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Trichotillomania in Young Adult

This blog post may contain spoilers. Read with caution.

When I heard from others in the body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) community that Charlize Theron's character in Young Adult had trichotillomania, I knew I had to watch.

I assumed that there was only one scene to look for so you can imagine my delight when I had to stop, rewind, and record multiple times! Her movements were subtle (except for one scene that was meant to confirm her disorder) but a trained mind (one with trichotillomania themselves) picked up on it right away.

All of the following clips were recorded by me during a bright sunny Florida afternoon. I apologize in advance for the quality.

In this scene Charlize Theron's character, Mavis, receives news that makes her upset. You can see her processing the news and absentmindedly reaching for her hair without taking her eyes off the screen.

Two things stood out to me right away: I also pull from behind my ear and often do so while I am working on my laptop. I bet you I've looked exactly like this many, many times.

This scene really interested me because it is the first and only time you see Mavis wearing a hair piece. Throughout the movie you see her hair in a few different styles but mostly in a low bun. You can see by the size of her bun that she doesn't have much hair. I wonder if her choice to wear a hair piece is a result of her hair loss due to trichotillomania or if she wanted it to appear fuller for that particular night.

Mavis's movements here are very slight but in this moment she is uncomfortable and it looks as though she is attempting to self-soothe in public. She is wearing a hair piece in this scene.

Here is the confirmation that what we've seen Mavis do with her hair throughout the movie is a problem in her life—so much so that her parents' know about it. Trichotillomania isn't mentioned by name but that is what they're referring to.

Many of us have experienced this type of response to our trichotillomania by our own parents or other people in our lives. It never feels good. It never helps. You can tell by Mavis's parents responses that they assumed her hair pulling would've been something she grew out of.

Once again in an uncomfortable situation (of her own doing), Mavis absentmindedly goes to self-soothe by pulling out her hair. She continues to go to the same spot behind her ear throughout the movie—something many of us with trichotillomania can relate to. After this scene you can see her hair get more and more messed up until it is almost completely out of the hairstyle she put it in. I believe that was intentional so we could see she continued to pull out her hair after this moment.

Overall, I thought Mavis's trichotillomania in this movie was well done. It showed what trichotillomania really looks like. From the hand seeming to have a mind of its own while it goes toward her hair, to the scanning her finger does to find the "right one," to the pulling of one hair at a time—even her parents' responses were accurate. Trichotillomania is a subtle behavior and if you aren't looking for it, you may miss it.


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