How Hair Pulling (Trichotillomania) Led to A Push

By Ellen Crupi, HabitAware Director of Awareness

My first hair pulling experience….how trichotillomania found me

When I was about 11, I began pulling out my hair one strand at a time. I still remember the day it started. I was bored in gym class, waiting for the activity to start. One hair felt thicker, coarser, different. And so, I pulled that single hair right out of my head and ZING, I was hooked.  

That was over 40 years ago. WOW.

For four decades I pulled. Even though I wanted to stop hair pulling, I found stopping was impossible. In high school, when the bell rang between classes I would look down at the floor and see dozens of strands of my own hair.  In college a “friend” called me out after noticing my pulling and said I was disgusting, while another commented on my thinning hair and forming bald spots. Sigh.

Those moments are paralyzing. Literally - as in I just didn't know how to respond when people took notice of my hair pulling habit. And also figuratively, as I felt like I'd be stuck in that mode of inadequacy forever.

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But I'm living proof life goes on. Fast forward three decades & I’m married with two amazing daughters. I was terrified they would inherit this dreadful disorder.

Whether that happens or not, I am in awe of their ambition and focus. While my younger self didn't know how to cope with trichotillomania, I know they are equipped with the skills to do so and I am now equipped to support and help them take control.

My Push to Awareness

In May 2017 something incredible happened. After a 3 hour, non-stop hair pulling session, I googled "breakthroughs in Trichotillomania" and up popped Keen by HabitAware.  

"Keen is a smart bracelet that helps you take control of hair pulling, skin picking & nail biting," said the search results. I dug in and learned that Keen was created by a fellow trichster who grew up with the same thing as me. So I decided to give it a chance.

And Keen changed my life...Twice!

 "The hair I'm holding is growth since using Keen." - Ellen

"The hair I'm holding is growth since using Keen." - Ellen

Here’s how:  I trained Keen with the HabitAware app for my specific hair pulling behavior...I typically begin with my left hand focusing on the hair behind my left ear.  Armed with Keen, as my hand moves into position to pull, Keen senses and gently vibrates making me aware.  

The vibration It's like a little "hug" on my wrist, privately whispering to just me. "Hey Ellen, watch out, you don’t have to pull, hands down." I immediately began associating the gentle vibration with "hands down."  

I went from pulling every day to to hardly at all. My confidence soared! I was in control!  I sit here nine months into wearing Keen and about 95% pull free.  

And then my life changed AGAIN!  

I contacted Aneela, the co-creator and trichster behind Keen and her husband Sameer. I saw what Keen had done for me in helping build my awareness and I saw the potential it had. I wanted to work with them because I wanted to help others the way they helped me. 

Since the summer, I've been able to do just that, taking my experience in sales, marketing and large scale event management to help raise awareness of Keen habit tracker and body focused repetitive behaviors. 

Everyday, I wake up thrilled to go to work and help others find their awareness. What’s important to me now is how I feel. I'm no longer hiding behind shame with trails of hair following me like breadcrumbs. I still make mistakes & I still have the occasional set back. But the difference now is I have tools, I have success and I have my Keen team & my Keen family cheering me on.  

I’m looking forward to being back regularly on the HabitAware blog to share tips on using Keen, along with some super cool life hacks that just make things brighter.  

You can always reach me at ellen@habitaware.com.  Would love to hear your story too.  

 Ellen & students at a local school, working together to bring awareness to body focused repetitive behaviors.

Ellen & students at a local school, working together to bring awareness to body focused repetitive behaviors.


About Keen by HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

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