For a self-confessed ‘social phobic’ and ‘introvert’ it seems extraordinary that twenty year old film student Rebecca Brown now finds herself the unlikely poster girl and hairoine of trichotillomania (hair loss caused by compulsive hair pulling), attracting up to 12 million viewers worldwide to her YouTube video diaries and being invited to speak at a trichotillia convention in the US recently. But strangely enough ‘BeckieO’, as she calls herself online, found it easier to webcam herself talking frankly to a load of strangers around the world about her life and her condition than she did to confront her catcalling school bullies. Or see a sympathetic counsellor for a listen and nod session. It had also struck Beckie that when she herself was searching for information online, she could find only a few random (and often grainy) individuals who had filmed themselves talking about their problems. Beckie felt she could do better.
With trichotillia representing the last big taboo of hair loss, this is no ordinary feat. With all the horror stories about cyber-bullying we hear on a daily basis, this approach could easily have backfired, but much to her surprise and delight Beckie touched a public nerve and found that far from bullying and mockery, she received overwhelming messages and letters of support, many from those secretly suffering the same condition and wanting to share their stories or seek her advice. A miracle ensued and Beckie now sports a pixie mop of blonde hair to set off her Betty Boop eyes and pretty features. She credits the overwhelmingly positive public response with finally helping her overcome her own condition after eight years, a condition undiagnosed by doctors for five years, one of whom merely told her to ‘stop fidgeting’.
While trichotillomania can be triggered by childhood trauma, Beckie says that in her case, hair pulling was simply a comforting habit she found herself resorting to when stressed or upset, until before she knew it entire bald patches were appearing, but by then it had become a compulsion she could not stop. She experimented with wigs for a while and then at its worst a year ago, she shaved all her hair off.
Trichotilliomania is believed to affect up to four in every hundred people, mostly under the age of 30, which puts it on a par with anorexia, so it is certainly time the condition finally came out of the closet, or rather, the closet door was kicked open!
While we at Aspiration can offer an excellent cosmetic solution indistinguishable from scalp-grown hair, clients may also wish explore hypnotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy, both of which can help the psychological side of their condition, although depending on the level of permenant damage, not all hair may grow back even where a psychological cure is affected. It looks like Beckie has been very lucky in this respect.