Why don't I pull any hairs on vacation? Why do my hair pulling urges get stronger on vacation?

Why don't I pull any hairs on vacation? Why do my hair pulling urges get stronger on vacation?

If you’ve got chronic hair pulling, AKA Trichotillomania, you’ve probably experienced periods of fluctuations in the frequency of your urges. Maybe your urges were worse while you’re going through a particularly stressful period at work or school. Maybe they lighten up while you’ve got a busy week and are spending less time at home. Either way, it can be confusing when your Trichotillomania suddenly gets worse or better for seemingly no reason. 

Surprisingly, your urges might experience a major swing during vacation, a time typically associated with relaxation. We’ve seen hundreds of people in the Trichotillomania community share this same sentiment. For some, vacation might be a period of stronger urges, or of fewer urges, but it’s interesting to note that vacations are a precarious time if you’ve got a body-focused repetitive behavior! Let’s explore why that might be. 

Trichotillomania is influenced by various factors including stress, anxiety, and environmental changes. Why is this? Your Trichotillomania urges are deeply intertwined with your mental health, and are a manifestation of how your nervous system is dealing with over or under stimulation. Here’s the thing, hair pulling serves a purpose. It just doesn’t serve you well. Hair pulling is your body’s default self-soothing mechanism. If your nervous system feels off-balanced, by stress, tiredness, excitement, or whatever else - your subconscious mind will do whatever it can to reach homeostasis. For people with Trichotillomania that tool is hair pulling. Unfortunately, the consequences of hair pulling (sore wrists, bald spots, and shame) exacerbate the triggers: stress and worry. That’s why these conditions are so difficult to manage, and why sometimes a vacation from work might not feel like a vacation for our mental health. Whichever you experience, it’s nice to go into a vacation with the awareness that it will affect your urges. 

Why vacation might make your hair pulling urges worse

A vacation is an interruption of your routines. Structure and healthy habits can really help with Trichotillomania management. If you’re taken out of your routines, the irregular schedule of a vacation could destabilize your nervous system. 

There are also potential stressors involved in a vacation. Tight flight schedules, coordinating groups of people, etc. These too could result in your subconscious mind reaching for self-soothing. 

Because vacation is a time to relax, the act of relaxing itself might be a trigger for you. That doesn’t mean don’t relax! It just means go into the vacation armed with the knowledge that your nervous system wants to regulate and calm down, and the way that it knows how to do that best involves hair pulling. If you are already in an agitated state, and your body wants to relax more “efficiently,” it might reach for your hair. 

Knowing that all of these are reactions your body might have to free time on vacation helps you prepare for a situation where you might have worse urges. Pack what you need to help manage your behavior, grab a fidget for relaxation times, hand lotion to make it harder to pull, whatever you might need. 

Why vacation might lessen your hair pulling urges 

If your routines aren’t working for you, or you’re feeling overly stressed and your body needs a break, you might not experience a single pulling urge on vacation. 

A welcome break from your everyday life might also be a welcome break from body-focused repetitive behavior urges. If that happens, you can take it as a sign that your mental health is in need of some attention throughout your regular schedule.

When you return to work or school, try to schedule breaks into your day, and work on getting rid of stressors that might be triggering hair pulling urges.

In conclusion: pay attention to what your body needs!

Vacations are a time for you to reconnect with yourself, and your mental and physical health. They can present unique struggles to people with hair pulling disorder, making it important to go into your vacation prepared for urges and to use that time to consider how your body is feeling and what you need when you come back from vacation.

Keen2 Bracelet and Companion App

Be prepared for anything, work OR for vacation, by using the Keen2 smart bracelet. The Keen2 smart bracelet vibrates when it detects you pulling, giving you the awareness that your body is trying to self-soothe. Use it as a prompt to reach for a healthier self-soothing strategy. The companion app keeps track of your vibrations so that you can analyze your data, recognize triggers, and plan accordingly!


Header image by Sean Oulashin on Unsplash

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