During my teenage years I used to wear my hair long. I was an emo kid who loved trying different hairstyles and I think I do not exaggerate by saying that my crazy haircuts were a part of my identity. Back in those days, I would spend hours in front of the mirror fixing my hair or experimenting with different hairstyles.
And I can tell you that throughout my high school years, I did not have self-esteem issues. Do not get me wrong, I did not use to think that I was the most perfect-looking guy of the universe but at the same time, I felt comfortable with the way I looked.
But unfortunately, things started to change as I grew older. I was 18 when I first noticed that my hair was thinning.
Or wait. What am I saying? Did I say “I noticed”? Well that’s not actually true. It was not me noticing it but a schoolmate who asked me whether I was going bald as she thought my hair was getting thinner. Honestly, I still do not know if she was just teasing me – ’cause she obviously knew how important my hair was to me – or if it was true and my hair really started falling out at the age of 18. Well, I could ask her but I guess she wouldn’t remember ’cause it’s been so many years and to be honest, I do not think it even matters anymore.
But what matters is that the remark she made meant a beginning of a new obsession. Do not get me wrong, I do not blame her for that. If she knew the way I would feel, she would have never made that remark. But anyways, I think you can easily guess that this new obsession I am talking about was an extreme fear of going bald.
It all started by me spending even more time in front of the mirror – but instead of doing my hair or trying out different hairstyles, I was just checking my hair and trying to make sure that it wasn’t falling out.
At the beginning, my “hair-checking” compulsion bit was still under control: I was just looking at it or brushing it a little more often. But one day I just felt that I needed to start pulling it out.
Did I Have Trichotillomania?
Now, first of all – what is trichotillomania?
Trichotillomania, also called hair-pulling disorder, is a mental disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body, despite trying to stop.
Read more: Trichotillomania (Mayoclinic)
Looking at this definition, you may think I had trichotillomania. But I do not think I did. In my case, the reason behind my “hair plucking obsession” was that I just needed to make sure that my hair was not falling out. And I didn’t feel relieved after pulling my hair out. On the contrary – I would be extremely sad when I saw the hair strands on my hand.
By the age of 20, my hair loss had become pretty noticeable. And I am not sure whether it was my obsession that lead to hair loss or it was my hair loss leading to this obsession. I have always thought it was a kind of “chicken or the egg dilemma”. Not sure if I will ever find an answer to this question but I think it’s more likely that it was my hair loss was caused by my “checking compulsion” rather than the other way around.
At this point you may ask if I am still having this compulsion. The answer to this question is yes….and no. After some time, my compulsion turned into a “simple habit”. A bad habit that I haven’t been able to break for years.
I still need to touch my hair and I sometimes need to pull it. But it’s a habit that doesn’t really have any meaning anymore. Back in my teens and early twenties, I used to do it because I wanted to make sure that my hair was not falling out. Nowadays, I am doing it simply because over the years, it’s become an automatic movement. I keep telling myself that I gotta stop doing it ’cause I know it can do a lot of damage to my already thinning hair. And when I pay attention, I will be able to stop playing with my hair but you know how it is. Sometimes you just kind of forget about yourself and you cannot control the things you’re doing.
Now that I have told you about the story of my thinning hair and my hair-loss-checking-compulsion, let me tell you how this whole thing makes me feel. a selfish reason why I decided to write this article.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that back in my high school years, I did not use to have self-esteem issues.
Unfortunately, that has changed over the years.
It took me a crazy long time to give up on my long hair but I finally had to let it go as I realized that I looked pretty deplorable. And well, much older than my age.
One thing that helped me make up my mind – and that I will never forget – is what a friend of a friend told me a few years ago. We had a get-together, everyone was a little bit drunk and we were trying to guess each others’ age. Now, I know that it’s never a good idea to play this game – especially not in my case, because people usually say that I look older than my age.
Anyways, when it was my turn and people started guessing how old I was, this girl (the friend of my friend) would tell me that I looked 30. You may say that a 30 years old guy is still pretty young and I do agree with you on that but you have to bear in mind that I was only 23 years old when this whole thing happened so I guess you can imagine how it made me feel.
It was a horrible feeling. And I was stupid enough to start seeking reassurance – which meant asking other people about how old they thought I looked. And I can tell you that I wasn’t happy with the answers they gave.
I have learnt to accept myself and a few years ago, I found a very nice hairdresser (would give you his contacts but I see in my stats that most of my readers are from the US/ Western Europe and I am based in Hungary so…not sure you’d ever come here for a haircut) and lately, we’ve been experimenting with a few new hairstyles that actually make me look my age (I’m 27 by the way). So we could say that I have managed to “regain” my self-esteem. Of course, I still hope that I will have my long hair back but I no longer feel anxious over my thinning hair.
One thing I have learnt though is that it’s important to accept yourself and to work with what you got not what you hope for. And well, another thing is that you should stop worrying about what other people think of you. Like…I still miss my long hair but I do not care anymore if other people think I look older than I am or if they do not like the way I look. ‘Cause at the end of the day, all of us are beautiful people!
- Can OCD and Other Personality Disorders Lead to Hair Loss?
- Compulsive Touching & Hair Loss – How to Combat It
- How Stress and Anxiety Can Cause Hair Loss
- Psychological Aspects of Balding
More From Mark Wester
- “Not So OCD” – A Guided Tour Around My Room
- In Search Of Salvation – Compulsive Googling
- Peace At The Bottom Of A Bottle – OCD & Alcohol
- Am I A Monster – The Story Of My Harm OCD
- Obsessed With Your Own Body – The Dark Reality Of Body-Focused OCD
As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my stories: reading yours! Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section! 🙂
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Just in case you want to see some of my travel photos and what my balding head looks like 😀