Real-Life Feature on Trichotillomania – A Condition That Affects More Than 21 Million Women

When Phyllis De Freese was just 15 years old, her life was flipped upside down – her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. To deal with the stress, De Freese began pulling her hair out. According to The Guardian, Trichotillomania affects four in 100 people in America. Even so, this condition is still swept under the rug. To help those who are suffering and raise awareness, Her Campus at The New School interviewed Trichotillomania survivor Phyllis De Freese about her struggle. 

HC: How old were you when you noticed a change in your behavior?

De Freese: "I would say about 16. However, I believe the problem started at 15 years of age when my mother was diagnosed with cancer." 

HC: You mention you started pulling your hair to deal with stressful situations – did it help? Once you pulled your hair, did you feel alleviated?

De Freese:  "Looking back now, I can definitively say that I started to pull my hair out in times of stress. However, I actually didn’t realize until years after developing the disorder that it was in any way induced by anxiety. Pulling my hair did, and still does, offer a momentary release, but then after that one second, I become filled with remorse for having done it in the first place."

HC: When did you realize it was time to see a doctor for your condition?

De Freese: "After I saw my condition on the Maury Povitch show – it was a eureka moment, for sure! I was just so excited because until that point I thought I was crazy. Seeing such a huge television show raising awareness around my disorder made me think I would finally find help – until that point I had assumed there was none because I wasn’t suffering from a 'real condition.'"

(Photo credit: https://www.trichstop.com/info/infographic

HC: Once you gathered the courage to speak with the doctor, he was very dismissive. Did you think to keep trying and seek a second opinion?

De Freese: "Not a chance! I went for help and was let down beyond belief – I would never put myself in that position again. I was so fragile around the subject and it had taken so much courage to bring myself to talk about my disorder to a complete stranger. To have someone shut me down like that was mortifying, humiliating!"

HC: What is this micro-dot process you talk about in your article? How does it work?

De Freese: "The micro-dot process is a hair integration system that works by attaching hair to my remaining strands. I’d first learnt about the treatment from an Infomercial. Aside from learning about trichotillomania on Maury Povitch, it was the first I’d heard about my condition in the mainstream, hence why I went for the treatment. However, the micro-dot process only ended up damaging my hair further."

HC: You mention Lucinda Ellery helped you, how?

De Freese: "Lucinda made me feel like she really understood me. Before we met, I was too ashamed to accept help, but she made me feel beautiful again and gave me my confidence back. I finally feel as though I can pursue my career in modeling again (I had given this up when my hair got so bad that I couldn’t bear to be looked at). I haven’t as of yet taken the modeling back up, but it’s my dream to and I finally feel like it’s possible one day."

HC: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

De Freese: "Don’t let others determine your worth or how you feel about yourself. You’re beautiful – no matter what. It’s those who don’t or choose not to see your beauty who are missing out, not you! We all have our issues. None of us are perfect. But our imperfections do not define us!"

Lucinda Ellery Consultancy was developed to offer women options to manage hair loss and hair thinning. To learn more, visit www.lucindaellery-hairloss.com