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The girls tearing their hair out (literally): The secret compulsion that’s as disturbing as any eating disorder

By Rachel Porter
Last updated at 10:33 AM on 15th July 2010

Laura Forbes has a ten-a-day habit that she is desperate to break. She tries to keep her hands and her mind occupied, but when she does succumb to temptation she feels guilty and frustrated to have derailed another attempt to give it up for good.

Laura is not addicted to cigarettes or to any other well-known vice. She is a trichotillomaniac – one of more than a million women in Britain who are tormented by the constant urge to tear out their own hair.

That Laura is plucking only ten hairs from her head a day is a great triumph of willpower for a girl whose obsession, at its peak, left her bald from the crown to the front of her head.

‘I can finally say that I’m controlling it, instead of it controlling me,’ says Laura, 28, who has had this little-known condition for half of her life.

‘The greatest step forward was the realisation that the urge to do it will never go, but it will become manageable. Alcoholics will always be alcoholics, but some will learn to control or ignore the urge to drink – this is similar.’

Shame and secrecy are part of the condition, which makes it difficult to know for certain how many people are afflicted.

But estimates range between two and four per cent of the population, including a small number of men. This puts trichotillomania on a par with conditions like anorexia or anxiety attacks.

But most of us have never heard of trichotillomania – also known as tricho and TTM – and, despite its prevalence, neither have many doctors.

So for women like Laura it can take years to find the help they need to overcome the maddening urge to pull out their hair – often causing permanent damage to their follicles.

‘I had been pulling my hair for about a year by the time my parents realised that I needed help,’ says Laura.

‘I will never forget going to see the GP and revealing the extent of the problem. He looked at me and said: “Well, stop doing it then.”

‘Now, 14 years later, I know it’s not that simple. It was an unconscious habit  -  my hand would wander up to my hair, my brain would zone out and, before I knew it, there would be huge bunches of hair around me.’

Read More …  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1294794/The-girls-tearing-hair-literally–The-secret-compulsion-thats-disturbing-eating-disorder.html

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