A “Trich”-y Situation: Media & Journalism Society Screens Documentary About Trichotillomania

It’s a life-altering condition, and it affects approximately one or two in every 50 people at some point in their lifetime.

So why isn’t anybody talking about trichotillomania?

SUNY New Paltz’s Media and Journalism Society screened “Trichster,” a documentary about trichotillomania and other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), on Tuesday, Nov. 15 in Lecture Center 102. Though the turnout was small, audience members were riveted by the diverse range of characters featured in the film, all of whom suffer from trichotillomania and manage the behavioral disorder in different ways.

According to the Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC), trichotillomania is a behavioral disorder in which trichsters, or people who suffer from trichotillomania, pull their hair out, resulting in damage to the body. Though it usually appears in childhood or early adolescence, trichotillomania is often a chronic condition that may come and go throughout a trichster’s lifetime. There is no established cure for trichotillomania, although many trichsters use anti-anxiety medications or cognitive behavioral therapy to cope with the condition, TLC reported.

Directed and produced by Jillian Corsie, “Trichster” follows the lives of seven different trichsters. The majority of the film focuses on the lives of three trichsters: Valerie Vanone, an abstract artist based out of New York City; Sophie Ehrman, a photography student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City; and Rebecca Brown, a British film student who runs a popular YouTube channel about her struggles with trichotillomania.

Under Corsie’s skillful direction, viewers get a revealing glimpse into what it’s like to struggle with a BFRB. Each of the three main narratives illuminate the day-to-day struggles of trichsters in different phases of their battles with trichotillomania. While Ehrman and Brown are very much involved in coping with and treating their BFRBs, Vanone is depicted in a sort of recovery phase, letting her hair repair itself and grow in after countless years of damage.

Interspersed with poignant video clips from Brown’s YouTube vlogs filmed over the course of her adolescence, “Trichster” makes for an engaging and informative watch. According to cinematographer Katie Maul, who attended New Paltz’s screening of the documentary for a Q&A session, the filming and editing process was truly a labor of love: between all of the people featured in “Trichster,” the documentary took over two years to film and another year to edit, she said.

Fifth-year accounting major and film and video studies minor and fellow trichster Eddie Thomson was the driving force behind bringing “Trichster” to SUNY New Paltz. Originally, Thomson tried to have the campus’s REACT to FILM club screen the documentary, but he submitted his inquiry too late in the semester. Instead, he turned to the college’s Digital Media and Journalism Society, who were on board with Thomson’s plan. The endeavor was a highly personal one, he said, since few people know about trichotillomania despite its wide reach.

“The film was the best way I could think of to raise awareness and introduce new people to trich,” Thomson said. “Now, it’s just a matter of figuring out a possible next step.”

For more information about trichotillomania or other BFRBs, curious readers can visit bfrb.org.