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"Why can't you just stop?" and Other Unhelpful Questions

If you have trichotillomania, you know first-hand just how often people ask, "Why can't you just stop?" as if you never thought of that before. As if it could possibly be that easy.

People with trichotillomania can't just stop because if they could, they would. There would be no such thing as trichotillomania because everyone would stop and it would simply stop existing as a disorder. That's possible, right? Wrong.

Trichotillomania is a chronic disorder with no known cure. That means people with trichotillomania usually have trichotillomania for life. Although everyone's journey is different, the nature of this disorder is that it waxes and wanes. What I mean by that is, there are periods in your life where you will pull A LOT and periods where you have little to no pulling. By learning to better manage it, you may have more periods of little to no pulling but it is rare for someone to completely stop. It has happened, but like I said, it is rare.

What irritates me about this form of questioning is that it puts the "blame" or the "pressure" on the person rather than understanding that this is a disorder. A disorder that no one asked for. It makes people with trichotillomania, let me repeat: a chronic disorder, feel that stopping is the only option when the reality is that they may never stop. Did I mention that the onset of trichotillomania is between 9-13 years old?

It took me years to understand that having trichotillomania was not my fault. When I developed it as a child, it was explained to me that I needed to stop and if I didn't I wasn't trying hard enough. At the time, not much was known about trichotillomania or other body-focused repetitive behaviors, so I know that everyone was trying their best with the knowledge that they had. Now, we know better.

Other unhelpful questions:

"Where did your eyelashes go?"

"When will you grow out of this?"

"Why do you keep doing this?"

"Will you ever let your eyebrows grow back?"

Helpful questions:

"How can I support you?"

"Would you like me to hold your hand when I notice you're pulling?"

"What do you need right now?"

"Do you want to go for a walk?"

The truth is, everyone's trichotillomania is different and even these helpful questions might not be helpful for them. Allow the person in your life to explain what is best for them but please, please please, no more asking "Why can't you just stop?"

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