Friday, February 18, 2011

Sometimes it really is just stress

At the beginning of the school year, we noticed something really...odd...about Penguin's appearance.
Her eyes.  There was something...different.  The lashes were disappearing.
She admitted to pulling them out during a tense part of a book she was reading.  She agreed to stop, and began wearing gloves to bed to help herself remember not to pluck.
Then there were no eyelashes left.  And her eyebrows started to disappear.
That's when she said she needed help.  She was stressed out abuot school.  She was stressed out about her sister (who insists on living life as intensely as she can).  She was embarrassed about her vanishing hair.
I called the doctor, and then the school to find someone to talk to her.
I was assured that it was a parenting issue, and that I should handle it at home. 
I looked it up online and found that, undoubtedly, she had developed something called "trichotillomania", or the compulsive desire to pull out her own hair.  She described the urges just the way the websites do.  It's essentially a cross between OCD and a nervous habit.  When she's bored or stressed out, she develops an overwhelming urge to remove hair.  If she doesn't comply, she has a panic attack.  I repeatedly tell her she's not in any trouble at all, but I'd like her to try and wait just a little longer before giving in.  (Preferably forever, but I *think* that will come in time) 
Eventually we managed to get in to see a psychologist.  She was very nice, very reassuring, but she says she can't help.
Although the Mayo Clinic does indicate that imbalances of dopamine and seratonin (which, interestingly enough, can also effect migraines) can play a part in trichotillomania, she disagrees.  It's stress.  We just need to destress her life.  Which I'm happy to do, and reluctant to try meds even if they are indicated.

I just thought it was ironic.  After all these years of pulling out MY hair (figuratively speaking) while working with doctors to slowly discover that in truth..,it's not "just stress" that makes me miserable; sometimes...well, sometimes it really IS just stress.
Trichotillomania just happens to be one of those times.

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