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Trichotillomania - When did you first start pulling your hair?

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Lucinda asks four of her Trichotillomania clients when they first started pulling their hair and what triggered it.

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Transcription of Conversation - Trichotillomania - When did you first start pulling your hair?

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I first started to pull my hair when I was about 10 or 11. I can't really remember the first time I pulled, but I can remember I was on a school trip with my cousin and I can remember she pointed out a patch here (points to top of her head), and I thought 'oh my goodness'. So I changed my parting and from then really I was really concious about every time I did it, and the more conscious I became of it I was the more I seemed to do it - snowballed out of control really.

Can you remember Margaret?

I can, I remember as though it was yesterday, I was 13 years old, I was in my English class, I was bored, and my hand went up to my head and before I knew it I was pulling a hair out. I liked the sensation, I remember seeing the root on the end of the hair and thinking 'I like that, I'm enjoying doing this', the rest is history.

What about you Anna?

Well I was 13 when I first started pulling my hair, and the same thing really, I was bored with school, unhappy at home, sat there fiddling with my hair - it was very long and very blond, starting to go darker, from being childhood blond it was starting to darken a bit in teenagehood, and I didn't like the fact that it was going dark, and I picked out a hair that was coarser, darker, gave it a tug, it came out, it felt really good, really really satisfying, and it was such a release and that was the start.

What about you Angela?

I don't quite remember when I first started exactly, but I remember it was around the age of 11, and it was all to do with bullying at school, for some reason I was being bullied at school, I can't remember the exact circumstances. But I started to pull from there, and that gave me relief and I just carried on pulling.

Anna, who was the first person you ever confided in?

The first person I ever ever confided in was my best friend at that stage, who was in school with me, and I expected her to be sympathetic, and instead she laughed her head off and went around and told absolutely everybody.

That must have been horrendous.

Well it just felt like a terrible betrayal, and the reason I told her was because I couldn't tell enyone at home, because home life was so fraught, so I obviously confided in someone who I thought was on my side.

And how old were you then?

14

And when was the next time you ever told anyone again?

I never spoke about it again, ever.

For how long?

Until I met you Lucinda, in 2000, I did not tell a single soul. But of course everybody knew, because it was so obvious that whatever hair I had left on my head was shrinking, and it was just so obvious that there was something wrong with my hair. And of course my mother knew and my brothers knew, and everybody whom I knew knew, but I never actually spoke about it.

That's very profound Anna, what about you Flo, who's the first person you told?

Well I never really did, it was always my dirty little secret; nobody knew, I was the only person in the world who did it. We have to remember we're talking 30 years ago, we didn't have the internet, we didn't have computers, so it was a very isolated thing to have. I guess my parents kind of knew, I know at first they thought that there was something very wrong and they dragged me to the doctor, and I'm not actually sure when they found out what I was actually doing, but I never told anyone. My husband kind of just found out but there was never any great declaration of 'this is what I do', it just kind of happened, but beyond my immediate family, nobody knows.

And did you ever speak about it at all?

No.