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Let's talk about the "lip thing"

A part of the trichotillomania ritual that is often overlooked is the "lip thing." That could be because it feels embarrassing to admit and/or animalistic, but no matter the reason, many people do it and don't really talk about it. What is the "lip thing" you ask? It's pretty simple actually. After I pull out a hair and inspect the root, I rub the root across my lips. I do it after every single hair I pull out—even with eyelashes too!

Rubbing the root across my lips is something that automatically started when I developed trichotillomania at 10 years old. It wasn't a thought that I had one day. I just... did it. It felt like the most natural next step in my trichotillomania ritual.

My ritual looks like:

  1. Feel for the coarse or crinkly hair

  2. Pull it out

  3. Look at the root

  4. Rub the root across my lips

  5. Look at the root again

  6. Pull the root off

  7. Wrap the hair around my index and thumb

  8. Break the hair into pieces and let them fall to the ground

  9. Repeat

Scientifically speaking, there could very well be a reason for this. Much of my trichotillomania experience depends on the sensitivity of my fingertips. That's why I often use physical barriers directly on my fingertips to manage my pulling. If I can't feel the texture of the hair, I won't pull it. It's important to me to be able to feel the hair before, during, and after it is pulled out. It makes you wonder... Is there a part of my body besides my fingertips that can truly help me feel the texture of the hair? Yes, the LIPS. According to a quick Google search, the skin on your lips is 100 times more sensitive than your fingertips.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

I recently posted a poll on my Instagram story and here is the response from the community:

Some who answered "No" messaged me privately, sharing that they bite or ingest the root instead. Another common step in many people's trichotillomania ritual. I've also asked this question on my podcast, Trich Talks. It is so interesting learning what is similar and different about our trichotillomania rituals.

If you didn't have a chance to participate on my Instagram poll, here is an opportunity for you to do so!

After pulling: Do you rub the root across your lips?

  • Yes

  • No

I remember sitting in a new therapist's office, having answered some fairly basic questions about my trichotillomania, when she turned to me and asked, "Do you do the lip thing?" I went through about 23 emotions before answering, "Yes, I do. How do you know about that?"

Many of those 23 emotions were positive ones! I couldn't believe someone would know to ask that. It instantly made me feel comfortable sharing more details about my trichotillomania that I might've just kept to myself. So if any therapists are reading, it might be beneficial to ask about the "lip thing." Maybe you'll see your client visibly relax like I did.

Mina and Enza Photography 2022

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