Mother left bald as she pulls out her own hair, thinking there are ants on her scalp
The condition she suffers from is identified as trichotillomania that afflicts patients at a young age. Around 1% of the total United States population suffers from this disorder
One hairdresser is facing the longest challenge of her life as she struggles to fight a neurological disorder that makes her yank her own hair out every day — because she thinks there are ants on her scalp.
The truth is, Kelsie Hanna, 30, from Edmonton, Canada suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder that compels her to do what she does. Despite trying all forms of treatments and medications, now Hanna tackles the problem herself and how.
"I pull my hair every single day I would say. If I am not attacking an eyelash, I am talking my actual hair on the head," Hanna explained.
“I can’t exactly say why I pull my hair roots because it’s very neurological. I just get a sudden urge and sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it,” she was quoted as saying by The Sun.
The neurological disorder she suffers from has been recognized as trichotillomania and Hanna is one among the 3.4% adults of the world population who is suffering from it.
What is trichotillomania?
"Etymologically, trichotillomania can be broken down into two parts—trich is hair, tillo is to pull and mania is a maniac or frenzy. So, basically, it’s a manic or frenzy of pulling out your own hair," Hanna explained.
However, despite trichotillomania's presence among a large number of females, not much scientific research exists that studies the condition in-depth.
The mum-of-two, who has been tackling the disorder since she was five years old, pulls out most of her hair from her scalp, as well as plucks out her eyelashes and eyebrows.
And it all starts with the feeling of ant's crawling on her scalp.
"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 are probably 10 or 20 others that are going down with it," Hanna explained.
"The perfect strand for me is something that’s coarse and wiry, has a completely different texture than all the other hair," she explained.
Trichotillomania is classified as a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) and a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which generally afflicts children at a young age and if untreated, can continue to thrive as the years go by.
Hanna's condition was, in fact, detected by her parents when she was a five-year-old.
"I remember her coming down from the stairs. She had some blank spot on the top of her head above her forehead," her mother Deana recalled.
“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,” said Daena.
Like any other neurological mania, Hanna's hair-pulling habit provided her 'delusionary' relief that she felt every time she pulled her hair out of its roots.
"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 why I am doing it," Hanna added.
But the reality is that the condition wrecked havoc on Hanna's self-confidence and ego, leaving her at the mercy of a wig that she wears every day to cover her bald spot. Instead of an eyebrow with real hair, she has a tattoo to hide the emptiness on her forehead.
The lack of scientific research has left much to be done to find an effective treatment for the condition.
“In the past, we have done different therapies such as laser acupuncture, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy. As far as medication goes, there’s Zoloft, Prozac - a whole bunch of other ones that I can't even remember the names of—I have tried it all. I have put gloves on my hand with duct tape wrapped around it!” Hanna rued.
When Hanna stepped into her teenage years, she decided to come off all medications and today, tries to stave off the triggers that impel her to yank at her hair follicles.
"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. So, to an extent, I can control it. But there are times that I don’t even know that I am aware of doing it until my hand goes numb or my arm starts to hurt and I kind of just snap back into it, then realize what I was doing," Hanna explained.
But as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining, and Hanna's silver lining came in the form of understanding clearly what she wanted to do with her life—become a hair-dresser.
Today, she is helping others who suffer from hair-related issues find a solution to all their hair woes while fighting her own condition everyday.
"I needed to find a way to cover my bald spots and so I wear a wig. 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," she stated.
"I don’t let it control my life anymore because it is what I have, not who I am," she concluded.