Gluten’s Role in Trichotillomania

I found this sweet little image online and it breaks my heart

Trichotillomania (TTM) is a type of compulsive behavior in which people with this condition feel an overwhelming urge to pull their hair. They may also have other compulsive habits, such as nail biting, skin picking, depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Compulsive behaviors like trichotillomania involve brain chemistry and may be genetic. TTM has also been found to be linked to food allergies. One food substance in particular has increasingly been associated with neurological symptoms- Gluten.

Some people are very aware of their pulling, while others seem to do it without noticing. It might be hard to understand why people would pull out their own hair or eyelashes, or why they won’t just stop. TTM isn’t just an ordinary habit that a person can easily stop. Some people notice sensations in their scalp or skin which may be a tingling feeling that can only be relieved by pulling. Similar to the feeling of relief that comes from scratching an itch. Some people say they notice a satisfying feeling when they pull their hair.

Any relief that comes with hair pulling usually only lasts for a moment, however, the urge almost always returns. This happens because the mind becomes used to giving in to the powerful urges that go along with compulsive behaviors. This behavior is then reinforced, which in turn becomes a habit. The mind gets trapped in a cycle of expecting to have satisfaction. The longer this persists, the harder it may become to resist the urge.

“People with trichotillomania may feel embarrassment, frustration, shame, or depression about the condition. They may worry about what others will think or say. They may feel nagged by people who don’t understand that they’re not doing this on purpose. They usually try to hide the behavior from others — even their families. This can make it difficult to get help.

Having trichotillomania can affect how people feel about themselves. Some are self-conscious about how hair pulling affects their appearance. Because of this, they might feel less confident about making friends or dating. Others might feel powerless to control the urge to pull or blame themselves for not being able to stop. Feelings like these can cause a person’s self-image to suffer.”

TTM is commonly found to be developed in young children and teenagers. Studies have shown that those who pull from eyelashes and eyebrows are more likely to recover than those who pull from the scalp. As a child, I started to pull out my eyelashes. I have been able to manage this behavior with time, but unfortunately depending on any given life circumstance, I will occasionally still have flair ups.

This behavior eventually also turned into pulling from my eyebrows. I was extremely embarrassed, and I didn’t understand why I did it. As a teenager, my parents took me to see a psychologist about it. He told me that it was very common amongst many patients, it’s just that people don’t talk about it much as they feel ashamed. I was comforted to know that I wasn’t alone, and for many years thought it was only brought on by stress. Many environmental factors can cause a person to have an urge to pull. For example, irritation to an allergic environment, anxiety, sleeplessness, exhaustion, stress, certain foods, and there are many more.

Me with no eyelashes and hardly any eyebrows left

After years of reading about this, I had finally come across information which linked TTM to food allergies. I found out that I had Celiac Disease, and that gluten happened to be a common culprit. After removing gluten from my diet, I lost a significant amount of the desire to pull my hair. I then started to search for information about others who had food allergies and TTM. The information I found was that those who didn’t know they had allergies soon discovered the exact same results as I had. This knowledge brought great relief to me, just knowing that there were so many other people out there who suffered as I did.

A friend of mine, who also suffers with TTM, told me she pulls hair form her scalp, usually in the same place, and it often happens when she “zones out” while watching television. Other similar compulsive habits can be picking and biting. I knew a girl who would constantly bite at the inside of her mouth which made sores. I also knew people who had an issue with picking at their skin until it bled, especially on their face and the skin around their nails. They thought they had a blemish and would feel compelled to pick at it.

My hypothesis is this; there are certain factors that may cause a person to feel an urge to pull, which then would make this a milder form of having a compulsive habit, such as myself. Without those stresses or irritations, I do not have any desire to pull. However, there are many, many people who have more extreme cases of constant urges which become obsessive. I am lucky to have been able to trigger my own urges with food allergies and stress.

Stress, among many other symptoms, can also be caused by food allergies/intolerances which have been linked to gut disorders, and when you think about it this totally makes sense. When your gut is not functioning properly then the brain cannot fully function due to malabsorption. This is explained quite exquisitely in Gut and Psychology Syndrome, a book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. I have found this diet to be the true answer and most natural way to heal your gut when issues like these arise. I strongly urge you to look into this further if this sounds like something that you may be dealing with. You can start here to read more about this book and the GAPS Diet.


The following is an excerpt taken from the article Gluten Free Choice Consulting by Wendy L Cohan, RN, November, 2010:

“Gluten sensitivity can lead to neurological and mental health effects in various ways, including: Triggering inflammatory autoimmune responses throughout the nervous system; Producing narcotizing effects on the brain; Inducing changes in brain perfusion, or blood flow; And, through celiac disease, causing the malabsorption of key nutrients necessary for optimum neurological and mental health.

We know that certain foods, including gluten, can trigger neurological and behavioral symptoms. People can change their diets and overcome previous behavioral patterns to live healthy, productive lives.”

“Among a sample of 184 young people being evaluated for psychiatric disorders and allergies, 105 (57 percent) had a history of allergic disorders. “These findings add to the growing body of evidence supporting an association between anxiety, depressive, and allergic disorders.” -Journal Clinical Psychiatry, September 2007.

The following is an excerpt taken from the TLC newsletter “InTouch” in August 1999 by John Kender and Mike Grant:

“Nutrition and TTM

Seven years ago, by keeping careful records of what I ate, I noticed that
certain foods tended to increase my urges to pull. By avoiding those foods, I
began what is now a seven year remission: no urges, and no hair pulling.
Numerous experiments, some even with my dog who had a problem with compulsive
paw licking, confirmed that some foods were “bad”, meaning that they increased
hair pulling urges and sometimes increased an itchy “this hair is out of place”

As of the Summer of 1999, over 100 people, including about a dozen children and adolescents, and several dogs, have reported or have been reported as obtaining from “good” to “total” relief. At the same time, the number of people reporting increased urges and hair pulling after eating “bad” foods has been so numerous (on the order of several
hundred) that I have stopped keeping track of them, even electronically. On
the other hand, we have received a few reports of earnest attempts at dietary
control measures that have failed, most of them appearing to be from lash

According to several polls we have taken on the TTM remailer list, we have
gathered the following information. About one-half of pullers who responded to
the polls do experience strong hair pulling reactions to one or more of sugar,
caffeine, cola and/or chocolate, egg yolks, legumes (peanuts, mostly), or
fatty fish (tuna, mostly). First preceded by an growing internal feeling of
agitation, the hair pulling urges begin increasing a few hours after eating
sugar or caffeine, or about one to two days after eating the others.

The increased urges usually peak after about twice that amount of time. Often
these urges, particularly the ones due to egg yolk and legumes, take as much
as a week to fully subside down to their usual level. Although stress
aggravates such food-related pulling, it is not necessary for it: after “bad”
foods, people report they pull regardless of their mental state.”


Below is a quote from my article Withdrawal Symptoms Associated with the Addictive Nature of Gluten which relates very well with the information in this article. For those who experience an addiction to certain foods I suggest you read it!

“There are cycles that are associated with gluten itself and the entire process of going gluten-free. It starts out by eliminating all gluten from your diet. This is not easy to keep up as you begin to feel the withdrawal symptoms associated with the detoxification from 
gluten. The gluten-derived opioid effects our brain, causing neurochemical imbalances. So in other terms, gluten releases a drug-like effect on your brain (exorphins) that urges you to keep eating, and it makes gluten-allergic sufferers crave more food. This then causes you to form destructive eating habits.”


For me, I have dealt with this condition in association to celiac disease off and on throughout my life. I have found a change in diet to be my cure. For this reason, I find it extremely important for those who suffer with mild TTM, to find out whether or not it is related to a food allergy. I strongly believe that this and other types of behavioral and mental issues can be cured through diet. With the proper diet and medical guidance, people can overcome their hair-pulling urges. When someone is able to stop pulling, hair usually grows back. As for me, my eyelashes and brows always grow back, however it does take time.

However, for the more extreme cases, therapy and drugs may be the proper route when diagnosed by a medical professional. Some medications can help the brain deal better with urges, making them easier to resist. Prozac is a commonly used medication which is said to help alleviate the urge to pull. Overcoming TTM may involve cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Therapists can teach people with TTM special behavior techniques that help them to recognize when they feel the urge to pull hair. By doing so, they learn to identify situations, places, or times that have become connected with the behavior. This can help someone resist the urges, and eventually the urges will grow weaker and go away. A great way to keep track of this behavior is by keeping a journal. That way you can monitor when you do it and how often. Often times just looking in the journal can be motivation to pay more attention.

As far as food allergies are concerned, it’s unfortunate that much of what we are exposed to in restaurants and super markets are highly contaminated and bad for our health. (I suggest watching the documentary “Food Fight” which can be found on Netflix.)

“The hundreds of millions of people who suffer daily from neurological and mental health disorders linked to substances found in common, everyday foods, can make dietary choices that will have a positive impact on their health, ease the difficulty with which they live their lives, and, in some cases, help them to achieve complete recovery. It is time for the public to be made more aware of this important connection–that what we eat has such a powerful effect on simply who we are as individuals. We are what we eat, and it is vitally important to include diet as an integral part of any treatment plan, and to avoid jumping immediately and exclusively to pharmaceuticals when considering treatment of chronic neurological and mental illness.” -Gluten Free Choice Consulting by Wendy L Cohan, RN, November, 2010

If you are interested in seeing if your hair pulling is food related, there
is a simple test: eat as much bad food as you can stand, such as refined sugars, chocolate, gluten, and caffeine. If in 1-2 days there is a noticeable increase in hair pulling urges, then you could consider abstaining from bad foods. (See more about an elimination diet) I have also found that using all-natural, hypo-allergenic skin, hair care, and detergent products help. I use all hypo-allergenic make-up as well as body wash. Click here for a list of gluten-free, all-natural, hypo-allergenic beauty products. Speak with a healthcare professional before making any lifestyle changes.

Also, check out my reviews about products I use for hair growth and make-up. For hair growth I use a brow serum and will add more about make-up soon.

I hope that you can find this information helpful to you. If you suffer from TTM, I encourage you to tell us your story. The more we know from each individual’s experiences and journeys, the more we will inspire others! You may write anonymously if you choose, as your information is private and will not be solicited. The comment box automatically asks for you to enter an email address, however it will not be shown. This is a safe place for you to share and feel happy, loved, and accepted.


Teen Health, Reviewed Fred Penzel, PhD, and D’Arcy Lyness, PhD in May 2009
Journal Clinical Psychiatry, by Dr. Mauricio Infante, September 2007
TLC newsletter “InTouch” in August 1999 by John Kender and Mike Grant
Gluten Free Choice Consulting by Wendy L Cohan, RN, November, 2010
The Hair Pulling Problem – A Guide To Trichotillomania

*Update: 7/29/15* I just wanted to add that I apologize for being late to respond on some comments. I have taken an intermission from blogging recently after my baby was born but I have gotten better lately at checking in. I genuinely appreciate every comment. Also, I seem to have lost some of my links. I hope to spend time updating them in the future.

45 thoughts on “Gluten’s Role in Trichotillomania

  1. Thank you for all the good information. I haven been on a low carb diet for a couple of weeks now and have found that my urge to pull hair is much less. I am not sure if it because of the lack of gluten or sugar that I cut out of my diet. Either way I know that I do not get the bad migraines, and back pain I used to get as well when I was eating those “bad” foods. This article definitely is helping me to stick with the diet and also understand what can trigger my urge to pull.

    • Hi Moorleen,

      I am so glad that this article has helped you and thank you for sharing your story! I am able to relate with the symptoms you have experienced. I’m sure others will be able to as well.

      XOXOX F

  2. I am in my mid-20’s and I have had trich since I was about 13 years old. That’s when I first remember wrapping my fingers around my hair as I watched TV. I’d get up and see a ton of hair on the floor! It was very upsetting, and I usually wasn’t aware I was doing it. It started with my just running my fingers through my hair as a form of relaxation. Before I knew it, I was finding “wiry hairs”, that would drive me crazy and I had to pull them out. 2-3 pulls turned into many, many more. I started to form bald spots on my head. Being a young teenage girl, this was a huge down fall to my esteem. I hated getting my hair cut and being asked why I had such short hairs here, or there. Little did they know how much effort it took me to get those short little hairs so long! It truly has been a challenge. I’ve told very few people that I have this issue. When I do, some look at me weird and some are supportive. They will see me going for my hair and remind me not to. That’s been the best for me. I had stopped for almost a whole year and started again as my life became very stressful. So I know I can somewhat control it, but it is stress induced. I have many other symptoms of gluten allergies. Reading this blog has really helped me open up my eyes to all these “issues” I thought I just was cursed with. Now I’m starting to see a bigger picture and working towards some answers. It’d be great to live a life without feeling like such an odd ball. If gluten is causing all my issues, it really can make you feel crazy. It’s nice to know you’re not alone.

    A few of my other symptoms include: digestive issues, keratosis pilaris (had that ALL my life, hate it), depression, anxiety, fatigue, foot numbness, sleep troubles (I sleep walk and have mild apnea). I try to take actions in my life, mostly diet related to help all my symptoms. The best thing so far, has been eliminating bread and wheat. Everything gets worse when I go off bread/wheat for awhile and then eat it again. I have yet to be tested for gluten allergies, but it’s next on my list. To think most of my life, I just though I was plagued with these things… but now I know it might really mean something. Although there is no cure to this, it’s still good to know what’s going on with your body!

    • Hi Megan,

      Thank you so much for telling your story. I know it will help others and that they will be able to relate to it. As you said, you are not alone in your struggle. I have heard so many stories of fellow “trichsters” who have dealt with many of the same issues. I am so glad to hear that going gluten-free has helped to reduce your symptoms and urges to pull. Going off gluten entirely can take some time. Many people go off and on at first and don’t fully commit to a GF lifestyle until something really gets them to change their mind. Usually it’s a symptom or a collaboration of symptoms. For me it was the DH rash. Once I began getting that I was adamant about remaining GF for life!

      Stay strong, you can do this!

      XOXOX F

  3. Pingback: Picking at the skin can be a result of eating too much of a bad thing

  4. Have pulled since I was 11 (started with a cut on my scalp which itched), also have coeliac disease so have followed a gf diet most of my life so the gluten does not cause my pulling however I can state categorically that caffeine does! If I drink caffeine after miday I can guarentee a 6 hr pull fest that evening so, naturally, I try to avoid caffeine. The worst thing about this curse is that you can be pull free for 3 months, have a decent amount of grow back and be given a non decaf coffee resulting in patches all over your head by dawn… I find that hard to cope with… Still it could be worse.. At least we’re not hurting anyone but ourselves eh :) Oh, another highly amusing thing is I am now solidly grey.. My Dad said my hair’s in shock, none of my sisters have grey hair 😀

    • Hi Jane!

      Thank you for sharing your experience with trich. I am glad to hear that you have figured out the trigger (caffeine) however saddened at the same time. I know how frustrating this is to live with. Hopefully you can avoid the “non-decaf” coffee! That is very interesting about your hair color changing and cute that your dad relates it to trich 😉 I am not sure of a correlation between the two, however that would be interesting to find out. Stay focused and hang in there!

      XOXOX F

  5. I’ve been pulling out my hair since I was about 11 years old. My first memories of it, we’re sitting in fifth grade, pulling at my eyebrows in math class zoned out and my best friend across the room mouthing “Stop it!!” at me. Eventually my parents decided it’d be best to see a physician who told them simply “Well, if she pulls long enough it won’t ever grow back.”, of course I was on and off with this habit for years after seeing a therapist. I’ve never fully stopped, just pulled what I “felt didn’t belong there”, for years I maintained “normal enough” eyebrows thanks to their true thickness. My parents never fully understood my pulling, and constantly said “Why can’t you just STOP?”, and it’s been ever aggravating every time they’d catch me and tell me to stop. When simply, I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop. Minimal pulling was the farthest I’d ever gotten. Ever since last October, my eyebrows have been non-existant. It’s been a huge downfall in my confidence, and a pain to draw them on everyday only to still have to explain my lack of eyebrows. Ever since then, I have been consuming way too much sugar, caffine, gluten, and recently found out about a peanut allergy. So, I’ve decided to go get allergy testing done this week. It was kind of a miracle to find this article, since it all makes sense now. Stress levels led me to eating unhealthy again, and it’s been a cycle since. So, starting today, I begin my journey on testing this out myself. Hoping to come back out with at least some eyebrows and being proud and confident of myself once again.

    • Hi Emma!

      Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear about your struggle with trich, but very happy that this post was able to help you! That is wonderful that you are looking into getting tested for food allergies. I suggest you read my post about past experiences with doctors here: I also talk about doing an elimination diet which is key for finding out what you are allergic to! I will be writing more on this topic as well so stay tuned! I also updated this article a bit because you and others who also pull may benefit from the brow serum I use. You can read about it above!

      Stay positive and let me know how it goes :)

      XOXOX F

  6. Holy cow!! this article makes so much sense to me! Hi I am 16 years old and have recently started the investigation of something i used to think I was totally alone in. The TV show “My strnage addiction” and some other show gave me the name of Trichillomania, and I started looking on the internet soon after. This blog has been very helpful and explains so much, I am very thankful. The food allergy, espechially bread, caffine and sugar seem to really make sense as I have had a really bad week with pulling. I have had easter candy and donuts and coffee for about three weeks strait, both for stress releif and pleasure. Of course, me not knowing the problem with over indulging other than the fact that its not good to do so and stuff (blah blah blah), I could not understand why i was having such a crazy, hair pulling wack job week. I have no leg hair or eyebrows, and just since last month I started pulling from my scalp. I am so going to try this GF diet because I need to stop, it is really becoming a problem in my life and I don’t want to be a slave to it. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  7. Hi i am 31 and have pulled my eyebrows & eyelashes since about age 9yrs.Its bad enough that i constantly have no eyebrows atall now and sparse eyelashes,although they try to grow back.
    This is the first time i have ever come across the evidence of food being apart of it!!
    I am so exited to try,i have tried Cbt and am on medication for anxiety & depression,i have to add i am overweight,and intake chocolate,sugar,caffine,gluten regularly!
    I have only considered these a factor to being overweight,not to my ttm issues.
    My Ttm makes my self esteem so low that its a contributing factor as to why im anxious/depressed.Thankyou for sharing so much insight ,i cannot wait to get started with reading and food changes!!

    • Hi Alison!

      Thank you for your story. I know where you are coming from and hope that I can offer some helpful advice. Often times the foods we crave are foods that aren’t good for us. Sugar and gluten are addictive and can cause us to feel withdrawal symptoms without them! They have a very similar reaction in our brains as drugs do. For instance, gluten releases a drug-like effect on your brain (exorphins) that urges you to keep eating, and it makes gluten-allergic sufferers crave more food. This then causes you to form destructive eating habits. You may be interested in reading more about this Stress is a big factor with TTM as well, and as you may know, poor eating habits can cause stress so it’s all related into a vicious cycle. You are on the right track with seeking answers! One of the biggest things that helped my confidence was realizing that it’s very common and to not be ashamed of it. The more I read other stories and talk to people about it the easier it is to not worry so much. Also to accept that it’s a long journey and that you will have ups and downs. We’re all in this together!

      XOXOX F

  8. Thank you so much for posting this. Recently my 4 year old daughter started pulling her eyelashes and eyebrows out. I’m at a loss for how to help someone so young. Most therapists do not work with this age, don’t have the experience, and are not covered by insurance. We have definitely started looking at our diets. It’s going to be hard to change a young child’s diet, as they are so picky at this age, but we’re willing to try anything! You can read our story here:
    I am new with this whole blogging thing so bear with me! We are taking her to a Naturopathic Dr. today and I am curious to see what they have to say. I know it’s going to be a long road for my little girl, and I just want to make sure I am helping her the best way I can!

    • Thank you for your comment! How has she been doing? I think the Naturopath is an excellent idea. A therapist told me once when I was young to save all the lashes I pull and put them in an envelope and bring them to him. I think it was more for significance. I never did it, it was so hard because of the shame factor and that I did it without much realization. I agree some docs do not understand. For me it helped to focus on accepting myself and helping to boost confidence and not shed too much light on the issue which can sometimes make it very hard on a youngster, not saying you have… I wouldn’t know, it’s just how I felt as a young person. I think you are a wonderful mom to be so concerned and I too would worry as a mother. I do hope you have found some help. Please do let us know! XOXOX F

  9. Hi! I’m 26 and have had trich since I was about 6-7 years old! My very first memory of it was when I had a little itch on my eyelash line! Scratching it was not relieving it. So I would press my fingernail into the itching spot, and that was so satisfying, I kept doing it! My eyelid eventually felt bruised. Physically it was puffy and red. Then one night, it itched in a tingly kind of way… But since it was a little puffed, pulling my eyelashes out felt amazing! As I type this, I’m quite disturbed that I could even use that word to describe! My eyelash pulling was so constant, that it got to the point that whenever I would see a couple of black stumps on my eyelash less eyelash line, I had to get them out! Later when I was in school… I would absent mindedly start pulling the scalp hair behind my ears. Eventually the pulling traveled to my front hair that it looked like I had the highest and weirdest widows peak!! I already had terribly low self esteem because I have big eyes and got made fun of alot. In retrospect, trich didn’t help. When I was in late middle school, I had stopped pulling my scalp my my lashes were a different story. High school came along and I noticed I started pulling my scalp again. You know, the very top where your hair naturally looks like its spinning in growth? That spot. Luckily… I was able to have some what of a control to where the bald spot was only the size of a quarter. Still noticable but not bad. Back then I had frizzy curly hair so I felt that covered it up, but to be safe… I took a black sharpie and colored in the bald spot. Bad idea if your scalp is raw from pulling because it burnt. When I was 20ish, I had stopped pulling my lashes completely for the first time since I ever started! That’s about the same time I was on my “bad girl” phase in life and was constantly going out and partying. I remember buying mascara for the first time…. No greater joy! :) to this day… I have a good set if long eyelashes and have had no urge to pull. I do wish I could say the same about my scalp. The year I met my husband and later married him… Pull free! But since we have been financially stressed, the scalp pulling came back. It was so bad that I had to pull my ready thin hair back in a pony rail. My natural curls from my earlier years had slowly straightened today!thin straight hair doesn’t help covering up my shame of bald spots. When I started religiously working out and… My bald spots started to patch up. While my normal past shoulder length hair was sleek and dark brown, the new 2-3 inch hair patches were jet black and crinkly! I now have to find every hair that I believe doesn’t belong there! I spend hours looking for and feeling for this verycrinkly hair and pull it out. And within the past year, I have also started for looking white hairs to pull out… And I’ve found at least 30!! There are times when I have this urge to find a particular strand of hair that I KNOW has a jelly like glob around the tip. It’s when I pull those out now that I feel immensely satisfied as weird as it sounds. The whole gluten thing is beginning to make a lot of sense. When I was working out every single day… I also maintained a healthy eating habit! Im definitely going to have to do this again and cut gluten out in desperate attempts to have my hair grow back!!!!

    • E, You have literally described every sensation I have ever had and nearly every person I’ve spoken to with trich as well, so you are definitely not alone. Thank you so much for writing this comment, I just know it will help others to relate. How has the diet been coming along? Has it helped?

  10. Morning. I’m 32 and have been struggling with this since I was about 7. My first memory of this was when my eczema popped up on my arm and just below my knee. I had to find out what the little white things were attached to the hairs. Which led to pulling leg hair in class. Second grades a great place to start that right? Parents divorced later that year which added to it, and started my head hair pulling. Later that year I found the joy of tweezers. Now I’m pulling leg hairs with tweezers and head hair with hands. Oddly enough, I’m right handed and pull hair with tweezers with my right hand, but only pull head hair with my left hand. Conscious and subconscious working together. Oh did I tell you how I obsessed about the root? Yeah, I would collect those. Is that weird? Eh, probably not. Either way I zoned out. Jr high started the eye brow and eye lash pulling but that only lasted a year, but became obsessed with “perfect” eyebrows and would be in the bathroom several times a day searching for stumps. Anyways, I got so bad that anywhere that the hair was not peach fuzz it got pulled. Yes, bikini line and armpit, and really where do you draw the line for bikini?Because I never found that line. Nose hairs are the worst! I’m so worried I’m going to pull a hair from to deep and get an infection close to my brain. But does that stop me? No. (Yes I know that is odd, but I know of a man who had that happen. Was scary.) It was bad, leading to infections and major ingrown hairs, painful holes. I can say I have been tweezer obsessed free for going on 2 years. My hubby actually “lost” my old awesome pair of tweezers, but recently bought me new crappy ones that he holds onto and I hate them with a passion! They hurt, and pinch and its not a fun feeling like it was before. It actually makes me sick to my stomach to pull my eyebrows. I’m kinda thankful for that. We shaved my head a year and a half ago, not completely bald, but short enough that I wasn’t able to grab the hair. So keeping up with haircuts is a must or I slip, and I slip bad. I head for the crown, it is my weakness. I have very thick curly hair which helps to cover the thinness, but its the kinky curly that I dread.

    I had never heard of any food allergies as a reason. So that really interesting to me. Makes me what to try. I’ve been heavily medicated, and behavioral therapy( I think my doc was a quack) But nothing since I was in my early teens. I always felt alone in this. I still to this day have never met anyone with it. I’ve talked with several people who know a girl or someone in their family has it. But otherwise still very lonely. I guess now would be a god time to look up the GF way of life and give it a shot, cause as I have been sitting here I have pulled several and my head is sensitive at the moment. Thanks for sharing, I loved reading how its working for you. There is always hope.
    Now I realize that this was a lot of info and you may or may not have had any experience with these issues, but if someone does read it and they have then maybe they wont feel as alone. Sorry if it was a tad TMI. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl and I tell people I have Trich but I don’t like showing it off.

    • Hi Mel,

      Thank you so much for telling your story. It is so similar to so many that I’ve heard. You are right in looking into diet. From my experience diet plays a major role in how our brains and bodies function. I fell in love with the testimonials I read from those who were on the GAPS Diet. That stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. The gut and brain are so connected and often times just need to be carefully healed or managed in order to see some life changing results. I don’t think GAPS is for everyone, but I do think it’s worth looking into. I hope this information helps.

      You are not alone in your struggle, and by telling your story like you did it just goes to show how brave and strong you are! Continue with this strength and I wish you the best.

      XOXOX F

  11. I haven’t eaten gluten, grains, sugar, or starchy vegetables in eight weeks, and if anything, my trichotillomania has worsened. One of my objectives in altering my diet was to hopefully end pulling, which has plagued me intermittently since I was a child.

    Oh, well. I’m glad this works for some people. I wish it were a foolproof cure.

    • Hello,

      In my experience the transition and results take time, lots of time. It’s not foolproof, but you never know until you try. I would give it more than 8 weeks before giving up! Also, you may have had your symptoms worsen because of die off and or withdrawal. It’s common for things to get much worse before it gets better. It takes time to get used to the change. Hang in there and good luck!

  12. Hi Niki,

    Thank you so much for writing. From my experience diet plays a major role in how our brains and bodies function. I think it is worth it for you too look into the GAPS Diet. fell in love with the testimonials of people who did it. That stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. The gut and brain are so connected and often times just need to be carefully healed or managed in order to see some life changing results. I hope this information helps. It’s a bummer changing our diets isn’t covered on insurance!

    Continue with this strength as a mother. You are on the right track with Naturopathy as well. I am a huge fan!


  13. I am a 49 year old man. I started pulling in my early 20’s. At that time I didn’t know I had Trich. The urge mostly went away until my late 30’s. My wife made a comment that she thought I looked handsome with a mustache and asked why I had shaved it off. I would just tell her I slipped and trimmed it unevenly to cover my compulsion. It is psychologically rewarding and humiliating at the same time when I pull. I then got in the habit of twisting my hair on my head until my wife commented that I had a bald spot on my head. I cut my hair short and kept it that way to stop the behavior, it worked. My heart goes out to women with this affliction. I’m sure that the majority of women do not want a #3 buzzcut. Now I have no eyebrows and this one I can not hide. I have always had a healthy self esteem but now it is so humiliating to look in the mirror. My wife wants the family to have a family photo taken but I am too embarrassed because of my appearance. I would do almost anything to put this compulsion to rest.
    Thank you Fallon for sharing your story with us. I will pay more attention to the foods that I eat and see what happens.

    • Oh Jimmy, this is so sweet of you to write. I am sorry for the late reply. I really feel for you on the eyebrow issue because I am able to cover it up with make up. I don’t know how well that would work for you but maybe a consult with a makeup artist would be worth a shot. You are awesome, I say own the flaws and take every single family picture you possibly can! No one will care about your flaws or see them in the same way as you. Your family wants to see your smiling face. You are awesome, thank you for your comment and do let me know how you are doing! All of these comments are wonderful to read.

    • How are you doing with or without refined sugar? I should update this post to mention that. I have noticed it makes a difference for me.

  14. Pingback: Gluten and trichotillomania | Stop Skin Picking Coach

  15. I must admit that this is a very interesting article that makes a lot of sense!! I am 29 and have been struggling with TTM for about 3 and a half years now. I’ve always had issues with my stomach and doctors have never been able to figure out what’s going on. Recently my stomach issues became severe and yet indescribable: it is something like feeling hungry, sometimes insanely hungry (even though I just ate), feeling like craving something that doesn’t exist and whatever I try can’t satisfy it … I finally had EGD and colonoscopy done and they really didn’t reveal anything alarming (duodenum “mild patchy erythema with mild decrease in folds”). I just got my food allergy tests scheduled, curious to see what they’ll show.
    I long suspected that these two have something to do with each other (TTM and my stomach issues), but have never really done any research until now. I came to this conclusion through my own experience with eating certain foods. I will definitely try gluten-free diet – will try to document the journey.
    Thanks so much for this article / post!!!

    • Thank you so much for your comment! Let me know how you are doing! I love to hear of progress and see what has helped others

  16. My hair used to be blonde but after pulling for years it is now brown and I’m only in my 30’s & also have some gray already too. My older sis has none. My hair was also always lighter than hers growing up and into my twenties & now it’s much much darker. I notice chocolate, caffeine and sugar are huge triggers for me. Chocolate being the WORST!! Also, sometime I wake up pulling in my sleep. I used to be a minor puller but now I actually have so much hair loss on top that I have to wear a wig. This has been so hard for me psychologically that I have withdrawn from life and stay indoors for the most part & have developed extreme anxiety & phobias bordering on agoraphobia. I’m trying to work on my diet and using natural things to help me overcome these huge issues but realize that I need to seek professional help because these remedies are not working for a case as serious as mine at this point. Thanks for the article though. It helped me to understand how diet can worsen my condition.

    • I am so sorry to hear that you have been struggling. I do hope you can find relief through acceptance, in any way possible. Trich is so tricky, excuse the pun, and tends to cause so much damage to our self esteem. I love that you are working on your trich and thank you so much for commenting! I know it will help others as well.

  17. Can you please send me the links to the proper peer reviewed articles/research that were used to write this article/op-ed.
    I am concerned about my friend and how this sort of article may embolden them to take drastic dietary measures because of their struggle with trichotillomania. I want to see references used properly in APA from reliable scholarly articles so I can look at any evidence. This is peoples lives, and this issue is quite serious so as a person who utilizes research in his work and school I would like the opportunity to check these facts.

    • Hello Noah

      Thank you for the inquiry. This was written as an opinion and personal blog from my experience. All of the sources are listed. I do not base any of my personal opinion and knowlege on fact as I am merely sharing my personal experience as well as information I have read on the subject in hopes that there will be more awareness and answers on the subject. I had hoped that by writting this it would spark more professional research. I am not a healthcare professional and do not recommend anyone make any lifestyle change without speaking to a healthcare professional.

  18. I started researching “hair pulling” about a year ago and first found the word “trich” and it all began to make sense. I can’t believe I haven’t looked into this before now… I guess I just assumed there weren’t a lot of other people with the same problem. I first started pulling my eyelashes when I was probably 6 years old. My parents couldn’t figure out why I was doing it and they scolded me and I was able to stop for maybe a couple of years. I didn’t really keep track at that point, it could have been a shorter or longer time frame… time seems different from when you are a kid to when you are an adult. When it came back, it came back with a vengeance. I pulled my eyelashes, eyebrows, and for a short period of time I pulled from my head and arms and a couple other embarrassing areas. I was able to stop everywhere except my eyelashes and eyebrows. I had bangs while growing up, so I would hide behind them. My parents tried everything under the sun to get me to stop. Pulling and lying about the pulling were literally the only reasons I ever got grounded growing up. My mom was so fed up with me that one day when we were getting our pictures taken, she had me put on a little bit of eyeliner… I was hooked. I became a master of putting on my make-up. My parents still tried to get me to stop, but at least I felt like I looked somewhat normal. I would still hide behind my hair though. I also found it difficult to be in bright rooms with a lot of people because I felt like they were all staring at me… trying to figure out what it was that made me look weird. I used to love to swim… all the time when I was little, but when I needed to wear make-up, I couldn’t go underwater anymore for fear of it washing away. As far as the pulling itself, my mom would ask me a question I never knew how to answer… “How can you not notice you are pulling? Your hand is in the way of your eye when you do it.” Most of the time I was zoned out either reading a book, watching tv, or just about to fall asleep. Sometimes I would be in the bathroom. I would use the toilet, wash my hands and then five minutes later I would still be standing in front of the mirror with about ten eyelashes that I had either stuck to the mirror or had put on the sink. It felt good while I did it, but then I would want so desperately to be able to just glue them back on. Some people have said that it began with the fascinating feeling that they got when they pulled their eyelid away from their eye and it made that popping sound… I remember doing that when I was first starting to pull, but I don’t know if the two of them relate for me. I also remember studying the hairs that I had pulled and sometimes running them over my lips, but I never ate the hair. I am now 29 years old and I still have this thing. I still pull my eyelashes and eyebrows… but I have been able to make my eyebrows look fairly natural and I started wearing false lashes about six or seven years ago. I think it is hilarious when people say they go make-up free and these new fads like the “mirror fast” when they don’t look in the mirror at all for a certain allotment of time. I want to say to them, “yeah, if I had my dad’s gorgeous, long and black lashes and my mom’s perfect eyebrows, I would do that too” … but I know I never will be able to. The last time I was able to stop pulling was probably seven years ago, right before I tried the fake lashes. I actually had a good set of eyebrows and my lashes grew back. But unfortunately, most of my lashes are now gray. I was able to wear minimal make-up and I was able to talk to a few people about my problem… because I thought it was gone. It came back of course. I know it is not a total lost cause. I think I have been so used to covering it up that I haven’t really tried kicking it again. But I wanted to say thank you for the article and how brave you are for sharing pictures!

    • Oh Christie you are so sweet! I can empathize with you so much. I am curious how you have been able to wear fake eyelashes? I haven’t found a brand that looks natural enough or glue that doesn’t hurt me. My lids get very irritated and sting whenever I have tried them. You are awesome for sharing. Thank you so much!

      XOXOX F

  19. I came across your website while researching TTM as my 3-year-old has been struggling with it for about six months. I have only caught her pulling her hair out one time, when she was tired on a very long car ride and watching a movie; otherwise I never see her do it. However, it’s pretty easy to tell it’s happening as her hair keeps getting thin in different spots and we were finding hair in her diapers (she eats the hair after pulling it.) For the last two months or so she has been complaining about stomach pain and requests a bowl in her crib most nights “just in case she needs to throw up.”

    I guess the reason I’m commenting is, did your psychologist recommend allergy testing or did you have other symptoms that prompted you to get tested for Celiac’s? With my daughter being so young it’s difficult to know when she has a particular urge to pull, and now that she’s potty-trained it’s hard to track what foods may have caused her to pull, if that is what’s triggering her TTM. When we’ve talked to our pediatrician about it, she hasn’t mentioned food sensitivities at all but my mom had mentioned it to me so I thought I’d check online and see what I could find.

    Thank you for the information and your openness about your experience with TTM. It gives me hope that maybe we can actually get this under control for my daughter before she even goes to school.

    • Thank you for your comment and I apologize for the late reply. I am so sorry to hear your 3 yr old is doing it, that sounds stressful for a mommy. I did have very noticeable signs of celiac, but I was in my 20’s when I found it. If you can get her tested early on for food sensitivities and allergies I would do so just to rule it out. There are safe methods to test. A friend of mine had suggested muscle testing and she said it diagnosed her toddler. Personally, I think there is a lot of speculation over testing and so I have found that talking with a wellness practitioner, chiropractor, naturopath, even just trying and elimination diet can all be great places to start or look into first. Often times they are less costly too. I would make the best judgement call as a mom with an elimination diet and speak to your doc if needed first. I really hope this helps.

      XOXOX F

  20. OMG

    this is ecxacly what I have!

    I have this awful thing since 2009 and I’m still not completely cured!

    Its awful! I love my eye lashes and I don’t wanna loose them!!!

  21. Hi! I have been pulling my lashes out for about a year and a half now. My family and friends dont understand and get so angry with me when they see my eyes, mostly because I have naturally long eyelashes. I used to loveeeee putting on mascara because it made my huge brown eyes pop. Last year during final exams, I was picking the mascara off my lashes (stress maybe?!) and an eyelash popped out with it. It felt strangely….good? I realized that the control I had over pulling out my lashes felt really good when I felt like I had no control over anything else in my personal life. I get SO angry at myself when I pull because my lashes are naturally really long, thick, and black! I would always get so many compliments on them and ive been told my eyes are the first thing people notice about me. Call me conceited but I miss that :( I miss my beautiful lashes and wish I didn’t have this addiction. Every time I tell myself I’ll stop, I just do it absentmindedly. Its this weird sensation when Im doing it and it feels so good. In my head im telling myself noo dont do this, stop! But its like I literally cant help myself. I hope I can one day overcome this!

    • Thank you for your comment! I can relate to the sensational feeling of relief that comes from pulling. I do it in times of stress as well. I am conscious of pulling and still do not stop sometimes. I feel like I do better when I’m off refined sugar completely. I have to say though that you are not conceited one bit for missing your eyelashes and the compliments! I know the feeling myself, I have just had to come to accept that they aren’t the same and when I look in the mirror I see my eyes as beautiful still despite the differences. I focus more now on my eye color and marvel in the beauty that they bring to my face. fake lashes don’t work for me, I am sensitive to the glue. So it’s been awhile now that I’ve learned to accept my appearance and you know what? No one really notices! Eyeliner helps. You are doing great. Keep being mindful of it when you can and it will improve!!

  22. I would like to remain anonymous. I started pulling my eyelashes when I was 16. I was at a very hard school and was so scared I wasn’t smart enough. That is when it started. I pulled out a bald spot from my head at 16 the size of a quarter. That freaked me out. I didn’t have eyelashes for most of my life. I’m 35 and today I have 95% of my eyelashes but I have a bald spot on my upper head that amazingly won’t grow back. It is a couple inches by a couple inches. It always grew back. I had no idea this would happen. I cannot tolerate gluten. I get sick and bloated but I never really correlated that to my pulling. My pulling is from angst…not smart enough…not pretty enough…not rich enough…etc. I know I’ll soon need a wig. And guess what…I don’t give a shit. I’m sick of people telling me not to pull. They can go bleep themselves. Everyone has their demons. And this is one of mine. BTW Noah…you’re an idiot.

    • You are awesome! I too overcame my self conscious feeling that comes with showing signs of pulling. I have good times and then there are still relapses. You sound very strong with who you are and that is one of the best ways to overcome the nervousness and angst. Good for you for accepting things that you cannot change and for trying to work on them. Thank you for this comment :)

  23. Hi,
    thank you so much for sharing! When I started to pull out my hair I was a teenager and there was not yet any book or knowledge spread about this. – I changed my diet and stopped pulling for a long time. But when i consume white sugar in combination with wheat, biscuits for example or oats it starts again. I wanted to know if there is a connection and found your page! So my own observations were confirmed! Its shocking how many people are suffering from this! And I was wondering if perhaps mould in the grains and the toxins from that mould are causing trich. Or if it is chemicals that are being used to treat the grains. I somehow have the impression this is a modern thing trich and not been such an epedemic some hundred years ago.
    I hope some people will do more investigations on that and help people to get better.

  24. I am so excited to have come across this article. I’ve had Trich since I was about 13 (I am 25 now). It was very bad in middle school and I had noticeable balding on the top of my scalp. I overcame it (mostly) around age 15 by training myself not to (wearing hats or gloves, distracting myself, etc), and I didn’t have a big problem with it again until about a year ago. I still pulled off and on during that ten year period, but never in a noticeable way, or in a way that affected my self-esteem.
    I’ve been trying to research this new “relapse” I’m having. I’m getting married, and have a new stressful job, so I know those are factors. But I now have short patchy spots on the top of my head again, and I’ve started pulling when I’m stressed/really focused at work. I always used to do it in private.
    I was actually gluten free for about 2 or 3 years, as advised by a naturopath. I was also a college athlete, and eating gluten made me feel like crap when I was working out so much.
    I fell off the gluten-free wagon about 2 years ago, and I am now questioning if it could be playing a role with my TTM.
    Thank you thank you for this article! You’ve inspired me to go gluten-free again and take back my health and my control over trich.
    Take care!

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