LIZZIE Murray was just seven years old when she started tearing out her hair, strand by strand.
It started with her eyelashes and gradually got worse until she was pulling hair out of her scalp, leaving her with bald patches.
Over the years she has pulled out every strand of hair on her head.
But it wasn’t until she was 13 that she was finally diagnosed with trichotillomania – a compulsive condition where a person feels they must pull their own hair out.
Lizzie, now 21, underwent cognitive behavioural therapy to help her overcome her condition.
But since her therapy she has relapsed and has now shaved her head in a bid to raise awareness of the illness.
Lizzie, who is currently studying University of Derby, said: “After battling with trichotillomania for as long as I can remember it felt so liberating to shave my hair off.
“I’ve pulled every hair on my head out as I’ve battled the condition for so many years and every time it grew back, I’d pull it out again.
“I’d have to hide my bald patches by having my hair tied up and I’d always feel anxious in public.
“During the time I pulled my eyelashes I collected them in a film canister from an old camera, I don’t know why but to me it just felt normal.”
When Lizzie was 16 she stopped pulling her hair out for two years.
It appeared her therapy had worked but a year later she began tearing her hair out again.
She added: “Everyone assumes hair pulling would be painful but you don’t feel anything, your skin becomes almost numb to the sensation.
“People said that they thought I was brave for shaving my head but it was actually the relief that felt incredible.
“I’ve had fewer urges to pull and have gained much more confidence.
“I’m not trying to convince others to shave their hair to feel better, but I am sending out this message to encourage others to spread the word about trichotillomania and help to diminish the shame and stigma attached to it.”
Trichotillomania is a rare condition where a person is compelled to pull their hair out.
While in many cases it involves the hair on a person’s head, sufferers can also pull out their eyebrows and eyelashes.
It is an impulse-control disorder, a psychological condition where the person is unable to stop themselves carrying out a particular action.
Sufferers are overwhelmed by an intense urge to pull out their hair.
And this is combined with a growing tension until they do, followed by a sense of relief.
The condition tends to be diagnosed more commonly in girls than boys, and can cause negative feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment.
It is not known what triggers the condition, though some experts believe it is a type of addiction.
Others suggest it could be a sign of a mental health problem, or even a form of self-harm.
As a child Lizzie, from Derby, never understood what was happening to her but counts herself lucky that her peers didn’t notice her bald patches or bully her.
She said: “People aren’t too sure how or why you develop the condition, but some people do say that it’s a compulsive disorder combined with anxiety.
“But it’s different for everyone.
“Now when I feel the temptation I bite my nails instead.
“A few years ago people struggled to talk about mental health, and now people are becoming a lot more open about their issues.
“I’m hoping that this can be the same for trichotillomania, hopefully people will begin to understand that it’s an illness.
“It’s something that I am going to have to deal with for the rest of my life, but I’m learning new ways of coping and at the moment I’m doing ok.”
Lizzie has set up a Facebook support page to help anyone suffering from the condition.
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