You’re a hero. Thank you.

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When you take action, when you give, when you spread the word, you’re taking action against the stigma and shame cause by body-focused  repetitive  behaviors.

And in 2015, you took more action than ever before.

With your support this past year, TLC


You have bravely shared your personal stories with friends and family, educated teachers and schools, and strengthened the TLC community by supporting educational events across the country and for the first time, in the UK.

Your contributions matter — and we thank you with all our hearts.


With love,
Your friends at TLC
**Photographs of 2014 conference attendees courtesy of Jillian Clark Photography.

Growing Up With TLC: Harris pays it forward

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ALLY&JANE.pngWhen 14-year-old Harris Liebmann shared his struggles with trichotillomania during his bar mitzvah speech last year, “There was not a dry eye in the house,” says his mother, Beth.

It was the first time that Harris had talked openly about his  condition since his diagnosis three years earlier.

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

For Harris’ bar mitzvah project, he gave a TLC brochure and a letter about his personal experience to all the kids invited to his event.

“If it wasn’t for TLC, I never would have known that I was not alone,” says Harris.

Please give generously today  to support early intervention and relief for families in crisis.  You make it possible  for Harris 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
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

Trich Or Treat? (Just Kidding, It’s Definitely Not A Treat)

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This article is kind of biographic, and it’s extremely messy. I wasn’t sure how to organize it, seeing as this is my story, and it’s kind of hard to tell…forgive me. I’m a better writer than this, I swear.

When I was 7 or 8 years old, I started pulling out my hair.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started and I can’t tell you how it became a habit, just that it did.

I was in third grade, and my sister got lice. That much I remember. I guess I thought that I had lice, too, because I made a subconscious decision to “pull” all the lice out of my hair. Guess where that got me.

By the time I was in fifth grade, the damage was significant. Multiple bald spots and only a fourth of my eyebrows left. By then, I was totally aware of my pulling, and I had no idea what was wrong with me. An article I found about trichotillomania just about saved my life.

  1. a compulsive desire to pull out one’s hair.
    “an amino acid that has previously shown promise in treating repetitive and compulsive disorders has reduced hair-pulling in 25 people with trichotillomania”

The article told me what trich was, how common it was, and judging by the symptoms displayed in the article, I definitely had it. I showed this to my mom, and she said no. I didn’t have a disorder. It was just a bad habit. She wanted me to see a therapist anyways. I hated the therapist, because she was just like my mom. I was eleven and scared and nearly bald and there was a lady whose name I don’t even remember sitting in front of me, telling me that I didn’t have a problem. Maybe that was what I wanted to hear, but I knew it wasn’t true.

Needless to say, I didn’t go back to that therapist.

Cassie is 14 years old and has trichotillomania.
Cassie is 14 years old and has trichotillomania.

Over the summer before middle school, we found a therapist who specialized in trichotillomania–my family finally accept that that was what I had. I began to see her regularly–I still see her regularly–to help me cope with the emotional and physical damage my new disorder was doing to me. She also introduced me to a support group, where I’ve met some of the most amazing people I know.

Flash forward, and we’re in sixth grade. September, to be exact.

I was sitting in second period Spanish. I was wearing dark jeans, metallic sandals and my long-sleeved Hogwarts t-shirt. I find it weird that I remember it so clearly, but considering how often I think about this day, it probably isn’t weird at all. I remember it so clearly because this was the day that I realized the severity of my problem. This was the day that my disorder started to ruin my life.

Second period. Probably around 10:30. I was sitting next to one of my best friends, I was listening to the teacher talk. I was proud of myself, my hand wasn’t tangled in my hair, searching for thick or coarse hairs to pull out and play with until they bored me. I was proud of myself. So proud that I didn’t realize my hand was rubbing my eye.

It itched. It itched on the inside of my eyelid, underneath my eyelashes where it’s nearly impossible to scratch. I rubbed my eye with my fist, blinked until my eye was watering, but it wouldn’t go away. Not until I plucked at least three eyelashes from right above the irritated spot. Three lead to three more and three more and then all of them were gone on the top row of my right eye.

Overtime, the top row of the left eye and the bottom rows of both eyes disappeared, too. People loved to ask about it, they loved to make me uncomfortable. I would lie about it, saying that I had an allergic reaction to makeup or something. As soon as I realized people weren’t going to leave me alone, I began to wear eyeliner right on my lash-line, above my slowly growing in lashes every single day.

My hair was starting to grow back in awkward lengths, framing my face like sloppily cut bangs. My eyebrows were thin, but they were there. I can still remember people asking me why I waxed or plucked them so thin. I didn’t, and their questions hurt.

After that, I became extremely self conscious. I thought people were always staring at me, always judging me for my physical appearance. My lack of hair and oddly discolored braces made me feel the exact opposite of beautiful.

Cassie, embracing her beautiful (and natural!) hair
Cassie, embracing her beautiful (and natural!) hair.

Sixth grade was my absolute lowest point, physically, mentally and emotionally. I felt alone and helpless and ugly and worthless and messed up and I hated myself.

Things got better once my eyelashes grew back. My eyebrows got a little thicker. My baby hairs were beginning to grow. I was pulling less. Seventh grade. I felt okay.

Of course, seventh grade was the year that near strangers came up to me to ask why there were piles of hair under my desk. Seventh grade was the year that my teacher asked my best friend about my disorder instead of asking me.

But seventh grade was also the year that I began to become involved in the BFRB (Body Focused Repetitive Behavior) community, so that’s okay.

Eighth grade was amazing, trich-wise. (Anxiety-wise, not so much.) My pulling was at an all time low and my hair was finally growing long and everything was amazing. I loved myself, I thought I was beautiful–I still do. Eighth grade was amazing.

High school had to ruin that. About a month before the first day of high school, my pulling started getting bad again. Subconscious episodes while watching Teen Wolfon car rides to the grocery store. Once high school actually started, it got even worse. Episodes during class. New bald spots. Bloody scalp. Calloused fingers. Piles of hair under the desk. Frantically gathering it up and stuffing it into the pocket of my jeans so no one sees it.

And that’s still going on. We’re only two months into high school, so I can only imagine that it will get worse from here. But strangely, I think I’m okay with that.

I’ve been trying so hard to fight trichotillomania for almost eight years. I’ve gone up and down and been really bad and then almost been one hundred percent okay and then plummeted right back down. But I love myself now. I’m happy. I’m beautiful. My impulse control disorder does not change who I am as a person. It has a large effect on me, yes, but it no longer defines me.

I am not my trich.

At only fourteen years old, that is the only lesson that I have really, really learned, and it might be the most important lesson that I ever learn.

My disorder does not define me. Your disorder does not define you. I am not alone. You are not alone, either. Between two and ten million Americans suffer from trichotillomania. You are not alone.

Article taken from Cassie’s blog.

How Growing up with TLC Changed Everything for Sera

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“My parents were so stressed. I felt like a terrible child,” says Sera Torregiano, looking back on her earliest days coping with a BFRB. “My parents finding TLC has been the biggest relief of my whole life.”

Sera began pulling when she was just 7 and picking at age 13.  Fortunately, her parents found TLC right away and immediately took her to a TLC conference. She is now a 20-year-old college student, busy completing a double major in criminology and psychology.

Growing up with TLC has made all the difference in ending Sera’s isolation and providing her family with information about evidence-based treatment. “Now I have friends all over the country and can always call or visit them. TLC has provided me with an endless realm of support that gets me through each day.”

Please DonatePlease give generously today to continue to support early intervention and relief for families in crisis You make it possible for Sera 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

Rookie Researcher : The Sharing Process (Part 6 of 8)

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I will preface this post with a bit of jargon : Imposter Syndrome is a silent but prevalent disease in the scientific community. It means that despite all the success that one has attained, they will always feel like their accomplishments are a hoax and they are still bumbling around with no idea what they’re doing.

This affliction should be at the top of my medical chart – I’ve had my fair share of accolades at a young age, but always felt like there must be some other explanation than y’know, talent. I finished high school at 17, college at 20, graduated with a 4.0 and moved on to work at the #1 ranked hospital in the country, but I also managed to get marinara sauce on my white pants very recently, so I frequently feel like a fraud, and it’s been no different with my research study.

After a few good months of hard work, we had run 18 subjects, a good number of whom had TTM, and were ready to start taking a good look at our preliminary data. I was set to present at the TLC conference in Washington DC and my university’s undergraduate poster symposium, and I was meeting with my adviser every week to “work on the analysis code” – meaning he tinkered with the code while I sat next to him and watched, wishing I had better glasses so I could actually see what he was doing. An integral part of this process was my adviser getting progressively more and more angry with the lines of text, at times muttering expletives better suited for the Maury show or slamming a fist on the table. Another component was me working late into the night, vigorously Googling and picking apart coding commands, coming in to the next meeting with something that I hoped was workable, and then finding out that what I came up with had accomplished all of absolutely nothing. A lot of tears and f-words went into that analysis code.

Once the code was in place, doing the analyses was just as anticlimactic, because data of 18 people looks nothing like it’s meant to (the rule is that the more people participate in the study, the better we can assume that the data represents the real world). 18 people is a crumb in the research world. After looking at a handful of skewed graphs, inconclusive statistical tests, and an overall paucity of good results, I could feel an ulcer taking shape in my gut.

The silver lining to my statistically insignificant stormcloud was this : I was an undergraduate. My study had been going on for months, not years like those of the top-dog scientists. My own study was a little too complex for me, I was collecting data from two itsy-bitsy clinical populations, and my data analysis plan was straight out of Stats 101. Therefore, expectations were low.

As much fun as I had at the TLC conference in April, it was my debut as an amateur scientist, so I was extremely nervous. The first poster session* was professionals-only, and a more experienced friend told me to hang my poster by the bar if I wanted a lot of questions (BIG mistake !). I had some enlightening conversation with some of my research idols, but moreso I had awkward moments galore. An established researcher whose lab I was rejected from for grad school asked me if I was considering grad school. There was another top-dog that I nervously bickered with for saying that there was no money in BFRB research (the fact that we were arguing as two fairly well-funded researchers was humorous to me). And every time someone asked me to break down my results into common language, I would always have to peek at my notes because I was still not sure. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be in this world, I ruminated later in my hotel room, I felt like such a phony in there.

A few weeks after the conference was Syracuse University’s undergraduate poster symposium, where my whole team would be with me to be befuddled about the output of the project. But after my snafu at the conference, I was determined to do right by my study. The four of us were dressed to the nines (I was wearing my hot pink blazer). Energy was high. Many of my favorite professors came through, and they actually seemed content to listen to us blab. By the time our evaluators came by with their clipboards, we became total pros. One of the evaluators was an older lady professor, who we buttered up with compliments on her pearls and whose questions we answered with the utmost patience and grace. We were rockstars.

Time came to announce awards – there were more than 70 posters that day, and only 5 awards. When I heard the announcer say “trichotillomania,” I felt like I’d won a Grammy. The ‘award of distinction’ was nothing but a pink piece of paper signed by the head of the Psych department, but it was dusted with external validation, and that was all that mattered. The potential of our project, the idea that a group of millennials was doing unheard-of work, was exciting enough that people were willing to overlook our minuscule sample size. That excitement is something I would like to put in my pocket and carry with me for the rest of my career.

As for imposter syndrome, I learned that the best cure for it is to suck in your gut and go after what you want regardless. My adviser confessed that he has symptoms of imposter syndrome. The older lady professors have it, the top-dogs have it. It’s as common as the flu in February, so don’t ever let it stop you from your hustle.

*a poster session is a grand presentation affair in research. You describe your project in detail on a 3×4 foot poster, hang everybody’s posters up in a lobby, and answer people’s questions as they walk by. People tasked with evaluating the posters are hidden among the crowd, and these people ultimately decide who wins prize money, or in my case, a pink piece of paper.

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

Part 2 –>

Part 3 –>

Part 4 –>

Part 5 –>

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.

New Adult BFRB Support Group in Eastchester, NY

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New Support Group for Adults w/ BFRBs in Eastchester, NY!

This support group will be free and a chance to connect with others with BFRB’s. Facilitated by long-time, beloved TLC professional member, Merrill Black, LCSW/Reiki Master/Hypnotherapist

When: Once a Month, on a Monday Evening
First Meeting: Monday November 2nd, 7:00 – 8:15 pm
Who: Support Group for Adults with BFRB’s – those 18 and up for those who suffer from Trichotillomania and or Skin Picking/BFRB’s

The Temperance Center 453 White Plains Road Suite 201
Eastchester, NY 10709

If interested please contact Merrill at 914 793-2600 or at

Rookie Researcher : The Ethics (Part 5 of 8)

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‘Research’ is an umbrella term big enough to encompass science dealing with creatures from primates and big cats down to mice, protozoa, and bacteria. Of course, we are the largest and most complex of such creatures, so we require extra care and caution from our researchers. ‘Ethics’ is another umbrella term, one that makes amateur researchers like myself huff and puff because this component is necessary but boring, so very boring. I had to take another seminar on HIPAA (the reigning legislature about protecting participant health information) just the other week, and I remember my yawns were so big I could probably have swallowed up the guest lecturer.

I guess the fun part is being out in the field and having to make decisions about ethical situations they don’t tell you about in the seminars. I had no shortage of these situations over the course of my study, and I would like to share some of them, vignette-style :

  1. The girl who wasn’t quite sure what ‘debriefing’ meant. After the study is over, the research assistant goes in to recap what the participant just did, why they did it, and what resources they can utilize moving forward in case they wanted to learn more about trich or OCD. I went in to talk to a girl, and I think she thought she had to turn the debriefing into a dialogue. She started disclosing a lot of details about her struggle, which a lot of our participants do, and then came a very stuffy silence. “…Do you want to see it ?” she said, referencing her bald patch, in a tone that sounded like she clearly didn’t want to but felt like she had to. I told her she didn’t have to do a thing like that, and she looked RATHER relieved after that (I was probably just as relieved). Many of the people that came in to participate in my study had no prior experience being research subjects before, so when things started to look like a therapy session, this subject understandably freaked out a little bit.
  2. 2. The girl who hides it REALLY well. We once had a participant while I was out, and I came back to look at her self-report scores, and they were through the roof for both trich and OCD. We all looked at these scores, befuddled at how this girl was not currently in some type of treatment facility…and then we realized we all knew who she was. I started to get worried about this girl, and needed to breach the subject with her without letting it slip that I knew she was in the study. Good thing I had a great icebreaker – I had just come back from the TLC conference and had my new fiddle out on the desk. She happened to ask about it, and I self-disclosed to her, at which point she did the same. “I have that !” she was actually quite eager to tell me. We then proceeded to talk about it nonchalantly, I asked how she was hanging in there with finals around the corner, and she said just what I was hoping she’d say : that she was having a little bit of a hard time, but she just actually just did this study for trich and they gave her a pretty handy resource sheet she was going to look into as soon as she was done with finals.
  3. The girl who didn’t have any hair. One of our first participants started a conversation with me afterwards where I self-disclosed to her (this is a common practice, I think it helps the participants feel more comfortable and maybe motivates them to be more open themselves in the future). She looked very surprised. “But…but you have all your hair,” she said. She then fidgeted with the crown of her head to reveal that the thick braid she’d walked in with was, in fact, a wig. As I suspected, she didn’t know anyone else with trich, so her experience was the only one she had to go off. I think we both were equally surprised at how well the other was at hiding trich…but at the end of the day, we both clear hair off of our laptop keyboards and bathroom counters on a daily basis.
  4. The girl from the Midwest. It’s always hard saying no, but with how desperate we were to get participants, it was even harder. But our study’s information was broadcast on the TLC website, which reached people beyond the scope of what we ever expected. One day, I got an email from a woman in Minnesota asking to learn more about the study before she made travel arrangements to fly out for the experiment. I did what I had to do…told her that the study only takes an hour and she only gets paid $10, which is absolutely not worth buying a plane ticket to upstate New York for. It was a sad day, and I ended up getting emails like that from others, in New York City and New Hampshire, that I had to turn down, no matter how badly I would’ve liked them to come in.
  5. The girl who needed a therapist. Another one of the difficult things with a study like mine is that so few people with trich are getting treatment that we usually end up being the first line of defense; people see us as surrogate therapists and that’s a lot of responsibility for a 20-year old kid who didn’t even have a degree. It was another one of those post-debriefing discussions, and as soon as the participant started talking about her parents and her childhood I had to stop her. I got very good these last few months at mentioning how little I’m really trained for. I’m not a therapist (yet), but I was armed with a sheet of fabulous resources, and otherwise I just did my best to empathize and be a good listener, since those are universal skills.

Nobody told me that I would be playing therapist, or sounding like Simon Cowell, or having interventions with my own friends. As much as I would have loved to be mentally prepared for these situations, they caught me by surprise and as such, I learned a tremendous amount from them. I could never work with a protozoa. I need to be around humans, magnificent beings so wrought with insecurities and fears as they are.

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

Part 2 –>

Part 3 –>

Part 4 –>

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.