Category Archives: Strategies

A Beginner’s Guide to Treating Trichotillomania

Clinical Psychologist

I often tell my colleagues that trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder) represents the wild west of psychological disorders. Unfortunately, it remains one of the least researched and most misunderstood disorders in the DSM. Additionally, there is a lot of pseudoscience, snake oil, and plain old quackery on the internet about the best way to treat it.

In this article, I will highlight what we do know about scientifically supported treatments for trichotillomania. As a disclaimer, this is only an introduction to treating trichotillomania and is not intended to formally train clinicians. Lastly, I will not be reviewing medical treatments for trichotillomania (you can learn more about those here).

Historical Treatments

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Photo by Gregory Parker

The first scientifically based treatment for trichotillomania was Habit Reversal Training (HRT) (Azrin, Nunn, & Frantz, 1980; Duke, Keeley, Geffken, & Storch, 2010). During HRT, individuals become more aware of their hair pulling behavior and practice interrupting the behavior by engaging in incompatible behaviors. For example, people who use their hands to pull from their scalp might practice reaching down towards one’s knees. While HRT has been effective in the treatment of tics and Tourette’s Disorder, it doesn’t work for everyone who has trichotillomania and also has a high rate of relapse. Why? As I described in a previous article, trichotillomania is a very heterogeneous disorder and affects each person differently. A “one size fits all” treatment just won’t work for trichotillomania.

Modern Treatments

Recently, researchers have developed more comprehensive approaches to treating trichotillomania. Dr. Charles Mansueto pioneered the Comprehensive Behavioral Model (ComB) for trichotillomania (Mansueto, Stemberger, Thomas, & Golomb, 1997). In ComB, clinicians first understand the function of hair pulling. Does it relieve stress? Does it end boredom? Does it reduce anger and frustration? Next, clinicians identify the main types of hair pulling. Some individuals pull for sensory stimulation (trying to find the hair that feels just right), others due to specific thoughts (I have to get rid of all the grey hairs), etc. Lastly, clinicians create treatments that address all aspects of trichotillomania including emotional regulation (learning more adaptive ways of dealing with stress, anger, boredom), physical habits (using HRT and objects to stop motor behavior), and environmental interventions (covering mirrors, getting rid of tweezers).

While research is underway to evaluate Mansueto’s ComB model, other researchers have found support for this approach to treating trichotillomania. In a recent pilot study, Dr. Nancy Keuthen and her colleagues found that Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was effective at reducing trichotillomania symptoms for at least 3 months (Keuthen et al., 2010). DBT is a form of cognitive behavior therapy that focuses on learning new ways of regulating one’s emotions. Additionally, in a review of all published scientific treatment studies on trichotillomania, Dr. Michael Walther and his colleagues concluded that behavior therapy (HRT), emotional regulation, and acceptance together represent the most promising treatment for trichotillomania (Walther, Ricketts, Conelea, & Woods, 2010). Furthermore, Dr. Martin Franklin and his colleagues have demonstrated that this comprehensive approach to behavior therapy not only works for adults, but it can help children as young as 7 (Franklin, Edson, & Freeman, 2010).

So what does this all mean? To the best of our scientific knowledge, effective trichotillomania treatment includes three things:

  1. An increased awareness of when, where, and why hair pulling occurs.
  2. An effort to control or change hair pulling behavior.
  3. Emotional regulation training to find alternative ways of dealing with negative feelings.

Here’s how I use these scientific findings to treat trichotillomania.

Increasing Awareness

Photo by Wim Mulder

Before creating a treatment plan, I collaborate with my clients to understand the unique patterns of their hair pulling. This usually includes a 1-2 week record of all hair pulling episodes. I ask each client to record the following information after each hair pulling episode:

  • What part of the body was the hair pulled from?
  • Where was the person when they pulled their hair?
  • What time was it when the person pulled their hair?
  • Was an instrument (e.g. tweezers) used to help pull hair?
  • What was the person doing while they pulled their hair?
  • What was the person feeling before, during, and after the hair pulling?
  • What was the person thinking before, during, and after the hair pulling?
  • Was anyone else present during the hair pulling?
  • What did the person do with their hair after they pulled it? (Sidenote: You’ll want to look out for individuals who swallow their hair, this could lead to a potentially lethal condition known as a trichobezoar and will need immediate medical attention).

Changing Hair Pulling Behavior & Emotional Regulation

Photo by Aimee Quiggle

A key component of Dr. Manysueto’s ComB model is the SCAMP Intervention. SCAMP stands for Sensory, Cognitive, Affective, Motor, and Place. Once my client and I have a firm understanding of the hair pulling behavior, I use the SCAMP Intervention to create a customized treatment plan.

Sensory: For individuals who seek sensory activation on their scalp, we might use brushes, combs, pens, massages, or ice to ease sensations. For hands, individuals can get manicures, use lotions, or file their nails. For the face, bath oils, baths, facial scrubs, or a loofah could be used.

Cognitive: Often specific thoughts can lead to hair pulling. Common thoughts include, “My hair has to look perfect”, “I need to get rid of that blemish”, “I’ll just pull a little”, “I’ve already pulled once, so why try holding back?” Here, individuals practice thinking in more realistic way (e.g. “It’s okay to be imperfect”, “The best way to fix it is to let it heal”, and “A slip-up is not a failure, any progress is helpful”).

Affective: When specific emotions lead one to pull their hair, the best way to address this problem is learn more effective ways of regulating your nervous system. To become more relaxed, individuals can use diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, practice meditation, listen to white noise, use a heating pad, drink a warm beverage, take a slow relaxing walk, use an eye/face gel mask, or take a long bath. To address intensity and pain, individuals can stick their fingers in frozen ice cream, put their face in a bowl of ice water, suck on a lemon, snap a rubber band on your wrist, take a cold shower, go for a fast run, or chew a large wad of gum. To deal with boredom, individuals can learn about a topic of interest on the internet, write in a journal, draw, play a musical instrument, read a book, paint, take photographs, do a crossword puzzle, and garden.

Motor: In addition to HRT, physical barriers can often help reduce hair pulling. For example, rubber fingers, band-aids, sleep masks, head wraps, glasses, hats, gloves, thumb braces, and tape can all be used to create barriers to hair pulling. Also, changing the condition of your hair and hands can help (e.g. wetting hair, placing Vaseline on your eyelids/brows, wearing false nails, using hand lotion). Objects such as loud bracelets, elbow braces, and perfume can increase awareness of hair pulling. Fiddling toys can sometimes provide alternatives to hair pulling (e.g. koosh balls, silly putty, clay, knitting). For oral rituals, chewing gum, eating sunflower seeds, chewing raw pasta, chewing a toothpick, and eating gummy bears can help.

Place: Comprehensive interventions should also target the environment in which hair pulling takes place. Individuals can try changing light levels, covering mirrors, getting rid of tweezers (or placing them in the freezer), using sticky notes, keeping certain doors open (to decrease privacy), rearranging furniture, and sitting in different positions.

Monitoring Progress and Revising Treatment

As a client and clinician begin treatment, it’s important to keep a daily log of the hair pulling episodes and the attempted interventions. Some interventions will work right away, others will need to be fine tuned, and some will lose their effectiveness over time. The client and clinician must work together, constantly monitoring and reevaluating the treatment until a plan is developed that fits the needs of the client. This process could take weeks or months. Additionally, since trichotillomania changes as we age, treatments that worked at one phase of life may not work in another.

Advice for Treatment Seekers and Treatment Providers

As you can tell, treating trichotillomania is a complex and long process. It takes a lot of time, courage, and motivation on the part of the individual and a lot of training and experience on the part of the clinician. If you are someone who is suffering from trichotillomania, make sure that your clinician is using scientifically supported treatments. Ask them about the type of treatment they are using. If you don’t hear anything about increasing awareness, changing behaviors, or emotional regulation, their treatment may not be based on science. If they start using personal testimonials and wild theories to backup their treatment, or say their treatment cannot be evaluated by science, run away – they’re probably selling you snake oil.

I recommend using the Trichotillomania Learning Center’s list of health care providers to find individuals trained in scientifically supported treatments. If you are a health care provider wanting to learn more about these treatments, I highly recommend attending a Trichotillomania Learning Center Professional Training Institute and browsing through their clinical resources.

References:

Azrin, N. H., Nunn, R. G., & Frantz, S. E. (1980). Treatment of hair-pulling (trichotillomania): A comparative study of habit reversal and negative practice training. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 11, 13-20.

Duke, D., Keeley, M., Geffken, G., & Storch, E. (2010). Trichotillomania: a current review. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 181-193.

Franklin, M. E., Edson, A. L., & Freeman, J. B. (2010). Behavior therapy for pediatric trichotillomania: Exploring the effects of age on treatment outcome. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 4, 18.

Keuthen, N. J., Rothbaum, B. O., Welch, S. S., Taylor, C., Falkenstein, M., Heekin, M., Jordan, C. A., et al. (2010). Pilot trial of dialectical behavior therapy-enhanced habit reversal for trichotillomania. Depression and Anxiety, 27(10), 953-959.

Mansueto, C. S., Townsley-Stemberger, R. M., McCombs-Thomas, A., & Goldfinger-Golomb, R. (1997). Trichotillomania: A comprehensive behavioral model. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 567-577.

Walther, M. R., Ricketts, E. J., Conelea, C. A., & Woods, D. W. (2010). Recent Advances in the Understanding and Treatment of Trichotillomania. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 24(1), 46-64.

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Conflict in Relationships

img_5156Any type of stress, anxiety, anger, or conflict makes my pulling worse. It is a self-soothing behavior that helps me calm down and often dissociate from my feelings. Over the past few years, I have been working to use helpful strategies that help me relax without pulling my hair (which only leaves me feeling worse in the end).
As a high stress person, I have suffered with anxiety for most of my life. It still plagues me at times, but I have learned strategies to calm my mind and body. Taking a quick break from the situation, praying, practicing deep breathing, and trying to find a more positive outlook are some simple tools that have helped me.

If I catch myself being negative or getting stressed out, I try to take a step back and look at the situation objectively. In the past, I would catastrophize my situation. Now, I can identify those feelings and look for the truth.

  • Are my concerns based on truth?
  • Can I do anything about this?
  • Is there a more positive outlook I can strive for?
  •  If the worst case senario does play out, is it really that bad?

Beyond my stress and anxiety is anger that can cause relationship problems. The following article presents 3 ways to create conflict (and therein, 3 ways to avoid it). I know I am guilty of these and am making it a priority to avoid them. Reducing conflicts in our relationships, greatly increases our overall well-being.

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Three Sure Ways to Create Conflict

By Rick Warren

“Any fool can start arguments; the honorable thing is to stay out of them” (Proverbs 20:3 TEV).

Wise people are peacemakers, not troublemakers. Wise people don’t carry a chip on their shoulder. They’re not always looking for a fight, and they don’t intentionally antagonize other people.

The fact is, if you’re around anybody for any length of time, you’ll figure out what that person does that irritates you, and you file that information in the back of your mind as a tool to use when you get in an argument. It becomes a personal “weapon of mass destruction”! When you get in an argument, and that person says something that hurts, offends, or slights you in any way, then you pull out the big gun. You push the hot button. And it works every time!

You know what the Bible calls that? Foolishness! You’re not getting any closer to the resolution. You’re not helping the relationship. In fact, you’re hurting it. It is not wise.

Proverbs 20:3 says, “Any fool can start arguments; the honorable thing is to stay out of them” (TEV).


We all use tools, tricks of the trade, and skills in relationships that are actually counter productive. They’re hurtful, they’re harmful, and they don’t get you what you want out of relationships. In fact, they get you the exact opposite behavior. But when we lack wisdom, we use them anyway.

There are many of these tools, but here are just a few:

1. Comparing. Never compare your wife, your husband, your kids, your boss, or anybody else, because everybody’s unique. Comparing antagonizes anger.

2. Condemning. When you start laying on the guilt in a relationship, all you’re going to do is get the exact opposite of what you expect. It doesn’t work. It’s foolish.

3. Contradicting. William James, the famous psychologist said, “Wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook.” There’s some stuff you just need to overlook.


The Bible says in Proverbs 14:29, “A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes” (TLB). Have you ever said or done anything stupid out of anger? Yes? Because when you get angry, your intelligence goes out the window. When you get angry, you say and do foolish things that are actually self-defeating.

Did you ever think about the fact that there is only one letter difference between “anger” and “danger”? When you get angry, you are in dangerous territory. You are about to hurt others — and yourself — with your own anger.

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Trich Thinking Vs. Recovery Thinking

This is a post that I read on the UK Trichotillomania Support Site which originated at a site called Daily Strength and I have to emphasise is not my own, but it is a great thing to refer to:

Trichotillomania Way of Thinking vs. Recovery Way of Thinking

1. T: I have to pull out my hair. R: I can do some thing else that is positive.

2. T: Pulling out my hair is fun. R: What is fun about being bald?

3. T: The white/kinky/thick/whatever hairs must go. R: All hairs are good hairs. I need them all for a healthy head of hair, etc.

4. T: I’ll just pull out one hair. R: This is a lie trich tells me. I can rarely just stop at one hair.

5. T: When I get that itchy or “trich sensation”, I have to pull my hair. R: I can wash my hair or scratch my head instead.

6. T: It’s ok to use the mirror to find good hairs to pull. R: Why would I want to pull out my hair and create more bald spots? I will stay away from the mirror and temptation.

7. T: It’s ok to use tweezers to get those small hairs. R: Again, why would I want to pull out new growth and create more bald spots? I will use my tweezers for the unwanted hairs only, then put them away.

8. T: When I’m stressed I need to pull out my hair. R: I can take deep breaths, meditate or go for a walk to relax my body, or I can destress with a nice bubble bath. I can do so many other healthy things to relax my body instead of pulling. Pulling really doesn’t help me to feel less stressed any way, because I know that by pulling I will be creating new bald spots. Everyone has stress in life. I must learn to be with my stress with out pulling out my hair.

9. T: When I’m bored I need to pull out my hair. R: Can’t I think of some thing more fun to do than pull out my hair when I’m bored? Why not do a hobby, a sport, a puzzle, a craft…any thing but pulling!

10. T: When I’m tired I need to pull out my hair. R: I can go to sleep instead. How many times do I stay up way past when my body tells me that I am tired, only to start pulling out my hair? I must go to bed!

11. T: When I’m depressed I need to pull out my hair. R: I can get help for my depression from a psychiatrist and/or therapist. Pulling out my hair will only increase my depression, because I feel sad when I have bald spots.

12. T: I have to make both brows look the same. R: Symmetry is not important. New growth is! In time, once my brows have had a chance to come back, both brows will look the same. By trying to make both brows even, I risk pulling more than I want to.

13. T: Now that my hair is filling in, I can lose a few hairs with out any noticeable damage. R: No I can’t! Once I start pulling, I have a hard time stopping. A few hairs a day over time will still lead to bald spots. Small or large amounts of pulling are both dangerous behaviors.

14. T: I’ll quit pulling tomorrow. R: You know what they say…”Tomorrow never comes!” I will make today the day that I stop pulling.

15. T: I can play with my hair this time with out pulling. R: Touching my hair leads to playing with my hair, playing with my hair leads to pulling. I will keep my hands down!

16. T: I love to play with the hairs after I pull them. R: Playing with the hairs only reinforces my trichotillomania, so I must not do this. I must break the trich rituals in order to be free of trichotillomania.

17. T: Some day my trich will go away, until
then I will continue to pull. R: Trich is for life. It will not magically go away. I have to work at my recovery in order to break free of this disorder.

18. T: I can learn to live with this longer hair, even if I am pulling right now. R: When I am pulling, it is hard to stop. I must cut my hair short so that I can get a break from the pulling. I have no urges when my hair is really short. I won’t risk more damage to my hair, which will take longer to grow back.

19. T: My hair will grow back, so I can pull out my hair today. R: Just because my hair will grow back doesn’t mean that I can keep pulling. Why would I want to postpone my regrowth and my recovery?

20: T: I’ll keep on pulling until I see significant damage in the mirror. R: It’s not ok to keep pulling! Any damage means that it will take longer before I get all my hair back. Trich makes excuses so that I keep pulling! This is one I have told myself often.

21. T: I have to check the mirror to see if my hair is regrowing. R: This is obsessive and obsessiveness leads to pulling. I take pictures of my hair now once a month and stay away from the mirror and obsessing.

22. T: Concentrating on individual hairs makes it fun to pull and keeps me in the trich way of thinking. R: I concentrate on thinking of my hair as a whole unit. I need all those hairs to make a full head of hair, a set of brows or a set of lashes.

23. T: I need to pull out my hair when I procrastinate. It bothers me that I am not doing what I need to do, which creates a stressful mood and then I want to pull. R: I can get up and do 5 minutes of what I need to do. I can do some thing for 5 minutes! Then once I am started, it will probably be easier to keep going and I will get what I need done and feel good about myself. Even if I quit after 5 minutes today, if I work 5 minutes on what needs doing each day, soon it will be done, therefore eliminating my stress and helping me to feel better about myself.

24. T: My hair will never grow back, so what is the point in trying to stop pulling! R: It takes 2 to 6 years for hair to grow back for some one who has pulled for 20 years or more, but the good news is it will come back, which is great!

25. T: I can’t tell any one about my hair pulling, because then they will think I’m crazy and stop liking me. R: By telling others about my trich, I will lose my shame and guilt associated with it. It is not my fault that I got trich or have a hard time dealing with it. By telling others, I see that having trich is no big deal. Every one has something! And most people are very understanding and supportive once they find out more about this disorder. This was the big surprise for me when I “came out”. Also in letting others know about my trich and have them accept me any way, helps me to accept and love myself.

26. T: My hands have to go to my head and pull! R: No they don’t! I can keep my hands busy with trich toys such as a koosh ball, silly putty, stress ball, grabbing both hands, holding any thing or doing some thing to keep my hands busy in a positive way instead of pulling, such as rug hooking or other crafts and hobbies.

27. T: Every thing that I do must be perfect, if it is not, then I get stressed out and want to pull out my hair. R: Every thing that I do does not have to be perfect! No one else is perfect and I don’t expect them to be, so why should I expect perfection from myself? I can lighten up and enjoy life!

28. T: If I stop pulling, who am I? R: I am still a person who has trich, only I am in recovery.

29. T: If I stop pulling, will I do some thing else that is equally destructive? R: I won’t replace my trich with another bad habit, if I realize that this is possible. I will work at replacing my trich with good behaviors and habits.

30. T: When I am on the phone I have to pull. R: I don’t have to stay on the phone with a person that is stressing me out. I can end the conversation and therefore end my need to pull. I can also play with the cord instead of pulling, when I have to be in this stressful situation and continue talking to this person.

31. T: I am a compulsive hair puller. R: I am so much more than a person that pulls out their hair. I am some one who enjoys hobbies, sports, leisure, relaxation, work and fun! I can choose what will define me and hair pulling is not what I want to be known for.

32. T: If I pull out my hair, I’m not worthy of love. R: Yes I am! I am worthy of love whether I pull out my hair or not. Hair pulling is not all that I am. I am worthy of love from others and from myself!

33. T: What is the point of trying to quit, when I will just start again? R: I know that everything takes time to learn and I will learn to not pull out my hair. I may have setbacks, but with each successful attempt at not pulling, I get closer to quitting pulling forever!

34. T: Trich is bad! R: Trich is good. When my hand goes to my hair, I know that some thing is not right with in me. I am either bored, tired, stressed, have dirty hair, am procrastinating, am depressed, etc. and I need to do some thing about it. Trich the is first to know, long before I know these things consciously.

35. T: I have an urge to pull, therefore I must pull! R: The urge to pull will pass if I do nothing at all. I will not die from this urge. It’s ok to get urges, but I don’t have to act on them. I can take a deep breath and relax.

36. T: I’ll never be able to stop pulling! I hate myself! R: I can learn to stop pulling by learning all that I can about trich and how it affects me. I can learn what my triggers are and what to do when I get them. I can learn that beating myself up for pulling and hating myself because of my pulling only makes my pulling worse. I can learn to use positive self-talk to help decrease the urge to pull. I can learn to love myself even if I continue to pull out my hair. I am worthwhile for who I am, not for how much hair I have.

37. T: I often pull with out realizing it and zone for a long time before I am aware of my pulling. How can I help myself if I don’t know I’m pulling? R: Awareness takes time and practice. In time, I will become aware of where my hands are and stop them before they start pulling. I will give myself the time and patience to learn the new behavior of awareness.

38. T: I’m the only one that does this. R: Nope. Millions of people pull out their hair, some where between 2 and 5% of the population pulls their hair. This covers all walks of life.

39. T: Slips are bad. R: Slips are a way of learning. I ask myself why I was pulling and then try to do something different next time to either avoid that situation or to change my response to that trigger, one that is positive and not negative like pulling.

40. T: Quitting pulling is too hard. R: Quitting pulling is not too hard if I take it in small steps, have patience with my recovery and give my recovery the time that it needs to succeed.

Sources: http://www.pallister.co.uk/uk-ttm-mb/messages/37/458.html?1203158711

http://dailystrength.org/c/Trichotillomania-Hair-Pulling/recs/1927-trichotillomania-way-thinking-vs

Please visit the site for more information, or for support if you think you have any form of Trichotillomania. This can be pulling from any area, large or small amounts, which I will post more about soon.

Persistence not Perfection

Trichy Insights

Let’s strengthen those weak muscles!  

Just persist until you are successful!

My solace tonight as I persist in my journey to recovery from trich comes from comments of some of the people on the Fairlight Bulletin Board posted on Amanda’s Trichotillomania Guide.

Definition of Success

I just wanted to add another observation to all that has been said about making a commitment to not pulling. Think of it as exercise. When I started walking a couple of months ago, I thought a mile was forever. Now that I’ve been walking regularly, my stamina has increased, and a mile goes by quickly. I can’t run a marathon (yet!), but I am stronger. In the same way, as we practice not pulling, we’re building “muscles” that make it easier not to pull. The first couple of weeks are horrible, but then it gets easier–if you persist. I’ve slipped a couple of times…

View original post 924 more words

Anxiety

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Anxiety is a major trigger for my pulling and mood swings. I used to suffer from panic attacks. I have learned to manage my anxiety before it gets to that point.

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When in therapy, I learned to chart my anxiety level on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a panic attack.  This chart included information on what happened before the episode and the steps I took to calm down. The charting process helped me understand underlying  factors and early signs of anxiety.

The most helpful strategies for me are very simple: take a 5 minute break, pray, or take 10 deep breathes. There are many other relaxation strategies I use when I have more time. Some of these include progressive muscle relaxation, calming music, tea, a bath, relaxation color books, fiddle toys, stress balls, head massager, etc. 2014368078-Anxiety

I read this today and thought it was helpful for anyone struggling with anxiety. I’m definitely adding these verses to my toolbox. 🙂

3 Simple Verses for the Anxious Mom

Here are 3 simple verses to reflect on when anxiety creeps in:

1.  Psalm 34:4 – I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

How can you seek the Lord?  Through worship, prayer, and Bible reading.  Focus on these key disciplines during your most anxious moments, and He’ll show Himself strong.  He’ll either deliver you from the fear and anxiety, or show you His strength by carrying you through.  He’ll give you the wisdom to move past fear into a place of peace.

2.  Psalm 86:15 – But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

His compassion is for YOU. He is gracious towards YOU. He is not angry with you, but rather He loves you with an extravagant love and he is faithful to see you through your struggles!

3. Philippians 4:11 – I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

There are times I’ve had to resolve in my mind that I was going to be content with where I was, regardless of the circumstances around me. I would worship despite the thorn in my side. I would pray,”God, if it’s not Your plan to change my situation, then help me be content. Help me pray through this. If You won’t change _____, then please change me. Give me the grace to get to the other side and give You glory.”

Precious mama, you are not “less than” or damaged goods.
None of us are perfect. We all have struggles. Satan will try to whisper lies in your ear; fight them with prayer and the word.

God has a plan for you! You are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves you more than you could ever imagine!

In grace,

Jaime, Like a Bubbling Brook

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(Note: If you feel your anxiety is severe and could be more than a spiritual struggle, you’ll find my post on depression and chronic anxiety helpful. There may be other causes to consider, such as hormonal imbalances or vitamin deficiencies.)

 

Treating the Whole Person

imageTreating the Whole Person:

A Personal User’s Guide

By Renae M. Reinardy, PsyD., LP

There are many different ways for us to understand our experiences in life. I have not found it helpful for clients to be overly harsh or punishing in their efforts to produce the changes they want to make. Rather, it is good practice to take a comprehensive, wise and compassionate approach toward getting unstuck on the path to change. Everyone’s path is different, so I want to offer a few tips that might help you to write your own Personal User’s Guide. This includes taking care of your mind, body and spirit in a comprehensive manner, which I will briefly outline in this article. Please have a pen and paper handy for taking notes as we go along.

Before reading on, take a few minutes to write down what your pulling or picking means to you. Questions to help you start include: How did this journey start, what directions has it taken you in, what have you gained and what do you feel like you have lost, what works, what doesn’t, when did the behavior start, and what function does it serve?

The way that I conceptualize BFRBs is that they are like a friend who is trying really hard to make a person feel better, but they do not offer the best advice. Pulling and picking are often ways for one’s body to sort out sensory, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, and physical deregulation. This friend may offer some quick relief or distraction from these experiences, but often there are no lasting gains. Rather, it can lead to a vicious cycle of behavior which can feel out of control.

Somewhere along the way, many people lose track of what they need and have stopped listening to their inner core. Instead, they tried to quiet it with distracting and impermanent forms of relief or pleasure. Let’s look at a few components of the Personal User’s Guide to see if it is helpful in hearing one’s self better.

One of the first things that I work on with my clients is the “pillars of health”. This is learning how to take care of one’s body through proper nutrition, sleep, exercise and general self-care. Again, if a person has any deregulation in their body, there is a good chance that the BFRBs will pick up on that imbalance and try to fix the problem. Let’s try in a new way, by looking at what might be contributing to the problem in the first place. Please ask yourself to honestly answer the following questions:
Nutrition: What do I eat?

List some typical items you consume on a daily basis for the following meals:
Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
Snacks
Caffeine
Vitamins:
Exercise: How and when do you exercise?

Sleep: What time do you wrap up your day?

How long does it take to fall asleep?
Do you wake up at night?
What time do I wake up in the morning?
Well, how does it look?

If you are like most of us, at least some improvement can be made in how we care for our bodies. Perhaps there are one or two things from the lists above you’ve always wanted to change, or believe if you COULD change, it would help with your BFRB management. Can you identify one small difference you could make to begin?

Over the past few years, there has been more research to support the role of nutrition in BFRBs, including sugar intake, and dietary supplements. Some people have had great success with the supplements N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and/orInositol (B- vitamin) decreasing urges to pick or pull. Work with your healthcare provider to determine if these might be appropriate for you. I have also found that my clients experience great benefit when sugar intake is reduced.

In our typical diet, we are often starving for good nutrients. Our diet must contain 5 essential items to be truly healthy: carbohydrates, proteins (1/5 of our calories), fats, water and minerals. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which plays a role in every cellular function of the body. Out of 20 amino acids present in the body, 9 are essential, meaning that they must come from diet. Clinical nutritionists have found that deficiencies in B1, B2, B6, folate, B12, C, magnesium and zinc are related to a number of mental health conditions. Since many people do not get what they need from their diet, vitamin supplements are often needed in addition to dietary changes. Be sure to get a good natural vitamin that your doctor approves.

The “E” word. Research has proven the mental health benefits of exercise. It is believed that exercise stimulates the production of endorphins—the feel good hormone. Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are also released during exercise. (Do these sound familiar? Yep, these are same chemicals that are targeted with many psychotropic medications.) Other benefits of exercise include improved blood flow, increased brain function, increased oxygen, and removal of toxins through breathing and sweat. Time to dust off those shoes with the laces. Start gradually and set realistic goals. For example, if you’d like to exercise more, maybe start with just ten minutes of exercise every day. Ten minutes of walking at a faster pace, ten minutes of jogging, ten minutes on the treadmill or the elliptical….then when that gets easy, add five more minutes. Before you know it, you are exercising for an hour. Talk to your doctor if you have any medical conditions that would restrict exercise.

Sleep is another thing we all know is important, yet is one of the first things to go in our busy schedules. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Research suggests that people who do not get adequate sleep tend to live shorter lives than those who do. Chronic sleep deprivation also leads to increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. When we sleep, we produce extra protein molecules to help us fight off infection, stress and toxins by helping the immune system mend our bodies. Take good care of your body and your body will take good care of you. Again, remember that picking and pulling serve a function. If any of these areas are out of whack, you may notice urges on the rise in attempts to self regulate.

Take the time to evaluate your pillars of health. When we rush things, they tend not to be effective. In working with my clients, I’ve found that focusing on the pillars of health can be a big factor in getting someone unstuck when a traditional behavioral and cognitive plan are not enough.
How I Live My Life

Another piece of the Personal User’s Guide that I want to cover in Part One is how we live our life. So many times people plow through the day, just to work toward another goal—the weekend, a long-awaited vacation, or milestones such as graduation, retirement, etc. Yikes! There is often quite a bit of time spent waiting for something good to happen!

Draw two circles in your notebook. Label one circle “real Life” and the other circle “Ideal Life.” In each circle complete a pie chart: one on how you spend your typical day and the other on how you would like to spend your day.

How do they compare? Is there anything that you can take from your ideal and build into your everyday/real life? It is important to take time now to spoil yourself a bit—listen to music, get and receive hugs, sing, pet an animal, smile, pray, make good wishes for others, take a nap, get a massage, acknowledge yourself and your accomplishments, or try to find a quiet place to rejuvenate. We often cannot live every moment in the ideal, but it is good to not get stuck in long patterns of unfulfillment.

Can you think of a few ways you can incorporate goals from your ideal life into your real life? Write them in your notebook.

Okay, one more thing to think about in Part One of your Personal User’s Guide: Spirituality.

Pretty big topic and I am not talking about religion, although that can fall into this category. Focusing on one’s spirituality involves developing an inner life to experience greater connectedness through practices such as prayer, meditation and contemplation. These practices help us to experience a more comprehensive sense of self and the interrelatedness to others, nature and/or religious experiences. Recent research has shown the medical and emotional benefits of these practices including a more complex range of brain activity, stress relief, decreased heart rate, improved lung capacity, and decreased anxiety, to name a few. Please take a few moments and think of how you might summarize your spiritual life.
My Spirit: Take some notes on the following questions

What gives me inner strength and connectedness to things outside of myself ?
How can I build on this?

In Part Two of the Personal User’s Guide, we will discuss emotions, thoughts, and behavioral strategies that can help give your body what it needs. By learning and listening to ourselves it is possible to improve one’s overall well-being and decrease undesirable behaviors and patterns. In the meantime, best wishes in reinforcing or changing any experiences that you may have realized in completing.

This is part 1 of a two-part article. Read part 2, here >>

Dr. Renae Reinardy is the founder of the Lakeside Center for Behavioral Change in Fargo, ND. Prior to opening her own practice, Dr. Reinardy worked as a psychologist at the Behavior Therapy Center of Greater Washington in Silver Spring, Maryland. Dr. Reinardy specializes in the treatment of hair pulling and skin picking disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, compulsive hoarding, and related conditions. She has been an adjunct professor at the doctoral level and has presented numerous times at national conferences and at local meetings and trainings, including The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors’ Annual Conferences and Retreats. Dr. Reinardy has been interviewed on Good Morning America, the Joy Behar Show, Dateline NBC, and A&E’s Hoarders. For more information, visit http://www.lakesidecenter.org.

 

 

How Long Does it Take to Break a Habit?

image.jpegYes Trich is more than a ‘bad habit’. However, it is an unwanted behavior that I believe can be unlearned or changed.

My goal is to break this ‘habit’. I have been working at this since beginning this blog 2 years ago. Yes, I tried to stop pulling before that, but my mindset changed. I was willing to do everything I could, including changing my mindset.

Before a bad habit or unwanted behavior can be changed or stopped, I believe you need to change your thinking. Your thinking rules everything you do. This is why cognitive therapy is effective. The fist step of changing your thinking is to accept that you have a real disorder that causes you to pull your hair. It is not a lack of will power or discipline that keeps you in the cycle of hair pulling and self-loathing that often directly follows pulling. Click here for more information about Commitment and Acceptance Therapy.

Once you have changed your thinking, you can focus more on the unwanted behavior (hair pulling or any behavior). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy follows this approach (CBT).

According to The OCD Center of Los Angeles:

“The most effective treatment for Trichotillomania is a combination of various types of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Perhaps the most important of these is called Habit Reversal Training (HRT). HRT is based on the principle that hair pulling is a conditioned response to specific situations and events, and that the individual with Trichotillomania is frequently unaware of these triggers. HRT challenges Trichotillomania in a two-fold process. First, the individual with Trichotillomania learns how to become more consciously aware of situations and events that trigger hair-pulling episodes. Second, the individual learns to utilize alternative behaviors in response to these situations and events.

Other Cognitive-Behavior Therapy techniques can be used as adjuncts to HRT in the treatment of Trichotillomania. Among these are Stimulus Control techniques and Cognitive Restructuring. Stimulus Control techniques involve utilizing specific physical items as “habit blockers” to restrict the ability to pull hair, while Cognitive Restructuring helps an individual with Trichotillomania learn to think differently in response to the urge to pull their hair.
Skin Picking and Hair Pulling – Reflections

One of the most effective CBT developments for the treatment of Trichotillomania is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The primary goal of Mindfulness-Based CBT is to learn to non-judgmentally accept uncomfortable psychological experiences. From a mindfulness perspective, much of our psychological distress is the result of trying to control and eliminate the discomfort of unwanted thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges. In other words, our discomfort is not the problem – our attempt to control and eliminate our discomfort is the problem. For those with Trichotillomania, the ultimate goal of mindfulness is to develop the ability to more willingly experience their uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges, without pulling their hair. To learn more about Mindfulness Based CBT for the treatment of Trichotillomania, click here.

Here’s how long it takes to break a habit, according to science
*You’re gonna need more than will power.
SIGNE DEAN 24 SEP 2015

From daily tooth-brushing to the 11am coffee, we all have dozens of habits that get us through our daily routine. Some are great – weekly gym visits are often encouraged – others not so much, like smoking a pack a day, or dialling the number of the pizza place way too often. Because we recognise our habits as useful or detrimental behaviours, we often strive to shape them accordingly.

There’s no shortage of apps out there designed to help you form a habit, and many of those are built on the assumption that all you need is 21 days. This number comes from a widely popular 1960 book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who noticed his patients seemed to take about 21 days to get used to their new faces.
However, according to a 2009 study, the time it takes to form a habit really isn’t that clear-cut. Researchers from University College London examined the new habits of 96 people over the space of 12 weeks, and found that the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is actually 66 days; furthermore, individual times varied from 18 to a whopping 254 days.

The take-away message here is that if you want to develop a new behaviour, it will take at least two months, and you shouldn’t despair if three weeks doesn’t do the trick – for most people that’s simply not enough. Stick with it for longer, and you’ll end up with a habit you can keep without thinking.

But what about trying to break an unwanted habit?

It turns out the two – habit forming and breaking – can be quite closely linked. As psychologist Timothy Pychyl explains to Alison Nastasi at Hopes and Fears, they’re two sides of the same coin: “Breaking a habit really means establishing a new habit, a new pre-potent response. The old habit or pattern of responding is still there (a pattern of neuron responses in the brain), but it is less dominant (less potent).”

From daily tooth-brushing to the 11am coffee, we all have dozens of habits that get us through our daily routine. Some are great – weekly gym visits are often encouraged – others not so much, like smoking a pack a day, or dialling the number of the pizza place way too often. Because we recognise our habits as useful or detrimental behaviours, we often strive to shape them accordingly.

There’s no shortage of apps out there designed to help you form a habit, and many of those are built on the assumption that all you need is 21 days. This number comes from a widely popular 1960 book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who noticed his patients seemed to take about 21 days to get used to their new faces.
However, according to a 2009 study, the time it takes to form a habit really isn’t that clear-cut. Researchers from University College London examined the new habits of 96 people over the space of 12 weeks, and found that the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is actually 66 days; furthermore, individual times varied from 18 to a whopping 254 days.

The take-away message here is that if you want to develop a new behaviour, it will take at least two months, and you shouldn’t despair if three weeks doesn’t do the trick – for most people that’s simply not enough. Stick with it for longer, and you’ll end up with a habit you can keep without thinking.

But what about trying to break an unwanted habit?

It turns out the two – habit forming and breaking – can be quite closely linked. As psychologist Timothy Pychyl explains to Alison Nastasi at Hopes and Fears, they’re two sides of the same coin: “Breaking a habit really means establishing a new habit, a new pre-potent response. The old habit or pattern of responding is still there (a pattern of neuron responses in the brain), but it is less dominant (less potent).”

“It’s much easier to start doing something new than to stop doing something habitual without a replacement behaviour,” says neuroscientist Elliot Berkman. “That’s one reason why smoking cessation aids such as nicotine gum or inhalers tend to be more effective than the nicotine patch.”

Experts agree that there’s no typical time frame for breaking a habit, and the right recipe is going to be a mix of personality, motivation, circumstances, and the habit in question. “People who want to kick their habit for reasons that are aligned with their personal values will change their behaviour faster than people who are doing it for external reasons such as pressure from others,” says Berkman.

According to psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne, sometimes a habit can be broken quickly: “In extreme cases, the habit can be broken instantly, such as if you happen to become violently ill when you inhale cigarette smoke or nearly get hit by a bus when texting and walking.” But in most cases it’s going to take longer than that, and you should probably allow for at least two months.

To successfully break a habit, you need to think of your strongest motivation, which will drive you along. Think of a ‘replacement behaviour’ for the habit, but make sure it’s a positive one – replacing smoking with snacking is a common trap, for example. And be patient. The longer you’ve had a habit, the longer it will take to get rid of it.

“Longtime habits are literally entrenched at the neural level, so they are powerful determinants of behavior,” explains Berkman. “The good news is that people are nearly always capable of doing something else when they’re made aware of the habit and are sufficiently motivated to change.”

So stay strong, you can do it.

 

 

 

Coconut Milk Shampoo

Scalp irritation and inflammation are a major triggers for trichsters. Many people find relief with the use of anti-dandruff  shampoos. Personally, I have alternated between Nizoral and Denorex shampoos for years. They both helped, but I’m not crazy about all the extra chemicals. Recently, I started making my own hair and body products. I found a great all natural anti-dandruff shampoo recipe on Dr. Axe’s website.

Homemade Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with Coconut Milk

 

Anti-dandruff shampoo - Dr. Axe

No one wants to be embarrassed by those white flakes of dandruff that land on their beautiful black jacket, but it happens because it almost seems like an unsolvable mystery about how to get rid of dandruff. In large part, it’s because most of the so-called dandruff shampoos, while also full of chemicals and unhealthy ingredients, simply do not work.

Fortunately, finding an anti-dandruff shampoo solution that works for you may not be as difficult as you think, if you’re willing to do it yourself! But first, let’s explore why shampoos may or may not work so that you can make smart choices.

Dandruff, medically known as pityriasis capitis or seborrheic dermatitis confined to the scalp, is a disease that has been around for centuries despite the numerous treatments available. New anti-dandruff products frequent the market, almost daily, perhaps due to the widespread increase in the incidence. In fact, Head & Shoulders is one of the top-selling shampoos in the world. However, dermatologists have given little attention to this problem. Why is it so difficult to fight off this humiliating dandruff? (1)

Unfortunately, this nagging scalp disorder is rather common. Several studies across the world have shown a prevalence of dandruff of up to 50 percent in the general population. You would think that with such a large number, solutions would be available. (2) However, due to these chemicals that are found in most commercially bought shampoos, their effectiveness may be temporary.

The word itself has negative meaning having a combination of ‘tan’ meaning ‘tetter’ and ‘drof’ meaning ‘dirty.’ So, it makes sense that having the right shampoo should help. And while the real cause of dandruff is yet to be understood, there are some things you can do to ease the cringe-making effects they offer. (3)

Getting the anti-dandruff shampoo right is key. We know that most body and hair products out there have tons of toxic chemicals, and these cancer-causing chemicals can be incredibly ineffective too. It is confusing as to why these toxic chemicals in shampoos are even allowed to hit the shelves, knowing that they can negatively affect our hormones and cause lot of sickness. It’s probably no surprise that cosmetics has grown into a $50 billion dollar industry. (4

To avoid this seemingly uncontrollable situation, you can simply make your very own anti-dandruff shampoo right at home with just a few ingredients. Keep in mind that the dandruff comes from the scalp, not your hair. That means it is important to gently massage this DIY dandruff remedy into the scalp as well as thoroughly washing your hair.

Fortunately, this recipe not only includes several dandruff-fighting ingredients, it’s also gentle enough to use several times a week. 

Let’s start with your mixing bowl and a whisk. Combine the coconut milk, coconut oil and castile soap to start. Nutrition-rich coconut milk and coconut oil will help provide much needed nutrition for your hair and scalp. This nutrition will help build up the immune defenses as well as moisturize the hair and scalp.

Castile soap is a gentle vegetable-based soap derived from olive oil, water and lye that is biodegradable and non-toxic. While castile soap is gentle, it can help cleanse the scalp of excess sebum and product build-up.

Once the coconut milk, coconut oil and castile soap is well blended, add the water, apple cider vinegar and baking soda. It is a good idea to use purified water, such as an authentic spring water, to help avoid chemicals. The apple cider vinegar is great for eliminating the fungus and bacteria because it contains powerful enzymes. The baking soda can help slough off the dead skin due to its abrasive texture by acting as a mild exfoliate and fungicide.

Now, add the rosemary and tea tree oil. The rosemary oil will provide a nice scent and much more. Because dandruff is caused by fungi, it’s important to choose ingredients that can inhibit this fungi. That is why I chose rosemary and tea tree oil. Rosemary and tea tree oil essential oils contain antifungal properties and you may get the added benefit of hair thickening that these oils can provide!

And now for my favorite ingredient, fenugreek! Fenugreek is a plant most commonly used as a spice in Indian cuisine; however, fenugreek can do wonders for your hair and scalp. Fenugreek seeds have a composition that is rich in protein and amino acids. These nutrient-dense characteristics encouraging healthy hair, hair growth and can help ward off those disgusting flakes of dandruff. In particular, fenugreek has a high concentration of lecithin, which is a natural emollient. This emollient can help make hair stronger overall and provides many users of fenugreek with silky and soft locks.

Make sure all ingredients are thoroughly blended. Pour the mixture into a BPA free shampoo-like container with a lid, or you may use a glass jar if you prefer.

To use, simply wet the hair as you normally would for shampooing. Place a small amount in the palm of your hand and begin to blend it into the hair. Shampoo well and rinse. You may leave the mixture on your hair a little longer to gain the benefits of this natural remedy.

Try using every other day for best results. Shake bottle before each use. If you experience any discomfort or allergic reaction, stop using immediately. Consider doing a test patch prior to a full wash.

Promoting Hair Growth

Essential Oil Blend Promotes  Hair Health and Growth

& Reduces Scalp Irritation and Inflammation

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Specific essential oils can promote hair growth by increasing circulation and health of your hair follicles. In addition, essential oils can calm your irritated or inflamed scalp. Depending on your particular needs, you can choose an essential oil blend to combat dandruff, yeast overgrowth, and other types of  scalp irritation. I have found that foods and hair products leading to the growth of malassezia yeast increase my urge to pull by causing my hot spots to flare up. To learn more about malassezia yeast, click on the link below.

http://malasseziayeast-mypersonal-battle.blogspot.com/

I use the recipe below for my essential oil blend. I massage it into my hair several times  a week. I often leave it in all day or night as it deters my pulling. It calms my scalp irritation thus reducing my urge to pull. In addition, it is harder to pull slippery, oily hair. This makes me more aware of any unconscious pulling; allowing me to stop before getting ‘just one’, which is my greatest downfall. If I can avoid pulling just one, it is way easier to resist a  pulling frenzy.

Directions

Combine lavender, camomile, rosemary, cedarwood, ylang-ylang, tea tree, and peppermint essential oils and add to a base of the following carrier oils: jojoba, argan, almond, and grapeseed oil.  I use a clean hair dye dispenser bottle. Massage the blend into your scalp for about 2 minutes. Massage with your finger tips rather than your nails.   You can leave it in your hair for a few minutes, hours, or all day. When I am home and having a hard time resisting the urge, I massage this blend into my scalp and leave it in all day.

For the best outcome, wrap your head in a warm towel for 30-40 minutes. The grapeseed, almond, argan, and jojoba oils work as a carrier, penetrating and sending the essential oils into your hair follicles.

Essential Oils & Carrier Oils Commonly Used for Hair Growth and Scalp Health

1. Ylang-Ylang

Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata), the same as with lavender, is believed to reduce stress and has been used to increase the shaft of the hair to produce hair that is thicker and more luxurious. It is able to balance scalp oil production and this could help with split ends.

2. German Chamomile

German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is an effective agent in aromatherapy’s bag of wonders for reducing inflammation. Sometimes hair loss is due to inflammation of the hair follicles in the scalp. This can lead to less cellular function. Some think that an overheated scalp can cause hair loss. This essential oil is cooling and has an anti-inflammatory effect. The fragrance is light and has a bottom note of pineapple.

3. Lavender

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is in many hair products and hair conditioners. As an essential oil, it is used for reducing inflammation and no steroids are involved. Its anti-bacterial properties are beneficial and it has regenerative properties. It is a favorite oil for reducing stress and encouraging hair growth. Maybe you are stressed enough that your hair is falling out—try lavender for healthful benefits.

4. Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a leading essential oil for boosting hair growth. It has seen much success in alopecia areata hair treatment. Use the Verbenone type if you seek the regenerative capabilities of the oil rosemary, found in many preparations for hair and scalp benefits. Thought to increase cellular metabolism, it thereby stimulates healthy hair growth. Used in fragrant perfumes, it is also used to emit its delightful aroma into your room environment. It is also burned as incense and used in shampoo.

5. Helichrysum

Helichrysum (Helichrysum orientale) is believed to be a regenerator for all soft tissues of the body. Helichrysum is the sunflower family and has an earthy fragrance found in blends for both the scalp and hair in commercial products. It is likely regenerative to scalp tissue as well. Some healthcare providers perceive the aging scalp to be similar to scar tissue. It increases circulation and is beneficial as an anti-inflammatory means.

6. Clary Sage

Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) essential oil promotes hormone balance that is vital for men and women when considering the health of their hair. Clary Sage is thought to balance estrogen levels in the skin and scalp, and can be of help for women after menopause. The distilled essential oil is used in perfumes and it is used in aromatherapy for menstrual-related problems such as cramping and PMS. It helps with insomnia relieving anxiety and fear as well.

7. Jojoba**

Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is obtained in many natural hair care products. Jojoba is used for moisturizing and softening dry hair. It is thought to cleanse the follicles of sebum (natural oils), and promote shiny and vibrant hair.

8. Sesame**

Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is highly thought of in Ayurvedic medicine in traditional Hindu medicine to therapy for thousands of years using the oils for massage. Sesame has lignans, chemical compounds found in plants, and used in essential oils. Lignans increase the effectiveness of vitamin E, so it is thought to nurture shiny and thick hair growth. Use it as a 5-minute scalp massage each day without missing a day. Wash hands thoroughly after you are finished, since sesame will irritate mucous membranes such as the eyes and nose.

9. Tea Tree (my favorite for hair, scalp, and skin)

Antifungal – Malassezia furfur is the most common dermatophyte to cause dandruff. With only a 5% concentration, tea tree oil is a very effective treatment for Malassezia furfur.

Anti-inflammatory – Like many essential oils, tea tree oil acts to efficiently reduce inflammation due to infection or injury.These properties make tea tree oil a very useful tool in the fight against hair loss and promotion of hair growth. By disinfecting the scalp, tea tree oil reduces the build-up of residues around the hair follicles allowing for the free flow of sebum (our natural, self-produced moisturizer) into the hair shafts. In addition, by reducing the inflammation around the hair follicles, tea tree oil promotes regeneration of existing hair while promoting new growth.The nutrient dense nature of tea tree oil nourishes the hair leaving it soft, shiny and less subject to breakage which in turn gives the appearance of a fuller head of hair. It also maintains the moisture and overall health of the scalp to further encourage healthy hair growth.

**Carrier Oils 

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What are carrier oils?

The term “carrier oil” encompasses hundreds of different oils and butters. In the most basic sense, the word “carrier” serves to distinguish oils that are not “essential” oils. Common carrier oils include olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, grapeseed oil, canola oil, sweet almond oil, walnut oil, and more. The oils in this category vary wildly in terms of texture, colour, thickness, nutritional composition, and scent, but generally they are our base oils/butters.

A Guide to Carrier Oil Substitutions

How to Use Carrier Oils

 

Final Thoughts

Essential oils are not intended to treat, prevent, or cure any disease. Essential oils are the active ingredients–the essence of the flowers and plants. Essential oils can additionally be added to your shampoo and conditioner to benefit your hair. You can try various combinations of essential oil blends and carrier oils. The recipe above is what has worked best for me. I learned through trial and error. I find the essential oil be lends most helpful for deterring pulling, calming my scalp, and improving my hair health. I am uncertain wether it actually promote growth in my case. I use Pinterest to find explanations of blends and recipes that have helped other people.

Before learning about the benefits of essential oil, I used a mix of castor oil and coconut oil to promote growth. Although these softened and moisturizer my hair, I did not love the outcome. You can read my blog about coconut oil and castor oil.

 

On pinterest I have a board with the hair and skin care recipes I use. It also contains information on carrrier oils.

http://pin.it/GTVG8dg

 

 

 

Change Your Thinking to Change Your Behavior

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Change Your Thinking, Change Your Behavior

 By Claudia Miles

I have been sharing my view that hair pulling & skin picking are most like “addictions” for many years.  I was not taken seriously by other professionals at first, but in recent years I’ve seen the term used more and more when other professionals talk about Body-Focused Repetitive Disorder (BFRD).  In fact, TTM & Dermatillomaia fit the criteria of addiction quite well. Think about the way we respond to an addiction like substance abuse (food, drink, drugs). We develop a craving, we try to talk ourselves out of it by saying: You don’t really want to drink again, you’ll lose your job. Don’t eat that whole box of cookies, you’ll feel sick and diagusted. Don’t keep pulling your hair out, there won’t be any way to cover it up.

The addict in you rebels against this kind of feedback. You want to do it, and all the consequences you are thinking about happen in the long term. You feel bad NOW. Gaining weight or losing hair happens later. You just want to feel better. So finally you  say, “Screw it. I don’t care about the consequences,” and we block out the fact that we missed work last time we drank, lost custody of our kids, took any number of actions that cause us shame, pain, financial loss or worse. You say, “I don’t care, I had a bad day and I’m going to do it.” Or “It doesn’t matter, I already ruined my hair, I’m already almost bald, That is how we give yourselves permission to pick or pull.

1) (Screw it.) It’s hopeless.
2) I don’t care
3) It doesn’t matter anyway.

And by convincing ourselves for just a few minutes that those lies are true, we rebel against what we really want. We pretend that we “don’t care” about pulling, that we’ve done so much damage it doesn’t matter if we pull or not, and finally we feel so hopeless about the idea of stopping forever, we don’t see the point in stopping NOW. (It’s quite similar to the process of procrastination which is often connected to BFRD behaviors: Denial, Delay (now we’ve waited so long it will never get done), Hopelessness)

Rather than trying to “FORCE” yourself to stop, the key is to understand and change the pattern of addictive thoughts. It doesn’t matter whether you are a picker who is aware that you are about to pick or a puller who has already pulled for ten minutes before you become aware of what you are doing. There will be a moment when you ARE aware of what you are doing and think to yourself: “I don’t care!” This thought comes in response to earlier thoughts like, You “shouldn’t” be doing this OR I can’t believe I’m doing this again. We think “I don’t care!” as a way to tell our inner bully to shut up, leave us alone & let us pull. Because let’s face it, pulling & picking are made less pleasurable when we simultaneously are attempting to shame ourselves for engaging in the behaviors.  (And SHAME does not help one bit, of course.)  So we say to ourselves by way of making the shame stop: I DON’T CARE! (In other words, leave me alone, Bully, I want to pull!)

The problem is we have dis-identified with the real reason we want to stop these behaviors, which is not that they are morally wrong or that we “shouldn’t” do them. Rather, it upsets us *THAT* we do them. And it is crucial to acknowledge that, but at the same time, not shame ourselves.

Here’s what I mean. See if you can become aware when you start to think to yourself: I don’t care! Once you do, apply what Mindfulness practice teaches us is the “observer” within and “note” the thought.

You: I don’t care
The Observer (You): Ah, there’s that addictive thought. Telling me I don’t care. Giving me permission to pull.

The problem is, you DO care. You care very much. If you didn’t, you sure as heck wouldn’t be reading this blog. You just want to forget that fact for a moment, an hour, two hours, so you can go to that familiar (and comforting) sense of “Numbness.”.  So what I’m asking you to do here is this: DO NOT bully or shame yourself into stopping. (What are you DOING?! What’s wrong with you?! You’re “pathetic”!) But DO acknowledge that the behavior is causing you pain. The example I give to my clients is this: Imagine an alcoholic who is living in a one room apt. after having lost his (or her) share of custody with his kids. He has to get sober and stay sober for 6 mos to get the issue revisited. Six months seems like FOREVER. So every night, to numb the pain of not seeing his children, he pulls out a bottle of whisky. He may say, You moron, what are you doing? But he feels compelled to continue. So he takes the pictures of his kids and turns them around. Puts them away. It’s too painful to look at his kids. He’s already “blown it” he thinks.

Now I would tell that guy, Go ahead and drink. But do NOT put away the pics of your kids. At the same time, you don’t get to berate yourself for doing something you feel so compelled to do despite all it has cost you. What you do is this: You look at your kids and think to yourself, wow, this drinking has cost me a lot. And it’s not because I don’t care about my kids cause I do! How powerful this addiction must be if it makes me ignore what truly matters. Now this makes the drinking FAR less enjoyable & shifts this man’s thinking from “I’m shit. I’m a loser.” to “This is a serious problem & it’s costing a lot.” That latter voice we can call the “Supportive Friend.” The friend you can be to yourself. The friend who wants to HELP you, not SHAME you.  It’s a completely different way of relating to the self.

Here’s how it translates for sufferers of TTM or Dermatillomania:

Your Inner Bully (You): Stop pulling you pathetic loser!
BFRB* Addict (You): I had a lousy day. I just don’t CARE right now!
NEW-Observer (You): Ah, there’s the inner addict trying to convince me I don’t care.
NEW-Supportive Friend (You): You know what? That’s not true. I DO care. I care very much.  It causes me  emotional pain to do this. It makes me feel bad about myself. I just want to acknowledge that.

Now at this point, I am not saying that you can (or should) instantly stop. Not at all. I am suggesting that you go ahead and pull or pick, while simultaneously acknowledging that you DO care.   Not that you’re an idiot or weak or pathetic. Rather, that you are a human being who’s desire or urge to do this is so strong that it eclipses the fact that the behavior causes you so much pain. Now that’s a HARD spot to be in, and until you can empathize with yourself, you remain stuck in a cycle of Blame, Shame, Addictive Thought, Numbness, More Shame, Emptiness, Self-Hatred.

Please note that I am suggesting you tell yourself that you DO care, NOT because of hair loss or scarring but because you will feel bad about yourself. That’s very important. We all know how long it takes for hair to grow back or skin to heal. It takes so long it’s hard to feel motivated. That’s why it is crucial you motivate yourself based on how you feel about yourself. That can become your immediate payoff. And when you consider the crippling shame and self-hatred that appears sometime after a pulling or picking session, perhaps you can see that there is another kind of cost to this besides hair loss and skin scars.  And when that can be replaced by actively telling yourself that you made an effort (even if the effort at first is just changing your thoughts), you will become a real support to yourself, a cheerleader, a caring friend and more able to continue on the path of recovery. A bully, a critic, a shaming, finger-wagging inner “bad parent” WILL NOT HELP YOU. That kind of thinking will tear down any efforts you make toward your goal. That kind of thinking SUPPORTS the addiction. And you do not deserve it, as one day you will surely know.

As I said for the “I don’t care” thought, the same goes for “It doesn’t matter,” and “It’s hopeless.” The thought “It doesn’t matter” is generally linked with the fact that you’ve done so much “damage” that it doesn’t matter if you do a little more. It’s the same irrational thinking behind, “I went off my diet and ate some cake! I ‘ruined’ everything. Well, I may as well eat everything in the house.” Because that makes sense, right? You ate an extra 500 calories so you may as well eat 5,000.

First of all, even when you break it down literally, I can tell you that it DOES matter. In the practical physical world, even though you may not see the difference right away, any lessened amount of pulling, (55 minutes and not an hour, 3 hours and not 4) is PROGRESS. And progress is what will help you reach your goal. But going back to my earlier point, it’s about shifting the focus in this moment away from what your hair or skin looks like and acknowledging that the shame and anger toward the self you feel is hurtful. It not only doesn’t help you pull less, it absolutely causes you to pull more. Please hear this: All attempts to attack, shame or SCARE you into less pulling or picking, whether done by you or someone else, do the OPPOSITE. Every “I can’t believe you’re doing that!” “Stop it, you’re making a mess of your face!” “Why can’t you.. STOP doing that??!!” and “What’s WRONG with you!!” will push you FURTHER from your goal. Please stop and think about that. You don’t want to “let yourself off the hook.” You falsely believe that loving yourself or, yes, accepting yourself, even while you are still pulling means you are “giving up” and just accepting this is how it is. That’s just plain wrong! Just like you love your kids even if you don’t love the behavior, just like you accept them (vs. rejecting them) when they make mistakes, so too you must accept yourself. Accepting and loving yourself NO MATTER WHAT is the ONLY way you’ll recover.

So you see, it does matter. New dialogue:

Inner Bully (You): Stop pulling! Stop picking! You’re pathetic.
BFRB* Addict (You): I’ve already messed up my hair (skin) so much it doesn’t matter anyway.
NEW- Observer (You): Ah, there’s the addict trying to snow me into believing it doesn’t matter.
NEW-Supportive Friend (You): You know what, it DOES matter. It matters because how you feel about yourself matters. It matters because  it’s about small steps, and even if your skin or hair won’t shift right away, it will eventually if you take those small steps. And it MATTERS because this pulling or picking makes you feel like shit, and recovery only happens a moment at a time.

That same point must be made when recovery feels hopeless. One can imagine that that’s very much how someone who has 100 or more lbs to lose might feel. Because no matter what one does, change doesn’t come overnight. Also, you cannot stop pulling “FOREVER” all at once. You can only improve a little in each moment. Those moments will add up, and believe me, they can become a total cessation of pulling or picking, or a nearly total cessation of pulling or picking over time. But any efforts you do make must be made for TODAY only. Forever feels too big. Forever feels hopeless. Today (or even “right now”) need not feel hopeless. You will be able to DO today. And it’s ok if you can’t quite do that right now.

Changing the dialogue is the first step. Working on self-acceptance and self-love, letting go of negative reinforcement and focusing on positive reinforcement, that must be done before any other efforts are made.

And, NO, you won’t have to fight the urges forever. If you change your thinking and change your relationship with yourself so you can support yourself and love yourself through the process, the urges will start to subside. Just like with any addiction, the urges and the desire takes time to subside, and once in a while may show up out of the blue. That’s why you’ll need that “Supportive Friend” with you. The part of you that encourages you and believes in you, just as you do for your friends who aren’t you. Imagine if you could be as helpful to yourself as you are to others.

With practice, you will see that making just a little progress on this (which is all you CAN do) will eventually get you where you want to go. Just like a person who needs to lose 100 lbs. Yes, they won’t be where they want to be after a day or a week of progress toward healthy eating. But they will have taken a step. And it’s one step, then another, then another, and then maybe a step or two back. That’s how it goes. If you can find a way to accept that, if you can find a way to encourage yourself based on “progress not perfection” (AA), you CAN recover. If you continue to believe that it’s all at once or nothing, Your inner addict wants you to believe this so you will give in and pull or pick. Your inner bully wants to tell you it’s hopeless. But your inner Supportive Friend knows the truth. It’s one day at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time. It’s taking one small step and focusing only on what you can do, not what you cannot. THAT, I can tell you, is one of the most important things to know about the journey of recovery from BFRB*s. The second is, You CAN do it!

*BFRB = Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors