By: Ava Alderman: If you have never experienced telogen effluvium or severe hair shedding, the topics discussed in this article may seem very strange to you. However, if you have had this type of hair loss, you may be very familiar with the idea of counting hairs, finger combing your hair to avoid any pulling, or the idea of wearing dark clothing so that your spent hairs are not as noticeable. These habits might sound strange, but for many of us, they become our reality as our hair loss becomes severe or goes on for a long period of time.
When you have this type of hair loss, you are always trying to look forward and you are always waiting for the day that you will start to recover and not see so many hairs. That is why many of us become preoccupied with trying to gauge our hair loss on any given day. And although this is understandable, it can, and often does, become a problem. Because you can become so invested in the result, you can start to gauge your hair loss almost compulsively.
For example, sometime might say: “my hair has been falling out for just a little over three months. If you listen to all of the experts, my hair loss should have ended by now. And yes, I count my hair fall. I know that I am not alone in this because when you read topics about this on forums, you’ll see that people often reference ‘100 hairs per day’ or ‘200 hairs per day,’ etc. How would people even know how many hairs there were if they weren’t counting? So yes, I count. But that’s not all that I do. I also always catch myself running my hands down the shaft of my hair and gently tugging so that I am able to remove all of the loose hair. Then I will eyeball it to see how much hair is in my hands. I find myself doing this countless times per day. And I’m always sad and disappointed when I come away with a bunch of hair. The other day, a friend asked me what I was doing and I was embarrassed. But I feel like I need to take inventory to see where I’m at. Still, I know that it isn’t speeding up my recovery or anything and I’d like to stop this or slow down. But it’s almost become a compulsion. How do I stop?”
I am so sorry that you are going through this. I know what you mean. I counted my hairs for more than half a year when I had telogen effluvium. And I used to sort of touch the end of my ponytail fishing for spent hairs. (I wore my hair in a ponytail all of the time to keep it out of the way and to try to keep my mind off of it.) This created a cycle where I was always very stressed out about my hair. And the more I counted or played with my ponytail, the more stressed I got. I actually started putting my hair in those twist clips so that there was nothing that I could put my hands on anymore. Because I realized that by taking inventory like this, I was only creating stress and anxiety, and both of these things can cause more shedding or prolong your trigger, which are two things that you don’t need.
I also decided that since I had spent so much time counting hairs, I could honestly eyeball my hair while washing (by checking the drain) to know how much I was loosing. I could look at a little ball of hair and know roughly how many hairs it contained without needing to count. So I stopped that, too. I have no idea if no longer feeding this impulse helped to stop the shedding or if that was just a happy coincidence, but I do know that it eased things for me a bit until the shedding slowed so much that I no longer needed to count anyway.
I do understand the compulsion, but I also agree that it is beneficial to stop. It really doesn’t aid you in any way. You’ve likely been at this long enough to know when you’re having a light shedding day or a heavy one. Whatever it takes, keep your hands off of your hair. Put it up and leave it alone. Wash it and then give it a quick glance and then move on. I know that this is easier said than done. But I promise that it is a relief when you begin to put it into practice.