I Unconsciously Hurt Myself

but yet again, I don’t stop. I don’t know how.



Somewhere between third and fourth grade I began twirling and lightly tugging on my hair.

While this might seem to be a cute behavior of a little girl, it’s not so cute when I still do it over 20 years later.

It doesn’t matter if my hair is long or short, if I’m in a highly stressful situation or just sitting and watching a movie, I’m most likely twirling my hair.

I use my left hand to grab a lock of hair from the lower left side of my head. I have a pattern of grabbing the hair between my pointer and third finger, lightly pulling it downward then twirling around in a circular pattern.

Even though I don’t necessarily think about it while I’m doing it, if I do happen to notice, I keep doing it because I like the way my hair feels between my fingers. I don’t pull on my hair to the point of hair loss, but with the near constant pulling motion accompanied by the twisting, it’s actually known as a condition called Trichotillomania.

There are many theories as to what causes this from severe anxiety to an obsessive-compulsive disorder of sorts. I haven’t discovered my reason yet.

If I’m not fiddling with my hair, then I am picking the cuticles off of my fingers. I either pick the cuticles off by pinching them off, by biting them off, or by rubbing them off with the fingers next to them. This is called Dermatophagia. I’ve also done this since I was a child.

I probably do this more than I twirl my hair, but I would say that the only time I’m not doing one of these things is when I’m doing something artistic that requires both of my hands or when I’m sleeping.

How do I harm myself?

As I mentioned before, I don’t actually pull my hair out like some people with this disorder, but after 20 years of doing this, I will often have tendinitis that flairs up in my elbow. In addition to that, when I stretch my left arm upward or out to the side, my shoulder gets a sharp pain because I’ve put a lot of wear on my rotator cuff by continually holding my forearm up and doing this pulling and twisting motion.


Here is a picture of a freshly bleeding cuticle from the other day. You would think that this would stop me from messing with my finger, right?

Well, it doesn’t.

Not only do I often end up with swollen, peeling hang nails, and bleeding cuticles, I have callouses on a few of my fingers with the largest ones on my thumbs. The joints in my fingers and wrists get stiff or sore sometimes, but yet again, I don’t stop. I don’t know how.

Honestly I’ve never really brought it up to anybody. Over the years, I’ve had people mention it, but I always say “I don’t know why I do it.”

Most people don’t even notice it.

I’ve never sought out treatment for it because I never really thought it was that big of a deal until recently as I’ve become more educated about different mental illnesses and disorders. I know that these things are a Body-focused repetitive behavior which I only know a little bit about.

Truthfully, a part of me doesn’t want treatment for it because I like the way it feels and it is satisfying in some way, and I don’t know if I want to dig deeper into what that means.

Welp, that’s another little nugget of truth I’ve thrown out there for the world to see.

Thanks for walking with me on this journey!

If you do the same or have a similar behavior you do — Comment below! I would love to hear your story.


5 thoughts on “I Unconsciously Hurt Myself”

  1. My husband has a mild to moderate case of trichotillomania. I think for him it’s a result of some anxiety. He pulls his eyebrow hairs out until there are visible bald spots.
    Being in the mental health field, I’ve seen it manifested in many different ways. It’s often a self-soothing behavior. Definitely with some compulsive elements. Fairly common too.


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