put my hair up and enjoy different hairstyles, but I couldn’t. I had bald spots underneath my hair. When these options did not work, I turned to my psychiatrist who I was already seeing for anxiety, ADHD, and OCD disorders. She put me on different medications that are used for OCD, but none of them worked.
The final straw came when she handed me a prescription for Naloxone, which is the generic name for Narcan – the opioid antidote drug. I could not believe it. I did not have a drug problem nor had I ever had a drug problem. So that evening instead of filling the prescription, I started to search online. I typed in “Trichotillomania” and went from there. Suddenly, HabitAware appeared after I searched for “Help with hair pulling.”
I went to the HabitAware website on my laptop and it has since changed my life. It was a non-pharmacological measure, and if it did not work, they offered a 90-day money back guarantee. I had nothing to lose. I asked for my HabitAware Keen bracelet for Christmas and it was the best gift I received. I downloaded the app on my phone and I set up Keen. It was super simple and easy to do!
I wear my bracelet every day and no one questions it because it looks like a fitness bracelet. I love the way the bracelet looks and the fact that I am the only one who feels the vibration to know when it is alerting me. They say it takes 21 days to correct a bad habit. I have been wearing it longer than that and my hair is finally starting to grow. I may even be ready to wear my hair up this summer!
Keen has completely changed my life physically, mentally, and emotionally. I no longer pull out my hair. I may always have the tendencies to pick and pull my hair out, but Keen reminds me to put my hand down. I am no longer looking over my shoulder thinking someone is talking badly about me. I live in peace now. I am no longer embarrassed or self-conscious about putting my hair into a ponytail, or trying to hide my bad habit. My life is crazier than ever with graduation in just a few months, but with Keen I am calmer and less anxious.
I have already recommended Keen to others. My psychiatry office is learning more about Keen. I have recommended it to coworkers, friends, and other family members. When they see how much my hair has grown underneath, they are in complete shock to see how much a bracelet has impacted my life. I am truly thankful for Keen!
And we’re thankful for you, too, Stephanie! Thank you for sharing your story and giving strength to our community!
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Together with Abbe Greenberg and Maggie Sarachek, of the Anxiety Sisters, and Lauren McKeaney of PickingME Foundation we recorded a podcast to share treatments for body focused repetitive behaviors like trichotillomania and dermatillomania, along with our mental health stories.
It's important that Keen fits snugly. Here's a quick guide to help you decide which bracelet size to order: