No it’s not self-harm. It’s harmful to self, but harm is not the goal.
A question I’ve often had to answer in the past is “How BFRBs and Trichotillomania are different, or if they are, from self-harm”. Self-harm as described by The Canadian Mental Health Association “refers to deliberate acts that cause harm to one’s body, mind and spirit.” I too used to ask myself if what I do is self-harm. Yet over the past few weeks I’ve learned this is far from the case. The Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour Support Network (CBSN) confirms that BFRBs are a not self-harm defining the key difference being those who live with BFRBs don’t aim to harm, but rather to fix, correct or improve some aspect of self. Pulling, picking, biting are not seen as harmful, but relieving, helpful, and aiming towards a goal. The resulting harm is not desired.
When I pull hairs, I pull “weird ones” the thick, the curly, the darker, and the oddly textured. When I pick I pick at uneven skin, and imperfections be they hang-nails, dry spots or pimple scabs. Trichsters often look for hairs of specific quality, or in a specific location. There is no release by pulling, no sense of gratification. If anything the act of pulling creates more pain afterwards than during. Those who self-harm find release in their actions, Trichsters find release in giving into the urge, the harm to self is a by-product.