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Stimulation Substitutes for Trichotillomania
Written by Fred Penzel   
Sunday, 02 February 2014 21:02


Stimulation Substitutes for Trichotillomania

– The Big List

- Fred Penzel, Ph.D.



Brush your hair or massage your scalp (check out the Vibrasonic Massage Brush, which is a battery-powered, vibrating brush)

Brushing or massaging your dog or cat

Practice origami.

Knitting, crocheting, quilting, embroidery, cross-stitching, needlepoint, or sewing.

Play a musical instrument and/or take lessons

Pull out threads from a piece of loosely woven muslin cloth or cheesecloth.



Play with Silly Putty or better still, try Theraputty , which comes in several different levels of firmness and comes in larger quantities (can be purchased on the internet).

Use various types of brushes. This could include hair brushes, mushroom brushes (extremely popular among my patients, found in kitchen stores, and used to clean mushrooms), toothbrushes (natural bristle or nylon), nail brushes, hair brushes, scrub brushes, shoe shine brushes (the soft kind, used for buffing), or paint brushes. Those who like to stimulate their cheeks or lips with hairs they have pulled sometimes find they can get the same type of stimulation with fine-tipped artists’ brushes. Some like to pull the bristles out of inexpensive house painting brushes. Plastic surgical brushes, which are used by medical personnel to scrub their hands have very fine bristles and come in one or two-sided versions (also widely used for training purposes in occupational therapy sensory integration programs).

Gently scrub the areas you tend to pull from with a loofah (the rough fibrous shell of a gourd, available in most drugstores) used for scouring your body, if you tend to pull while in the shower or bath. It comes in the form of a mitt, or in its natural state.

Using various types of small dolls to stimulate your hands. This is especially true if the dolls have textured surfaces or long hair (plastic Troll dolls with long hair are one popular type).

Play with toys like the Koosh Ball or other feathery, rubbery type toys that can be found for sale on occupational therapy websites (such as, or

Squeeze a spring-loaded hand exerciser

Handle a piece of velvet or some other textured fabric

Play with feathers

Handle a textured pot scrubber (Dobie Pads are good)

Pipe cleaners (especially the extra-large and fuzzy type)

A strip of the hooked half of Velcro

Rub fingers lightly on extra fine sandpaper ( be careful to limit this)

Pop the plastic bubbles in bubble wrap. You can also buy a small hand toy known as Electronic Bubble Wrap that won’t waste plastic.

Handling a furry or velvety stuffed animal (popular with adults and kids). As a plus, some have whiskers or are filled with plastic beads for further tactile stimulation.

Make a bracelet with a type of hardware known as toothed lock washers (also known as star washers (they have spurs that stick out). You can buy two dozen of them and string them together on a piece of string or a shoelace.

Use small toys such as a miniature Slinky™, or little plastic soybean (edamame) toys that squeeze the little beans in and out of a plastic pod.

Carry rubber bands, paper clips, or a string of worry beads to play with.

Manipulate dental floss or fine nylon fishing line with knots tied in it. Dental floss can also be a good substitute for those who like to bite on hairs, chew them, or pull them between their teeth.

Breaking or twisting yarn or lightweight sewing thread can be satisfying to those who like to break hairs after they are pulled.

Eat sesame seeds or crack sunflower or pumpkin seeds (in the shell) – good for those who like to bite or swallow hairs or the bulbs at the ends.

Eat strong mint candies, or those with a strong sour fruit taste as another way of stimulating the mouth. Chewing gum (sugarless, such as Trident is best) can also be helpful.

Draw or doodle on a pad with a pen or pencil, especially while talking on the phone.

Play a very engaging video game with a controller that requires both hands.

Get hair samples from wigmakers who often have leftover long hair, if only the real thing will do for you.

Wear and manipulate a spinner ring (you can find them for sale on the internet).

Play with rubber cement, rubbing it between your fingers.

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 February 2014 21:15

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