‘A lot of people think that trichotillomania is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, but that’s not true. I don’t have obsessive-compulsive thoughts and I’m also not scared that something terrible will happen if I don’t pull my hair out. I don’t hate my hair either - in fact, I’d love to have it back. It’s simply an uncontrollable urge, a habit that’s got completely out of hand.
It started in 2008, after my grandma had passed away. I found a small wound on my head that I couldn’t stop touching. At first, I started picking at the little scab, then I pulled some hair out of that spot too. It became a habit to go over the crown of my head and find hair that were thicker than the others or were different somehow. I wrapped those around my finger and then I pulled them out. I mostly did it when I was on my own. It calmed me down. ‘This isn’t right. I should actually stop doing this’, I thought when I started having to cover the bald spots with hair pins or a beanie. But it was already too late.
Of course it hurts. But on the crown of my head and just past it, the pain feels kind of nice. I don’t touch the hair around my ears, it really doesn’t feel nice there. There is a special spot on my neck too, which I try to stay away from at all costs. Otherwise I won’t be able to attach my hairpiece there anymore. Stress is often what makes me start pulling, but sometimes it’s just because I find a hair that’s different. Before realizing it, I’ve removed all the hair from that spot. I also keep picking at my upper eyelashes. I still grow some hair back, but they keep getting thinner and grayer. I don’t mind that at all because then they’re different from the others and I want to pick at them again. It’s like a drug. I always end up feeling bad for not being able to leave it alone and I think ‘Why don’t I just stop doing it if it only makes me feel worse? Why don’t I have it under control?’ My friends and family think that I have a hair illness, I don’t want them to know the truth. At least this way it’s not a difficult conversation topic.
I’ve tried everything to get rid of it. Five sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy, computer therapy, clomipramine (an antidepressant), a reward system, gloves, bandages, food that stimulates hair growth. So far, nothing has helped. I might give NAC a try, it’s a food supplement that supposedly decreases these problems in 50% of people. But I can’t actually imagine ever getting rid of it completely. Sometimes it’s fine for a few weeks, but then it sneaks back into my life. When I travelled across Asia with my parents, I didn’t have a problem not touching my hair, but when we were back home and I was sleeping in a room by myself, I started doing it again. I can’t make sense of it.
I’ve been wearing a hairpiece for eight years because extensions and beanies aren’t enough to cover the baldness anymore. It took me a while to find a pretty one, most wigs are so old-fashioned. In the beginning, I played around with it a lot to get it to look how I wanted, and for some time I was also scared that it would slip off. Tape offers a lot of security, but these days I prefer to use the Got2Be Glued Extreme Freeze hair spray. It’s like glue, it works perfectly. The only times I don’t wear my wig is when it’s really hot. It’s too uncomfortable when it’s hot. I’d love to dare to try more things, like wearing a different wig. Maybe I should start by doing that in a city where I don’t know anyone, that way I can try different things anonymously.
Fortunately, it’s never an issue when it comes to dating. In the beginning, I used to wait before telling them, but nowadays I just cut to the chase. ‘I wear a wig. Are you okay with that?’ Most men are fine with me wearing a beanie or a cap in the bedroom. If they’re fine with it, why would I have a problem with it?’
*At the request of the interviewee, we have used a different name and picture