One young woman has decided to take off her wig and reveal her true self.
On April 23, Maricela (Mari) P. shared two images of her nearly bald head on her public Instagram page. And she posted these pictures because she decided it was time to speak her truth — that she suffers from a hair-pulling disorder called trichotillomania.
Trichotillomania (pronounced trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh) is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a mental disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from any part of your body — scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, face, and pubic area — despite trying to stop.
According to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, about two in every 50 people will experience some form of trichotillomania in their lifetime. During childhood, it occurs equally in girls and boys; yet by adulthood, up to 90 percent of reported cases are women.
The act of hair pulling tends to happen during downtime (e.g., watching television, reading a book, lying in bed) and in secrecy. Aside from the compulsive desire to pull, other typical symptoms include an increased sense of tension immediately before the pulling, followed by a sense of relief once the action has taken place, as well as an increased interference in one’s life due to hair loss.
And while there can be various reasons behind this impulse-control disorder (from negative stress, such as work responsibilities, emotional issues, or relationship problems, to “good” stress, such as moving or planning a wedding), it is now believed that genetics and biological factors play a significant role, according to the International OCD Foundation.
Once a clinician has ruled out other possible reasons for hair pulling, which can include an undiagnosed skin condition, substance abuse, or other mental health problems, trichotillomania can be treated with medication (such as an antidepressant), as well as behavioral therapy (such as habit-reversal training, where the patient learns to substitute another behavior for the pulling).
Mari felt the need to share her story after a recent therapy session. “We all have feelings of anxiety, moments of sadness, and deal with stress differently,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “Trichotillomania or the desire to pull hair to ease these feelings is just how we deal with it. I want to inspire others to accept their differences and know they are loved and supported. I want to help get the word out because I wish someone would’ve helped me and told me about this years ago.”
She further explains that over the years, she’d met with numerous health professionals, including her primary-care physician, dermatologists, and nutritionists, who were all aware of her hair pulling, yet none of them ever mentioned this disorder. Then in March, a doctor who specializes in hair loss told Mari about trichotillomania.
“Nevertheless, I was referred to a therapist, and along with my research, I realized I was not the only one, and I had shown symptoms of anxiety for almost 20 years,” she shares with Yahoo Beauty.
Along with attending therapy, Mari is continuing to educate herself about this condition. She credits the website for the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, as well as the books How to Stop Pulling Out Your Hair: Your Guide to Curing Trichotillomania and The Hair Pulling “Habit” and You: How to Solve the Trichotillomania Puzzle for offering her insight “as to why I pull my hair and what feelings bring about desire to pull.”
As with many conditions, the degree of trichotillomania varies from person to person. It can be a mild problem for some and a severe issue for others, which can lead to emotional distress and isolation. But Mari isn’t living in silence any longer.
“This is all new to me, but I am glad to have shared this story and finally tell the truth,” she says. “To know I am not the only one and that there is a way to stop this, I want more people to know of this condition and help those who live with this every day.”
Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty:
- Bald, Beautiful: Meet 7 Women Empowered by Having No Hair
- The Moment I Shaved Off the Hair I Would Otherwise Pull Out
- What It’s Like to Want to Pull Out Your Own Hair