The bald truth about stress
Tearing your hair out is a common phrase used to describe frustration. While we all know the feeling, the physical act is very real for sufferers of Trichotillomania.
A little-known condition, known as Tric for short, the problem is normally triggered by high stress or anxiety, such as a relationship breakdown, divorce, or even pressures at school or work.
Women seem more prone than men, and although the hair pulling usually starts at about age 12, it can also happen later in life too.
Like eating disorders and forms of self-harm rooted in psychological factors, Tric is difficult to curb and becomes a compulsive response. Many sufferers say they're barely even aware that they're doing it at first, and the ritual can actually feel like a comfort or a release of tension.
Lucinda Ellery, who runs a specialist hair-loss consultancy in the UK doesn’t have Tric but does sympathise as she suffers from alopecia and lost her hair after the death of her father when she was nine years old.
She says: “Often girls will seek medical help only to be told to ‘just stop’.
“If only it was that simple! There’s no magic cure or pill. The condition needs a lot of understanding.”
Charlotte Suggett, 22, was 11 when she started pulling her hair, after her dad was diagnosed with cancer.
By the time he died a year on, Suggett had full-blown TTM, but it was a few years before she knew there was actually a name for what she was doing.
“My mum and sisters tried to help me by doing things like shouting ‘Stop’ each time my hand went up to my head,” she says.
“I had never heard of the condition. It was a few years before I was flicking through a magazine and noticed a story about it, that’s when I learnt the name.”
By 13, Suggett had a significant bald patch.
“I did feel like I was an odd one out,” she recalls.
“I had a comb-over from the age of 13, while all my friends had long, flowing hair. To people who ask, ‘Why don’t you just stop pulling it out?’ (an incredibly common response) Suggett says: “Why can’t people just stop smoking? Or why can’t people stop biting their nails?”
Tric can leave sufferers with bald patches, shame and humiliation For info, check www.lucinda ellery-hairloss.co.uk