How to stop hair twisting/pulling? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 02-11-2009, 05:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ds (7 1/2, SPD, and probably will be diagnosed with anxiety soon) has been going through an anxious period. In addition to repeated night wakings :yawning:, he's developed a habit of twisting his hair in the front.

It's very constant and quite noticeable (I was in to see his teacher and the school counselor yesterday and they both commented on it). I wouldn't worry about it too much EXCEPT he's starting to pull his hair out. He's already self-conscious, and I really don't want him going around with clumps of hair out!

It's going to be a couple of weeks before we can get him in to see anyone, so I'm looking for ideas to keep his hands out of his hair. It's almost a compulsion at this point in time - he just can't keep his hands away.

So far, we've mostly been verbally reminding him. I've tried giving him different objects to finger (squeeze ball, koosh ball), but they don't really work, and he doesn't want to take one to school.

Other ideas?

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#2 of 14 Old 02-11-2009, 05:31 PM
 
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Cut it off?

As a hair puller myself...I truely feel his need. It's self-soothing. Just as a warning though- during the periods when I couldn't pull my hair, I took to other self-soothing actions, like smoking cigarettes or eating.


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#3 of 14 Old 02-11-2009, 05:43 PM
 
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What is soothing about it? The pulling or the feeling of the hair being pulled. If it is just the action of pulling, maybe wearing a scarf with fringe around his neck would help. He could play with the fringe. I know I find myself playing with fringe alot if I wear it. Braiding and unbraiding it or just messing with it. That might be closer to what he already does than playing with a ball. Another idea was that I've seen switches of horse hair - he could twist and pull on that. But if it is somehow soothing to feel the hair pulled, I'm not sure either of those ideas would work.
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#4 of 14 Old 02-11-2009, 06:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by 2bluefish View Post
What is soothing about it? The pulling or the feeling of the hair being pulled.
For me? It's complicated- I like to twist sometimes and make a really tight piece; othertimes I like to comb my fingers through my hair (straight) and pull out loose pieces of hair, sometimes the tugging will pull some strands loose too. It's wierd, I know I'm doing it, but i can't stop. I'll put my hair up in a poneytail and then 5 minutes later it will be down again and I'll be pulling it!

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#5 of 14 Old 02-11-2009, 07:41 PM
 
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Lynn -- This may be directly related to anxiety. The technical term for hair pulling is trichotillomania -

http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind...illomania.html

Do you have a copy of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety by Tamar Chansky? She discusses trich.

In any case, it is doubtful that there is a lot you can do to help him stop on your own because it could be a byproduct of his existing anxiety, and bringing it to his attention with verbal reminders may actually raise his anxiety. Definitely bring it up when you see your health care provider.

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#6 of 14 Old 02-11-2009, 07:55 PM
 
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Great article! Sums me up!

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#7 of 14 Old 02-11-2009, 09:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Cut it off?
Yes, in my less stellar parenting moments I've threatened that!

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Originally Posted by ShwarmaQueen View Post
As a hair puller myself...I truely feel his need. It's self-soothing. Just as a warning though- during the periods when I couldn't pull my hair, I took to other self-soothing actions, like smoking cigarettes or eating.

Well, he's 7, so I'm hoping that he won't take up smoking quite yet .

I don't know what's soothing about it to him. I THINK it's the feeling on his fingers when he does it. If he could just twirl it without pulling, I'd be OK. (But, his hair is short enough right now that twirling = pulling....hmmm.. maybe grow it out? )

I'll ask him tonight.

Maybe I can teach him to knit...

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#8 of 14 Old 02-11-2009, 09:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by LauraLoo View Post
Lynn -- This may be directly related to anxiety. The technical term for hair pulling is trichotillomania -

http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind...illomania.html

Do you have a copy of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety by Tamar Chansky? She discusses trich.
Yes, I definitely think it's related to the anxiety... I'm not sure it's trichotillomania (wow, that's a mouthful!) YET -- really it's the twisting that's causing the hair to pull out. But, I'm afraid it's headed in that direction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LauraLoo View Post
In any case, it is doubtful that there is a lot you can do to help him stop on your own because it could be a byproduct of his existing anxiety, and bringing it to his attention with verbal reminders may actually raise his anxiety. Definitely bring it up when you see your health care provider.
Ugh. I'll talk to dh tonight and monitor ds and see what how stressed about it he seems to be.

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#9 of 14 Old 02-11-2009, 10:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
Well, he's 7, so I'm hoping that he won't take up smoking quite yet .

I don't know what's soothing about it to him. I THINK it's the feeling on his fingers when he does it. If he could just twirl it without pulling, I'd be OK. (But, his hair is short enough right now that twirling = pulling....hmmm.. maybe grow it out? )
Hopefully not!

It's really hard to explain WHY it's soothing to me. Like the article stated, it's more of a subconcious thing involving brain chemicals. I think it would be nearly impossible for you to understand what is soothing about it to him, it's pretty deep, kwim? I don't remember starting that young, I think I was closer to adulthood- hopefully there's time for him to find alternate outlets for the anxiety.

Momma to DD (12/04) hearts.gif and DS (11/09) hbac.gif.
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#10 of 14 Old 02-12-2009, 12:46 AM
 
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My DD1 had beautiful hair past her waist and started doing this. She couldn't stop and we did cut it.
I hope you can find something that helps.

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#11 of 14 Old 02-12-2009, 11:38 PM
 
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My son still does that. He is almost 11. He has done it ever since I can remember. When he was little he would have huge knots in his hair and yanked out hair wrapped around his fingers. He also likes to pet anyone else's hair, the dogs, or the fluffier stuffed animals. It sounds a little odd when I type it out , but really I always just looked at it as like a security blanket. It is most certainly a self soothing action in DS's case.

I try to keep his hair short, and that helps the knots. We also gave him a stress ball, which helps sometimes, for school. At home he mostly just pets the dogs now

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#12 of 14 Old 02-13-2009, 04:40 PM
 
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I’m afraid if you cut it short it will make him pull it out because he cannot twirl it. Although twirling and pulling seem to be two very different things.

I was an excessive hair twirler (never pulled it out) my entire life although I do it very rarely now. My mom tried everything including cutting my hair, scolding me or yanking my hand away every time she saw me doing it. I never understood why she couldn’t just let me do it as long I as wasn’t hurting myself? In my case, I also had to twirl the same number of times on each finger and if she broke my cycle it was really frustrating for me. (My family is riddled w/undiagnosed OCD. Could your son have OCD issues?) I liked the silky feeling of the hair running through my fingers and felt no desire to pull out my hair.

I have a friend who is a hair puller since her pre-teen years. She shaves her head and wears a wig. I believe her pulling is related to anxiety and probably much more severe than your son’s situation. She sees a therapist and is on medication but says shaving her head makes her life much easier. She says it’s not the feeling on her fingers but the release/calm she feels after pulling out her hair.

Has your son been able to tell you why he likes it? If it's just twirling, I'd let it grow out and let him twirl.
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#13 of 14 Old 02-13-2009, 05:36 PM
 
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My ds is only 2.5, but he's been doing this since being a newborn with grasping reflex. He is diagnosed with SPD, OCD & anxiety, so it is related. We do the brushing protocol, but I honestly don't know if that helps. My son does wear a ski hat (like the skateboarders wear) and likes the pressure/squeeze on his head. He doesn't pull his own hair though, he pulls and twists mine (and seeks me or our short-haired dog for her tail). He puts the tip of the dog's tail in his ear and likes the sensation. We went looking at an art store for a paint brush that he could put into his ear that would give him that same sensation. A tight-fitting hat could help? We've also experimented with yarns. I wonder if next time he gets a haircut, he could carry a lock of hair in his pocket?

Laura Loo~ Thank you for posting this article.
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#14 of 14 Old 02-13-2009, 09:23 PM
 
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Lynn, just stopping in to give you a and say that I'm sorry you have to worry about this. We haven't had this particular situation, but I've been there with ds and his many, ever-evolving anxious tics (excessive lip-licking until raw and bleeding, chewing on shirt sleeves, and others) and may one day enter hair-twirling territory as well. Does his anxiety manifest itself in other repetitive behaviors, or is this the first you've noticed?
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