Aug 11

A teenager in the UK has reportedly received that nation’s first successful eyelash transplant surgery, a miracle procedure that became necessary because the teen suffers from trichotillomania.

A condition with no definite cause, trichotillomania causes up to 11 million people in the U.S. to compulsively pull out their own hair. Sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, people with trichotillomania use their fingers to pluck out individual hairs from their head, their eyebrows, their pubic area, or in the case of the woman in Great Britain, from their eyelashes. Without intervention, the compulsive behavior can lead to bald spots, or the complete removal of hair from certain parts of the body.

Although it seems like the condition would have a psychological root cause, trichotillomania has been documented in patients as young as one year old. For Marni Bates, author of a new memoir about her own struggles with trichotillomania, hair-pulling was born out of a desire to be more attractive.

Marni convinced herself that pulling out her eyebrow hairs would make her more beautiful. By itself, eyebrow plucking is not an unusual thing, but when Marni’s hair-pulling also included her eyelashes and bangs, she knew her compulsion no longer had anything to do with a normal beauty regime.

After struggling with the condition all throughout high school, Marni is now successfully coping with it, and is working to raise awareness about the condition and the help that is available to other “trich teens.” In conjunction with the release of her autobiographical trichotillomania book, Marni answered questions about “trich” in a live web conference that was broadcast simultaneously on 30 websites. Marni fielded more than 300 questions and comments about trichotillomania from participants during that web event.

Currently there is no known cure for trichotillomania, but treatments similar to those used for patients with other obsessive compulsive disorders are often useful in helping to minimize the hair-pulling compulsion. Sometimes reconstructive surgery, like the eyelash transplant performed in Great Britain, is necessary to repair the long-term effects of the hair-pulling disorder.

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