When I was in year 8 of school I started becoming fascinated with hair. At that time I had bad split ends and I used to break them off. I then started pulling these hairs out and I felt like I couldn’t stop! Desperate, I did some research and discovered Trichotillomania.
Some people have a specific reason as to why it develops, such as childhood trauma or depression, but for me it just started around puberty. However, looking back now I used to pull on my eyelashes and pull the wool out of a my toy dog- even now if there is a loose thread I will pull and unravel the material.
In year 11 I went to the doctors to see if there was anything they could do but, as with too many people, my doctor had never even heard of the condition! In the end she confirmed my self-diagnosis but didn’t offer any support. Then a couple of months before my AS exams I finally built up the courage to visit my school nurse who understood and set up a counselling appointment at my local clinic.
Throughout year 12 I regularly saw my counsellor once a week and now I tend to see her once a month, more when I’ve been pulling a lot or am particularly stressed. Seeing a counsellor has easily been one of the most helpful things I’ve done. As you can imagine, having a bald patch really affected my confidence. When my hair finally began to grow back I quickly became fed up with wearing headscarves but I was left with this fluffy hair that was too short to style and I was so scared to uncover it. So my counsellor set me a ‘behaviour experiment’ where I went into a situation I was comfortable in with my hair uncovered and I wrote what I thought would happen and what actually happened. I then repeated this with an environment I was less comfortable in. I was expecting there to be comments and questions about the state of my hair but there weren’t any comments other than that they liked my new hair style.
It took me a long time to tell anyone about my trichotillomania and I’ve received some very mixed reactions. Some people have been incredibly supportive and even gently telling me when they see me pulling, but other people have been slightly more judgmental. Mostly people just can’t understand how I can pull my own hair so they tell me to ‘just stop’. As if it’s just that easy.
This is why I decided to do this project. There is a huge lack of awareness and support for trichotillomania, especially for young people in the UK. I want to help people in a similar situation to understand that they don’t have to be alone with this. I want to help their friends and family understand trichotillomania better, so they can give them the best support.