An interactive networked system of objects to support those living with trichotillomania. Project includes an Arduino artifact, 3D printed objects, and explanatory poster
Trichotillomania (or “Trich” for short) is a disorder that gives one the compulsive urge to pull out their own hair, causing noticeable hair loss and severe emotional distress. Pulling can be undertaken at any bodily region with hair, the scalp being the most common site. There is no clear cause for Trich, however, there are many factors that may contribute to this disorder. According to NHS, Trichotillomania could be “your way of dealing with stress or anxiety, a chemical imbalance in the brain similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, changes in hormone levels during puberty, and/or a type of self-harm to seek relief from emotional distress.” Those living with Trich report not being fully aware of their pulling behaviours, this is a phenomenon known as automatic pulling, which is the specific behaviour targeted by my design solution. There may be certain triggers that will initiate a pulling session, most commonly, pulling is a response to a stressful situation. The stress of the disorder itself can cause one to pull even more, it becomes a vicious cycle commonly compared to an addiction. There are not many solutions on the market that addresses this disorder, and countless people are desperately seeking relief.
My design solution comes in the form of wearable tech and accessories, this includes wearable head sensors, a textured ring with sensors, and a textured phone case. The user wears the ring on their index finger, and if it is detected in close proximity to the head sensors, the ring will output a vibration to alert the user of their actions as well as track the data in a smartphone app. The texture of the ring and phone case mimics that of the hair and scalp. Those living with Trichotillomania enjoy the texture of hair on their fingers, it is a sensory experience that is replaced by the hair-like texture of the ring and phone case. These replacement textures are to hair texture, as nicotine-infuzed chewing gum is to cigarettes. I sought to first and foremost occupy the idle hands of the user with these textures to avoid the user becoming desensitized to the alerts. The alert should act as a last resort, the fidget toy aspect of my design is the most important in relieving the user’s urge to pull.