The recent media coverage of Hollywood star Jada Pinkett Smith’s struggles with alopecia areata has once again brought hair loss to the attention of the world. Now, other actors and celebrities are coming out and talking about their hair health issues.
Amy Schumer did just that. She hid her hair loss issue from the rest of the world for decades. She had suffered from trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder, from her adolescent years, and it took a huge toll on her mental health. While trichotillomania reveals itself through damage to the hair, it is as much a mental health issue as it is a physical condition. Let’s look more closely at trichotillomania and Amy’s story.
How Did It Start?
In a recent interview, the comedian recalled her early years of attending school and being mocked by her classmates for her appearance. The hair-pulling disorder made her pull out so much hair that she was left with noticeable bald patches. She states that “When I was 13, I pulled out so much hair that I needed to get a wig and wear a wig to school. … It was humiliating, and it was really hard.”
The problem got so bad that Amy was obliged to eat her meals in the nurse’s office to avoid the comments of her classmates. Those were dark days for Schumer, who is now 40 and has not previously spoken about this time in her life.
During the time she was suffering from trichotillomania, Schumer did what many people suffering from hair loss do; she ignored the problem. “I was extra confident, I always had a boyfriend, I was always like, ‘Everybody cool has no hair,'” she said.
Only later on did she decide to address her problem. She adds that it took her a while to realise the situation. “I thought I was OK, and I didn’t realise that I was not OK and the hair-pulling was a symptom of that.”
Her mother would help her do her hair in the morning. She’d often be in tears because she didn’t know how to help her daughter. Schumer says that it was all terrifying and her parents were unsure of how to approach the situation. These days, she has accepted the condition and relies on hair extensions to thicken up her hair.
Acceptance is the first step in dealing with hair loss. Amy admits to feeling much more relaxed about her condition and has even included it in her latest Hulu show, Life and Beth. “I’m lucky that extensions have become so normalized,” she said. “Every woman you see on camera in any movie is wearing a wig or has a lot of added hair.”
What Is Trichotillomania and How Can it Be Treated?
Trichotillomania is a hair-pulling disorder characterised by strong urges to pull out the hair from different parts of your body. The outcome is often bald spots on your head which can damage your self-confidence and appearance.
There are two types of trichotillomania, specifically known as focused pulling and automatic pulling. The severity of the condition differs between individuals. In some people, it can be manageable at times, but it can also involve severe, distressing pulling of the hair.
What Causes Trichotillomania?
The causes of trichotillomania have not yet been definitively identified. The condition is linked with the disruption of the pathways in the brain responsible for controlling emotions, habits, body movements, and how you interpret impulses. Other factors involved include:
- Age. It’s a disorder that occurs most often in those in the 10-13 age group, with symptoms changing over time.
- Stress. Stressful events such as conflict and violence can trigger the development of trichotillomania. Stress and even depression are common side effects of hair loss and can worsen the condition if not addressed.
- Mental Health Issues. Trichotillomania can be triggered by other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).
- Genes. Like many disorders, trichotillomania can be transmitted from one generation to the other.
- Hormones. Hormone changes are a factor, especially during the puberty phase.
As in Amy’s case, hair pulling can easily turn into an addiction. The best way to treat it is through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), also known as habit reversal training. Basically, this type of therapy aims to replace the habit of hair-pulling by identifying its triggers and avoiding them.
Even though hair loss conditions such as alopecia areata, male pattern baldness, and postpartum hair loss are more common, trichotillomania can provoke hair loss too. Consulting a hair restoration expert can help you evaluate your situation correctly and to pick the right treatment. Vinci Hair Clinic is offering a free consultation for all its new clients. Book your appointment today!