Rookie Researcher : The Next Steps (part 8 of 8)

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Once upon a time, a nineteen-year old girl sat in the glass-paned lobby of a skyscraper on 5th Avenue in Seattle, vigorously typing different combinations of search terms into Google Scholar and twirling her hair. The product that sprang forth on that July afternoon truly changed my life. It’s indirectly responsible for the life I live now, thousands of miles away from that original site, plunging deeper into the jungle that is mental health research. It jump-started my career in psychology, improved the prognosis of a disorder that was on track to take over my life, and introduced me to some of my dearest friends.

That original idea became a study that is still going on today. We are still trying to find trichsters in Syracuse to participate, so that we can publish the study and put it to bed. This project is more than just collecting data, though. It was initially a way for me to learn as much as I could about trichotillomania to compensate for my inability to find or afford treatment for it. Well, I’m happy to say that I’m finally starting Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy next week, thanks in part to the success of the study.

But new beginnings accompany imminent ends, and I wasn’t about to become a one-study wonder so with the help of Carrie, who has now become my closest colleague and partner in this little grassroots BFRB research group, the gears of another idea were set in motion. This second study is meant to be easier to do and take MUCH less time, since it’s an online survey. We are exploring a completely different aspect of BFRB’s this time – cosmetics and how people feel when they use cosmetics to cover up their BFRB – but it is yet another area that no one has really studied before, and we are excited to see what we discover from this survey.

I like to say that BFRB research is one of the only areas of modern psychology where a nineteen-year old can be taken seriously. There is simply so much room to grow in the field that anyone with a good idea and a good mentor can be recognized for their work, no matter how old they are. I got extraordinarily lucky throughout this process, but it’s also a matter of dedicated planning and hard work. So listen up, if you’ve been following Rookie Researcher and are interested in starting up your own study; this is what you’ve got to do :

  1. Try to piece together a bunch of things you’re interested in studying, to see if you can bring a Frankenstein-monster idea to life. Read everything you can get your hands on about it !
  2. Be prepared to do a ton of paperwork. Find a mentor who can help you when you get stuck, and try to incorporate what they’re good at into your study. Double-check your arithmetic, always.
  3. Seek help from the people you know who are bright, loyal, and interested ! Treat these people with tremendous respect.
  4. Do literally everything you can to try and recruit subjects for your study, even the things that might make you uncomfortable. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Harness the power of word of mouth, and never stop talking about your study until it’s done.
  5. Acknowledge that things that you could never have predicted are going to pop up when you least expect them. Always try your best to do right by your subjects when in an ethically sticky situation.
  6. Remember that not everybody has the dedication + passion needed to conduct research, so if you’re doing a research study, your success is more than just luck.
  7. Good science won’t always yield good results. Learn from your methodological and statistical mistakes.
  8. Look to the future. Set goals for yourself and don’t be afraid to make them challenging.

Most of all, enjoy the ride. Doing a research study from start to finish, with the goal of informing future science and improving the lives of people with BFRB’s is a big deal. It comes with a bundle of emotions ranging from frustrated beyond belief to over the moon, and it’s not conventionally ‘cool’, but it’s hands-down the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.

Miss the other installments of Rookie researcher?
Read Part 1 –>

Part 2 –>

Part 3 –>

Part 4 –>

Part 5 ->

Part 6 ->

Part 7 ->

imageKimi Skokin is a recent graduate of Syracuse University, studying psychology and neuroscience. She attended her first TLC conference in 2015, both as a puller/picker and as a student researcher. Her interests include Hello Kitty, Kurt Vonnegut, and teaching her peers how to pronounce trichotillomania.

Rookie Researcher : Publish or Perish (Part 7 of 8)

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There’s a movie that I really love called (500) Days of Summer – in this movie, an eccentric and guarded Zooey Deschanel claims that love is just a fantasy, while melodramatic and naive Joseph Gordon-Levitt argues that she’s completely wrong. They fall in love, break up, and in a later scene JGL glumly bounces a tennis ball on the floor of his apartment as he sulks. Luckily for him, he ends up being okay.

I come back to this story from time to time because the lesson is this : sometimes you will blatantly disregard the things other people have to say to you, and you’ll end up feeling like you got punched in the face for a while, but you’ll ultimately be just fine. This lesson, as applied to my research study, involves my adviser telling me not to get too attached to my first study, because in the timeline of a researcher, a single study is supposed to be a very fleeting thing. “Publish or perish” is the motto, and once there’s nothing more to report on a topic, you’re supposed to move along.

I was strictly opposed to this, for sound reasons. First, this was my very first study, and if I was being rushed to figure out the tricks of the trade, it would come back to bite me later in my career. Second, these teeny-tiny clinical populations required more effort than usual to recruit. Third, since my study was meant to help answer an important and understudied question (to find out where BFRB’s belong in the psychologist’s Bible), conducting it poorly would only lead to more confusion in the psychology community. Finally, I wasn’t ashamed to say that I was absolutely crazy about this project. I was doing something cool and getting attention for it, and in the meantime got some much-needed clarity about my own disorder, so I understandably was consumed in thinking about it and taking care of it. I would procrastinate in my classes by working on my study, if that puts it in perspective.

Spoiler alert : I still ended up feeling like I got punched in the face.

When it came time to report the results, as I have mentioned before, there were none. Our preliminary sample had just 6 people per group, which was not enough to determine anything. Our graphs were skewed with trend lines running off the page. On our award-winning poster at the undergrad symposium, we didn’t actually have any numbers to recite. We assumed that we would have something presentable once we expanded our sample size, but the truth is that even now I’m worried that won’t be the case. Scientists only publish papers if their results are worthwhile; we never read papers about the research group that spent a ton of time and money on a project that only ended up in a data graveyard. I’m still hoping that the time I’ve invested in this project will be worthwhile, but I know I’ll ultimately be just fine.

The other thing that was far more difficult than I anticipated, was graduating. Of my amazing team, one graduated with me and one wanted a hiatus from the study, and I had just packed my things and moved to Boston. That left one brave team member at home base. The good news is that we had run 32 people in the past year, and that most of them had TTM or OCD, so we are currently past the halfway mark of data collection, which is the hard part. But once the year is over and my last lone wolf graduates, the study will shut down regardless of how many people we’ve recruited. And as invested and enamored I am with this project, I am SO excited to finally put it to bed.

Miss the other installments of Rookie researcher?
Read Part 1 –>

Part 2 –>

Part 3 –>

Part 4 –>

Part 5 ->

Part 6 ->

imageKimi Skokin is a recent graduate of Syracuse University, studying psychology and neuroscience. She attended her first TLC conference in 2015, both as a puller/picker and as a student researcher. Her interests include Hello Kitty, Kurt Vonnegut, and teaching her peers how to pronounce trichotillomania.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution about BFRBs? Here are 5 things that can help.

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Resolution Tools
Did you make a New Year’s resolution about hair pulling, skin picking, nail biting, or other BFRBs*? Here at TLC, we like to focus on positive changes we can make to reduce the impact of these behaviors on our lives.

Here are five ways to get started and some TLC resources to help you achieve your goals:

TLC’s Treatment Provider Referrals are updated daily – Check your state for treatment provider referrals or try an online program or an app to help you track your progress.
Join Dr. Fred Penzel for a live webinar on Relapse Prevention Strategies – free for TLC donor members and only $10 for those of you that have not decided to join yet. Learn more here.  A comprehensive approach to change, including taking care of your mind, body and spirit, can help reduce BFRB triggers. Dr. Renae Reinardy explains how in this free article,  Treating the Whole Person: A Personal User’s Guide. You can also use the charts and tips in this article on helping yourself overcome BFRBs.
Join an  in-person or online support group. Or, start a support group of your own!  Support groups help you end the isolation caused by BFRBs,  learn recovery tools, and stay motivated.
Talking about BFRBs decreases the shame and embarrassment of having them. Need help talking to your family? Share this Dad to Dad video. Or  print/email these FAQs to help get the conversation started.
Sometimes putting our experiences down in writing can help process emotions surrounding BFRBs.  Sharing your story will also help break the stigma for others. Submit your story, essay, artwork or poem and get inspired by inspirational stories from others here >>

What goals have you set for the New Year, and how do you plan to achieve them?

To peaceful hands in 2016,

Your friends at TLC
*BFRBs, or Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, include trichotillomania, skin picking (excoriation) disorder, onychophagia, and other similar behaviors.

“The second I turned 13 I became obsessed with body hair. “

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Meet Teddy.
“Coming up with excuses as to why my eyebrows were swollen and scabbed was difficult,” Teddy told us recently.  The stark contrast between Teddy’s words above and her beautiful wedding photo underscores the urgency of my request today for your financial support of TLC’s mission. Your donations make it possible for Teddy, and millions of people around the world to find information, support, and evidence-based treatment.
“The second I turned 13 I became obsessed with body hair,” said Teddy. “I tweezed my eyebrows paper thin. My parents hid the tweezers and tried bribing me to stop. I learned how to use scissors to pull out the hairs, and with that I started ripping through the skin.”
When Teddy found the Trichs-N-Picks online advice column managed by TLC’s Millennial Task Force, she learned she wasn’t alone. Today she is still pulling out body hair but is celebrating remission from pulling from her eyebrows and scalp.

Make a generous year-end donation today!
Please help young people get the advice and support they need to recover.  Your gift to TLC will keep “Trichs-N-Picks” going in 2016.

With gratitude,

Executive Director
Jennifer Raikes

Life would be lonely without TLC

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rosalina with donate text

“Life would be lonely without TLC and I would not have met many of my fellow trichsters,” Rosalina Castillo told us recently.  Rosalina has been pulling since she was 7 years old and is a longtime TLC member.  “TLC has also been a positive influence on how I deal my pulling, so thank you, TLC!”

Growing up with TLC has made all the difference in ending Rosalina’s isolation and providing her family with information about evidence-based treatment.

“I decided to stop waiting for my top eyelashes to grow in or for me to have a full head of hair before I could start living my life.”

Now 32, Rosalina is a successful costumer for film and TV, including “MasterChef” and “The Voice.” She has also become a mentor to many young people in our community, bringing friendship and inspiration to the next generation.

Please Donate!Please give generously today
 to continue to support early intervention and relief for families in crisis.  

You make it possible for Rosalina and many other children and families to find support and information early so that they can spend less time suffering and more time just being kids.


Thank you!



Jennifer Raikes
Executive Director

Donate | Become a Member | TLC Store 

TLC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the suffering caused by hair pulling disorder, skin picking disorder, and related body-focused repetitive behaviors. All contributions are tax deductible.
Our tax ID # is 77-0266587. – – 831-457-1004


“I didn’t have to hide.”

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“I think my childhood would have been very rough without TLC,” says Megan Malone-Brown, age 19.

Just two months after young Megan Malone-Brown started pulling her eyelashes and hair, her mother found the Trichotillomania Learning Center.

Megan Malone-Brown“My dad took me to my first TLC event when I was 8 years old,” says Megan. “It was the first time I had ever seen him cry. It wasn’t out of sadness, but out of relief.”

Growing up with TLC has made all the difference in ending Megan’s isolation and providing her family with information about evidence-based treatment.Please Donate!

“Because of what I learned through TLC, I was able to give a presentation on trich in my high school English class,” says Megan. “I didn’t have to hide.”

Megan is now a varsity soccer player and vice president of the Black Student Union at her college.

Please give generously today to support early intervention and relief for families in crisis.

You make it possible for Megan and many other children and families to find support and information early so that they can spend less time suffering and more time just being kids.

Thank you!

Executive Director
Jennifer Raikes

Our response to the article: “Trichotillomania in Childhood and Adolescence: When Anxiety Becomes Self-Injury”

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To whom it may concern,

The recent post on your website, Trichotillomania in Childhood and Adolescence: When Anxiety Becomes Self-Injury, is quite concerning. There are numerous factual inaccuracies and misinformed assumptions in this article. Additionally, the claims made in this piece perpetuate myths that create barriers to successful treatment – and could be detrimental to patients who use Psychcentral as a reliable, trusted resource for accurate mental health information.

Based on the inaccuracies outlined below, we respectfully request that you remove this article immediately. Members of our Executive and/or Scientific Advisory Board would be happy to submit an accurate article that correctly outlines evidence-based facts regarding the phenomenology, best practices treatment, and patient education strategies for trichotilomania and body-focused repetitive behaviors.

1. The similarities between OCD and Trichotillomania – Trichotillomania may resemble OCD in that there may be a sense that one is compelled to repetitively engage in hair pulling, but the two disorders have different symptoms and require different treatments. The two disorders, are, however, likely related to one another in terms of genetics.

2. Trichotillomania is not a new DSM5 diagnosis and is not in the Anxiety Disorders family in the DSM5 as the author writes. It was formerly in the Impulse Control Disorders family in DSM-IV and is now classified within the new OCD and Related Disorders family in the DSM5.

3. Regarding a building sense of tension prior to pulling, research has proven that not everyone experiences this and that criteria is no longer part of the diagnostic criteria in DSM5.

4. Trichotillomania as a manifestation of unexpressed anxiety – Trichotillomania may develop due to a combination of genetic, hormonal, emotional, and environmental factors. Although the function of the behavior varies, it is often experienced as self-soothing or assistive in the regulation of emotions or nervous system arousal.

5. Trichotillomania as a reaction to trauma or abuse – People with trichotillomania do not appear to have greater rates of trauma, rates of PTSD, or of sexual abuse in their past than people in the general population. In fact, rates of sexual abuse histories are less for people with BFRBs than estimated for the general population. This does not mean that on an individual level, hair pulling or other BFRB may not represent a means of coping with trauma-related memories. It simply highlights that the role of trauma as the triggering incident to the behavior is not a universal truth in people with BFRBs.

6. Trichotillomania as a self-injurious behavior – Although early literature written about trichotillomania suggests that is self-mutilation, recent research indicates that trichotillomania does not appear to be related to intentional self-injury. Generally, people with trichotillomania are not trying to hurt themselves, just as people who bite their nails are not trying to injure themselves. Most people with trichotillomania are upset by the resulting damage to their appearance and make great efforts to control or stop the behavior. Although hair pulling or other body-focused repetitive behaviors may reduce negative emotional states for some people at various times, they are rarely engaged in to intentionally produce pain as in the case of cutting. In fact, BFRBs are often engaged in without any, or very little, conscious awareness. The author’s use of the word “self-harm” is misleading — is she talking about NSSIB or is she talkign about addiction behaviors, as she mentioned in her comments?

7. Treatment as providing a safe space for self-expression – Although this type of environment is helpful to the facilitation of successful treatment, it is not sufficient for the treatment of trichotillomania. Evidence-based treatment for Trichotillomania includes a specific Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – Habit Reversal Training (HRT) and an enhanced HRT protocol – the Comprehensive Behavioral Model (ComB). Additional “third wave” CBT therapies, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are also effective supplemental strategies in addition to HRT.

For accurate, comprehensive, evidence-based clinical and patient information, regarding trichotillomania and other body-focused repetitive behaviors, visit the Trichotillomania Leaning Center at

Specifically, to learn more about treatment for trichotillomania, please read our Scientific Advisory Board’s Expert Consensus Treatment Guidelines:


The Trichotillomania Learning Center