Conquering with Keen: Stephanie’s story

Stephanie is 24 years old and lives in Virginia.  She’s had Trichotillomania for 3 years but recently realized she likely had a BFRB for much longer.  In her own words, Stephanie shares how she is Conquering with Keen Awareness.

From Skin Picking to Hair Pulling

I have Trichotillomania, but I recently realized that my journey with Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) started with Dermatillomania.  I used to pick my skin. Every time I had even the smallest blackhead, I would spend hours in front of the mirror picking at my skin. But after I found treatment for my skin, I was no longer a skin picker.  Instead, I became a hair puller.

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At first I would only pull my hair at home so I was not too concerned.  Then, it became worse. I was pulling my hair in public and while I was in class, and I could not just stop.  It was not that simple. It got to the point where I would have to shave underneath my hair because I had bald spots.  When I went to the hairdresser to get a trim, it was embarrassing to explain why my hair underneath was either gone or a million different lengths from pulling it out.

I felt ashamed of myself for not being able to ‘just stop’

I started nursing school and we were told that we had to keep our hair up.  I was embarrassed because I knew people would then see the bald spots and the habit I had been trying to hide.  I wanted to wear my hair up in cute styles even outside of school and clinicals, but it was embarrassing. I felt isolated from my peers because I thought everyone could see it and was talking about me.  I did not want to go out in public and I felt ashamed of myself for not being able to “just stop” pulling my hair out. My mother was concerned and kept telling me to just stop and I told her numerous times that it was not that simple, but I knew she did not understand.

My life practically revolved around my hair pulling.  If I was sitting in my car at a stoplight and pulling, I would wait until I had the hair in my hand before I allowed the vehicle to move through the green light with people behind me, beeping their horns.  I did not tell many people. I was alone.

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Searching for a Trichotillomania Solution

I decided to look for a Trichotillomania solution after discussing options with my psychologist.  She told me to put a rubber band on my wrist and snap it when I felt like pulling. When that did not work she told me to hold a piece of ice in my hand so it would somehow turn off the urge in my brain to pull because my hand would become wet, cold, and even a little numb.  I was also told to keep telling myself “hair belongs on my head,” but nothing worked.

I wanted to be a normal young woman who could put my hair up and enjoy different hairstyles, but I couldn’t.  I had bald spots underneath my hair. When these options did not work, I turned to my psychiatrist who I was already seeing for anxiety, ADHD, and OCD disorders.  She put me on different medications that are used for OCD, but none of them worked.

I wanted to be a normal young woman who could put my hair up and enjoy different hairstyles
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The final straw came when she handed me a prescription for Naloxone, which is the generic name for Narcan - the opioid antidote drug.  I could not believe it. I did not have a drug problem nor had I ever had a drug problem. So that evening instead of filling the prescription, I started to search online.  I typed in “Trichotillomania” and went from there. Suddenly, HabitAware appeared after I searched for “Help with hair pulling.”

Overcoming Trichotillomania with a Habit Tracking Bracelet

I went to the HabitAware website on my laptop and it has since changed my life.  It was a non-pharmacological measure, and if it did not work, they offered a 90-day money back guarantee.  I had nothing to lose. I asked for my HabitAware Keen bracelet for Christmas and it was the best gift I received.  I downloaded the app on my phone and I set up Keen. It was super simple and easy to do!

I wear my bracelet every day and no one questions it because it looks like a fitness bracelet.  I love the way the bracelet looks and the fact that I am the only one who feels the vibration to know when it is alerting me.  They say it takes 21 days to correct a bad habit. I have been wearing it longer than that and my hair is finally starting to grow.  I may even be ready to wear my hair up this summer!

 
Keen has completely changed my life
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Keen has completely changed my life physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I no longer pull out my hair. I may always have the tendencies to pick and pull my hair out, but Keen reminds me to put my hand down.  I am no longer looking over my shoulder thinking someone is talking badly about me. I live in peace now. I am no longer embarrassed or self-conscious about putting my hair into a ponytail, or trying to hide my bad habit.  My life is crazier than ever with graduation in just a few months, but with Keen I am calmer and less anxious.

I have already recommended Keen to others.  My psychiatry office is learning more about Keen. I have recommended it to coworkers, friends, and other family members. When they see how much my hair has grown underneath, they are in complete shock to see how much a bracelet has impacted my life.  I am truly thankful for Keen!

And we’re thankful for you, too, Stephanie!  Thank you for sharing your story and giving strength to our community!

 
 
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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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