In Need of Eyebrow Pencil

You ever heard of trichotillomania? It’s a disorder where someone pulls out their own hair — sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, sometimes just eyebrows & eyelashes, sometimes from the scalp or other areas of the body.

The Trichotillomania Learning Center defines the disorder thusly:

Trichotillomania (trick-o-til-o-MAY-nee-ah) is a disorder that causes people to pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic area, underarms, beard, chest, legs or other parts of the body, resulting in noticeable bald patches. Hair pulling varies greatly in its severity, location on the body, and response to treatment. For some people, at some times, trichotillomania is mild and can be quelled with a bit of extra awareness and concentration. For others, at times the urge may be so strong that it makes thinking of anything else nearly impossible.

Trichotillomania (also referred to as TTM or “trich”) is currently defined as an impulse control disorder but there are still questions about how it should be classified. It may seem to resemble a habit, an addiction, a tic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Most recently, it is being conceptualized as part of a family of “body-focused repetitive behaviors” (BFRBs) along with skin picking and nail biting.

I’m bringing this up on account of the fact that my eyebrows are currently half-gone. Seriously. At this point, I’m trying to figure out whether it’s better to just pluck the rest of things out and draw my “eyebrows” on with a makeup pencil until they have a chance to grow back, or continue muddling forward with my patchy half-torn-out eyebrows as-is. (At least the frames of my glasses and the cut of my bangs provide some level of camouflage, whichever approach I choose.)

FrankenfurterEyebrowNow, I’ve never been sure as to whether the term “trichotillomania” officially applies to me — I don’t have any sort of formal diagnosis, nor have I bothered to have a doctor’s consultation about the topic. And I feel some level of concern around the possibility of taking a condition that is a very real source of struggle for folks (see: ABC News, Psych Central, Psychology Today and U.S. News & World Report) and co-opting it as a description for my own unconscious stress-behaviors.

And yet, half of my eyebrows are gone, and I don’t see any of the rest of my co-workers with strangely patchy brows. I was also particularly fascinated to see the connection drawn by the TLC between hair-pulling and other repetitive behaviors like nail-biting. Because after sternly self-discplining myself to cease that habit for a month so I could be well-manicured for The Cruise, I am fully off-the-wagon on that score, and my nails have all been bit to shreds.

So I guess it’s safe to say I’m not handling my stress as well as one might hope.

Oh well. At some level, it’s hard to get myself worked up over this particular limitation in my ability to handle the stresses of life. Maybe the the term trichotillomania would fit, if I ever chose to talk to a diagnostician about it. Even if that’s true, I’m fortunate enough to have a very mild expression of this behavior: now-and-again patchy eyebrows and occasionally a pulled-outeyelash or two. I’ve had this habit for decades, and it’s never escalated beyond that.

So all things considered and as odd as this may sound: I remain profoundly grateful for the plain dumb luck that has allowed me to have such (relatively) good fortune in my life. Even if I will be combing my bangs a little bit low for a few weeks….


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