How do I stop compulsively pulling my beard hair?
April 30, 2007 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I've always had a problem with pulling my beard hair out similar to other people's problems with biting their fingernails. This sort of behavior also runs in my family. What can I do to stop?

Almost since I've been able to grow facial hair, I've had a problem with pulling it out. I tend to do it in small areas until it's almost completely bald, and then move onto another small area. From what I've heard, my habit is similar to fingernail biting. A few things/quirks about it:

1. It runs in my family. My oldest sister has a problem with pulling out her head hair, and my middle sister has a problem with pulling out her eyelashes. I asked my parents about it and supposed my father used to pull out his mustache hair, but just grew out of the habit.

2. I tend to have the biggest problem of it when I'm idle. For example, It's especially bad at work (I'm an engineer, mostly in the office) while my mind is working but my hands are free. Both my sister's pulling habits are related to stress and anxiety, but I don't think my habit is. The only common exception is when I get stressed out while driving.

3. I'm completely oblivious about it while I'm doing it. All of a sudden I will snap out of "the zone" and realize there's a pile of beard hairs on my shirt.

I've tried just keeping my hands busy, but since it's an unconscious thing, I'll unknowingly stop what I was doing and start pulling it. Also, I've gone beardless a couple times (for a week or two) in the past few years, and during that time, I didn't do anything to "replace" the beard-pulling habit (such as pulling on other hair).

I know that I could see someone about it, but I'd rather avoid spending the time/money on what is essentially a cosmetic issue. My oldest sister's habit got better when she saw a psychiatrist about her high anxiety and almost bipolar-like behavior. However, like I said, I don't think my habit is linked to anxiety.

Is there anything I can try to help curtail it? Is it common for it to run in the family? Why do I do it in the first place?
posted by JacksonEsquire to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Why not just keep it shaved? You did just mention that it worked.
posted by chairface at 10:43 AM on April 30, 2007

It's thought to be related to OCD and is considered genetic.
posted by macadamiaranch at 10:44 AM on April 30, 2007

Yeah, this is a named condition that corpse linked to. My wife has this too, only with her eyelashes. She says that just before she starts she feels like her eyelashes are tangled or interfering with each other. I recommended (not that I'm an expert or even a doctor) she try wiping her face with a cold washcloth. She's found that that helps a LOT. Now that I think about it it also keeps her hands busy and breaks her out of any "zone" she might be in.
posted by DU at 10:46 AM on April 30, 2007

Previously on AskMe, if it helps.
posted by hermitosis at 10:54 AM on April 30, 2007

oh I do this all the time. I don't really have an answer for you but I find myself doing this a bunch.

The one thing that I found that has helped is I keep my goatee short and trimmed, then it makes it harder to putt on it. It's when it gets long and scraggly that I find myself pulling it out.
posted by Hands of Manos at 10:58 AM on April 30, 2007

I did this too. (I recently saved the beastie) my solution was to buy a small comb and give my beard a few good combs every time I got antsy about it. It really did wonders to pear down the desire to pluck. Plus you can stick the comb in your beard like a fro pick and look cool*

you will not look cool. at least I didn't.
posted by French Fry at 11:13 AM on April 30, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for identifying the medical name of it.

As far as the link to OCD, I've always had a hankering that all of my immediate family is mildly OCD - but not where it interferes at all with life. Perhaps why I make a good engineer.

Also, I prefer my appearance much more with a beard than without, even with small bald spots. My girlfriend also likes the beard a lot more.
posted by JacksonEsquire at 11:37 AM on April 30, 2007

I did something similar, except I didn't pull out the hairs, I just constantly fiddled with them, trying to keep them straight. (And I'm sure, giving me the appearance of a slightly manic evil genius. ::strokes goatee:: Yes Mr. Bond, Let me tell you the secrets of my evil plan...)

I found three things that solved the problem. 1.) as French Fry suggested, get a comb. When you are feeling the need to touch it, use that instead. 2.) Use some sort of pomade on it. This will make it a lot harder and more rigid. It will feel weird when your hand touches it and thus make it a lot more difficult for you to unconsciously mess with it.

And 3.) Shave that sucker off. I just did this two nights ago, and while I still fidget with my chin, it is much less frequent.
posted by quin at 11:42 AM on April 30, 2007

If it is REALLY a problem, you will shave the beard. This question is quite easily solved.

However, if you must keep the beard, then just trim it to a very short length that is almost impossible for your fingers to grip enough to actually be able to pull out.

Does it not hurt? I just pulled on the hairs on my chin (cut to a guard 3 length) and OWW.

If you cut it to guard 2, it would still be quite noticeable but probably too short for man-hands to grip.

posted by Ynoxas at 12:33 PM on April 30, 2007

I was going to recommend that you Google Trichotillomania, but other's have pointed out Trich posts already.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:24 PM on April 30, 2007

Whoops, no apostrophe in "others" above.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:24 PM on April 30, 2007

Idid the same for years until I just transferred the need to fidget to something else.
In my case, I keep a can of play-doh in my desk and break off a piece alittle bigger than a pea.
Rolling it between my fingersetc keeps my fingers occupied, which is what i always felt was ther eal motive for the habit.
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:50 PM on April 30, 2007

I do the same thing. I pull at my hair till my scalp starts to really hurt. Though it wasn't a cure I had long hair that stopped at the end of my shoulders and I just decided to cut it to my chin. Kepping my hair looking nice is a deterrent about half the time.

Heh...actually I was pulling at my hair until I read this post. I think I am going to keep an eye on this too!
posted by slc228 at 2:28 PM on April 30, 2007

I too do this and wish I didn't.
posted by terrapin at 4:05 PM on April 30, 2007

i had trich quite badly when i was a child -- left with major bald spots. now my ocd-ishness is translated to some other habits that are similar and not great but not as noticeable. i struggle with them every day however one thing that really works for me...if i notice the compulsion prior to actually engaging in it, I tell myself to wait 10 minutes and if i still want to do it, i can do it then. usually at this point the compulsion is gone (i'm also ADD so i'm highly distractable haha). in the meantime i play with silly putty, bounce a little ball, doodle, do some dishes, clean up my file system -- whatever! i recently bought a tuning fork which is really pleasing to me (though not to people around me so I only use it when i'm home alone!). slinkies are awesome distractions too.
posted by Soulbee at 6:30 AM on May 1, 2007

My dad did that in lieu of shaving, and I think eventually his beard doesn't grow anymore. That's one way to stop the pulling I guess.
posted by of strange foe at 9:15 AM on May 1, 2007

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