A mother-of-two has uncontrollable urges to pull out her hair, leaving her with no eyelashes and large bald patches all over her scalp.
Kelsie Hanna, 30, from Edmonton, Canada, who suffers from trichotillomania, said: ‘I pull my hair every single day I would say. If I am not attacking an eyelash, I am tackling my actual hair on the head.
‘I start feeling like there are ants and needles poking my head and it just won’t stop’.
Ms Hanna is forced to wear a wig every time she leaves the house and has even had her eyebrows tattooed on.
The hairdresser, who pursued the profession to learn how to cover bald spots, is speaking out to support other sufferers and inspire them not to be ashamed of their condition.
She said: ‘I don’t let it control my life because it is what I have, not who I am.’
Kelsie Hanna has uncontrollable urges to pull out her hair, leaving her with large bald patches
Ms Hanna, who even pulls out her eyelashes, has to have her eyebrows tattooed on
Ms Hanna (pictured wearing a wig) credits her fiancé Curtis (pictured with their son Presley and daughter Brooke) for helping her to cope with her condition, even though he finds it hard
WHAT IS TRICHOTILLOMANIA?
Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder that causes sufferers to recurrently, impulsively pull out their hair at the root.
Sufferers often feel a high level of tension and a strong urge to pull, followed by pleasure or relief when it is done.
The condition may be caused by anxiety or depression and can result in baldness.
Females are most commonly affected with the condition usually starting between the ages of nine and 13.
Treatment focuses on therapy that records what an individual’s triggers are and how to overcome them.
Source: OCD UK
‘I don’t really know that I am doing it’
Ms Hanna said: ‘I pull my hair every single day I would say. If I am not attacking an eyelash, I am tackling my actual hair on the head. I just get a sudden urge and sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it.
‘I start feeling like there are ants and needles poking my head and it just won’t stop and then I have this uncontrollable urge to start digging around and try to find what hair is actually bothering me and I can’t stop until that hair is removed, which means that there’s probably 10 or 20 others that are going down with it.
‘The perfect strand for me is something that’s coarse and wiry; has a completely different texture than all the other hair.
‘Sometimes it feels really good to pull my hair because I am getting rid of that sensation. Other times it does hurt; and most of the time I don’t really know that I am doing it.’
Ms Hanna says she pulls her hair out every day as she feels likes ants are crawling around it
She finds removing niggling hairs satisfying, sometimes painful, but usually does not notice
Knowing her triggers, Ms Hanna has removed hair from the rest of her body to reduce urges
‘People are ashamed to talk about the condition’
Ms Hanna hopes other sufferers of trichotillomania will come to her hairdressing salon to boost their confidence.
She said: ‘Skin conditions are sensitive topics; when it comes to their hair – the reason why they come to me is because I wouldn’t judge them.
‘How can I judge somebody when I have issues myself?’
‘I think people are ashamed to talk about the condition because who wants to admit that they pull their own hair out?’
She pursued a career in hairdressing to help others learn how to cover up their bald spots
Curtis accepts her condition and points out to her when she is unknowingly pulling her hair
Ms Hanna refuses to let the condition control her life, saying it does not make up who she is
‘This disorder is very relentless’
Not on any medication, Ms Hanna has learnt to control her condition by knowing her triggers.
She said: ‘I can control my hair pulling to a certain extent.
‘A lot of it is basically finding what my triggers are – whether it’s talking on the phone, watching TV, that kind of a thing.
‘Every part of my body is completely shaved. So, I don’t have urges to go anywhere else.
‘This disorder is very relentless and it likes to take control so you have to constantly find crafty ways to stop yourself from doing it.
‘I don’t let it control my life because it is what I have not who I am.’
Ms Hanna also relies on her fiancé, Curtis, to help her to cope, saying: ‘I told my fiancé about my condition pretty much the first day we met.’
Not initially understanding the disorder, Curtis admits he found it difficult to accept, saying: ‘It bothered me a little bit at the beginning, but then I realised there’s nothing she can do – it’s a disease. People don’t understand that.
‘When I see her pulling her hair out I just jokingly give her a little nudge to say – “what are you doing babe?” and then she’ll stop right away because I make her aware of it.’
Her mother Deanna (pictured) found a garbage can full of hair in her daughter’s closet
At around five years old (pictured) Ms Hanna tearfully admitted she had been pulling her hair
She stopped taking medications when she was younger, after feeling like a ‘guinea pig’
‘I have put gloves on my hand with duct tape wrapped around it’
Ms Hanna’s parents first discovered their daughter was pulling out her hair when she was just five-years-old.
Her mother Deana said: ‘I remember her coming down from the stairs. She had some blank spot on the top of her head above her forehead.
‘She finally admitted in tears that she was pulling her hair out. Going into her bedroom to find what was going on, I remember we opened the closet door and there was a garbage can inside her closet and it was full of hair.’
Ms Hanna has tried countless therapies and medications to try and stop her compulsions.
She said: ‘In the past, we have done different therapies such as laser acupuncture, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy.
‘As far as medication go, there’s Zoloft, Prozac I have tried it all. I have put gloves on my hand with duct tape wrapped around it!’
Due to intolerable side effects, Ms Hanna came off all medication when she was 19 and stopped other therapies at 21 as she was ‘tired of feeling like a guinea pig’.