By Camile Rocha-Keys @CamileRKeys

A HAIRDRESSER who uncontrollably pulls her hair out, resulting in large bald patches all over her scalp, is tackling her condition head on

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Videographer / director: Ryan Jackson
Producer: Camile Rocha-Keys, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal

Kelsie Hanna, 30, from Edmonton, Canada suffers from trichotillomania - an obsessive compulsive condition where sufferers can’t resist pulling their hair out.

In Kelsie’s case, this has resulted in her tugging out most of hair out from her scalp, as well as plucking out her eye-lashes and eye brows.

Kelsey told Barcroft TV: "Trichotillomania broken down in Greek - 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.

"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.

“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.”

Trichotillomania is classed as a body-focused repetitive behaviour (BFRB) and a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, which can be triggered by anxiety and stress, although more recent studies have suggested there could be neurological links to the condition also.

Kelsie said: “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."

Perhaps ironically, Kelsie has been trained in hairdressing for over 10 years and now uses the skill to focus on helping others with hair issues.

She said: “Trichotillomania definitely inspired me to get into hairdressing. I needed to find a way to cover my bald spots.

“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?"

Kelsie’s parents first discovered their daughter was pulling her hair out when she was just five-years-old.

Mum, 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.”

Over the years Kelsie has tried various therapies and medication to try and stop her compulsions.

The mum-of-two 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 - 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!”

Eventually, Kelsie came off medication due to tough side effects when she was 19. She stopped all therapies at 21 because she was ‘tired of feeling like a guinea pig.'

Due to these efforts Kelsie came off medication age 19 and eventually stopped all therapies age 21.

She now tries to identify her triggers and stop herself when she starts picking.

Kelsie explained: “I can control my hair pulling to a certain extent.
"Every part of my body is completely shaved. So, I don’t have urges to go anywhere else.

“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 realise what I was doing."

Kelsie’s compulsion of pulling out her hair has resulted in her wearing a wig and getting her eyebrows tattooed on.

She said: “I wear a headband throughout the day. And if I am going anywhere, I usually wear a wig.”

And her fiancé, Curtis has supported Kelsie in coping with the condition.

“I told my fiancé about my condition pretty much the first day we met,” Kelsie said.

Curtis admits at first he was concerned because he didn’t fully understand Kelsie’s condition.

He said: “It bothered me a little bit at the beginning, but then I realised that 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 then I make her aware of it.”

Even though Kelsie still has to fight the compulsions to pull out her hair, she is determined that trichotillomania won’t control her life.

She said: “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.”