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‘I couldn’t stop pulling out my hair’

Katie Neiman, 28, lives in Brighton, East Sussex, and is a PR officer. Six years ago, she began to suffer from trichotillomania, a condition that gives her an uncontrollable urge to pull out her hair. Now she’s made the cover of Essentials magazine and doesn’t she look great!

Essentials Magazine cover

‘I couldn’t stop pulling out my hair’

After six years battling a severe psychological condition, Katie now looks better than ever

Katie Neiman, 28, lives in Brighton, East Sussex, and is a PR officer. Six years ago, she began to suffer from trichotillomania, a condition that gives her an uncontrollable urge to pull out her hair.

‘Until recently, activities like yoga or going to the cinema were off-limits. Anyone sitting behind or hovering over me made me self-conscious because, if you looked closely at the top of my head, you’d see what I was trying to hide: a bald patch.’

‘In 2006, I was in my third year at uni, revising for my stressful final exams. While studying alone, I pulled out a hair. The sensation of it coming loose felt really comforting – so I started to pull at my hair regularly, looking for that calming sensation when I was overworked. One night I looked down and saw a big clump of hair in my hand. I still can’t understand why I enjoyed doing something so destructive. But I couldn’t stop. After a month, I had a bald patch.’

‘I back-brushed my hair to cover it. If I saw my hair had gone flat, I wouldn’t look anyone in the eye. Yet, as the months passed, my habit got out of control. My partner of seven years felt too distressed by what I was doing and we parted ways, which was heartbreaking. My family felt helpless and confused – why was their bubbly daughter doing this to herself? '

‘But in 2010 I saw a TV documentary about women who suffer from trichotillomania, or TTM. I couldn’t believe it! It was me! I realised I wasn’t alone and felt incredibly relieved.’

‘I first heard of the Intralace system on the documentary. It’s a weave with a mesh base that’s put over the areas of baldness, so I physically can’t pull out hair. Within six months, my hair had grown back. Unfortunately, when the system was removed I started to pull again, and lost six months of newly grown hair in four weeks. I was devastated. I’d ruined what I tried so hard to fix, and the procedure isn’t cheap, costing up to £700. I had another system put in at the end of last year, so my hair is growing nicely once again.’

‘I realise TTM is something I’ll probably always struggle with. But I am trying to be more confident, and strutting my stuff for Essentials is my way of encouraging women out there who are struggling with their appearance or a bad habit. You can overcome it.’

5 ways to deal with TTM

We asked hairloss expert Lucinda Ellery for her need-to-know tips on how to deal with trichotillomania (TTM).

GIVE COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY A TRY - Thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all connected. Examining the underlying thoughts behind emotional problems can help.

REVERSE YOUR HABITS - Find something small you’re able to carry around that will keep your fingers busy when you feel the urge to pull.

RELAXATION IS KEY - Abdominal breathing is a great stress relief. Put one hand flat over your tummy button. Breathe in through your nose and concentrate on pushing the air into that part of your stomach. Breathe out through your mouth for a count of four. Repeat until you feel back in control and less anxious.

MONITOR YOUR BEHAVIOUR - There might be certain times of the day, situations or places where you feel anxious, so take note when your hair-pulling is most prominent. Then try to avoid them.

LOOK INTO THE INTRALACE SYSTEM - This helps break the cycle of pulling because it’s a reminder that you need to find other ways to deal with your cravings. For some, the NHS can provide financial support.

For more info, visit the Lucinda Ellery Hair Loss Consultancy website at, or call 020 8741 8224.


Katie Neiman tells her story to Essentials magazine


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