Out of the blue, one day a few years ago, my son started pulling out all his eyebrows and eyelashes, and he couldn’t stop. At times he’s been completely hairless around his eyes! It’s mostly under control now, but it sneaks up again once in awhile. Thankfully it’s been quite awhile since he’s been completely hairless around his eyes. Here are some things we’ve learned/recommendations:
-Get on it right now! Try to get on top of it before it gets more embedded.
-Look for a good psychologist with experience treating trichotillomania, and hopefully kids with ADHD
-Start a rewards system where they earn a little something for each day they don’t pull (or break it down into smaller chunks if a whole day is too much to start with). We did a Lego set after 30 days worth (didn’t have to be every day in a row). I also did little daily rewards of two little Legos. If he slipped up, I tried to just say, “oops, we had a little trouble today, but tomorrow is a new day, and you’ll do great.” Sometimes we’d talk about the situation and what we could do better.
-Don’t let your alarm/frustration come through to them. Remain calm and positive.
-This is largely a matter of busy hands when bored/stressed. Give them something to do! We’ve used worry rocks, little fidgets (could be a necklace, small toy, anything they can put in their pocket). Also drawing has helped, or simply distracting them with something different and interesting to get their mind off of it. We started calling whatever item a good luck charm because we discovered that just the act of putting something in his pocket with that purpose seemed to flip a switch and made a commitment in his brain that he wasn’t going to pull that day; he often didn’t even use it on those days. Find what works for your individual child.
-Use a deterrent/reminder. When it was really bad in the beginning, sometimes he’d wear sunglasses or even swim goggles to remind him not to pull, and he would get them himself when he felt he needed extra help. Maybe try hats or headbands.
-Explain to teachers that if they catch them pulling, to quietly help them do something else, handing them a stress ball, giving them a little task/errand, but hopefully not bring direct attention to it. Something like, “It looks like we need to do something else”, or not say anything at all. They need to be aware and on your team to beat this habit! Explain to the school why your child might need a fidget, worry rock, or wear special accessories of some sort. I added something in for it on his 504, and the school was helpful and supportive.
-Change up medications. Some meds have a greater tendency to tics — talk to the doctors, look over side effects. We discovered a small change from a generic to a brand name helped immensely.
-Sleep! When my son is sleep deprived, it sneaks up mindlessly while he’s reading.
-Stress control — try to figure out what the triggers are, patterns, ask them what things bother them. My son’s habit showed up while my marriage was falling apart, and he was bottling things up inside. Get them talking, writing, drawing, playing outside, exercising, and all that good stuff.
This is a really hard habit to deal with, and it’s heartbreaking to watch it in your kid. But it can be tackled. Don’t give up! You’ll be able to find things that help.