It is estimated that around 110 million people worldwide suffer from trichotillomania (TTM) – a condition that causes overwhelming urges to pull one’s own hair.
TTM can affect anyone, although according to the NHS, the majority of sufferers are women.
Here, we speak to experts about causes and how to cope with the condition.
Why might a person experience TTM?
Speaking to HuffPost UK, hair-loss expert Lucinda Ellery said the average woman who is most likely to experience TTM starts around the age of puberty.
“Studies show they are usually highly intelligent, attractive and sensitive and in high-powered, pressurised jobs,” Lucinda says.
“Sufferers develop TTM as a habit to deal with stress and anxiety – it is a form of release and many people are not aware that they are engaging in the activity until it is too late.”
TTM often escalates quickly from a person pulling out a few hairs to them developing bald patches. Lucinda believes the condition tends to worsen because very few sufferers seek treatment.
“We estimate that this figure is around 10%, which is staggering when you consider the millions of women that are involved,” says Lucinda.
Earlier this year Rebecca Brown, who suffers from TTM, created a powerful time-lapse video to raise awareness about the condition and encourage more women to seek help for it.
The 21-year-old’s short film has had over seven million views on YouTube, perhaps indicating just how many people are seeking information on TTM.
Blogging for HuffPost UK Students, Rebecca said: “Living with trichotillomania has meant that I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but it’s always extremely comforting knowing that there’s a whole community of people behind you and supporting you.”
It is estimated there are eight times the amount of female TTM sufferers than male, and according to Lucinda, hair-loss is sometimes more difficult for women to come to terms with than it is for men.
“Hair is such a vital part of a woman’s life – whether we think ours is too long, too short, too curly or straight, there is generally something we want to change. So when something as noticeable and as much of a part of who we are as hair turns into something that causes you great stress, it’s understandable why women feel they need to hide this dark, debilitating and isolating secret,” she says.
The stress of trying to hide baldness that has resulted from TTM can have a further negative impact on a person’s wellbeing and make the condition itself worse.
Therefore admitting to themselves that they have a problem is sometimes the biggest step a person can make towards beating TTM.
If a person ever feels compelled to pull out their hair, they GP should be the first point of contact. A GP can help a sufferer address any underlying issues, such as stress, anxiety, or depression.
For more information on Lucinda’s work, the hair-loss solutions she offers and TTM, visit www.lucindaellery-hairloss.co.uk.