Trichotillomania, an impulse control disorder that causes sufferers to compulsively pull out their own hair and can often lead to both noticeable hair loss and social anxiety, affects between two to five percent of Americans. One sufferer, Valerie Vanone, joined HuffPost Live recently to share her story of battling trichotillomania, which began at age 12 and eventually forced her to leave school in order to seek treatment.
Vanone, who began pulling out her eyelashes as a pre-teen before escalating to pulling hair directly from her scalp, didn't seek help until she was 24 years old, she told host Nancy Redd
"My counseling department at school, I just walked in and told them what was going on," she told Redd. "They helped me quite a bit for about a year, and then I withdrew from classes because it was too hard to focus on stopping pulling and doing schoolwork at the same time."
Vanone was able to manage her trichotillomania by creating art, and is now an artist in Brooklyn. She wears a wig and pencils in her eyebrows to mask her condition, and has slowly grown more comfortable with herself.
"I think it's a very positive thing too, that I manage to stay up and out with my makeup done the way that it is," she said. "That's taken a long time actually for me to go out, enjoy myself, and not be worried, 'What do my eyebrows look like? Is my wig moving, or is somebody staring at me?' It takes time, but I mean, I'm there."
Joining Vanone and Redd in the conversation were Sandy Rosenblatt, a HuffPost blogger who also suffers from trichotillomania, Sarah Robertson, the founder of the Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors Support Network, and Dr. Ali Mattu, a post-doctoral fellow who treats trichotillomania.