“I Started Pulling Out My Hair. And I Couldn’t Stop.”



In her teens, writer Adele Dumont developed trichotillomania – the compulsion to pull out her hair. Here, she gives a fascinating insight into her condition.

I had never been one to pay too much attention to my hair, nor indeed to any part of my body, save for picking at my nails. But in my HSC year, aged 17, as well as learning about the Ancient Greeks and the Victorians and the Post-Impressionists, I began to discover the anatomy of my hair. A lot of the ends were split, and tendrilous; I would peel the splits up, far as they would go before detaching from the main hair’s shaft. And then I started to do this other thing, an arresting thing …

Each individual hair I pulled out — curled and coarse — I’d stretch out tight, and take in the enormous length of each one unfurled. If I ran one along my thigh, it would reach from my hip to my knee. And how dark. I wasn’t used to thinking of my hair as being that dark. All the bits on the outside were lightened by the sun, but the hidden bits, the bits that grew out from the central part of my scalp — they never got to see the sun, so they were almost black.

The whole process was mysteriously painless: the hairs on my head, I learned quickly, sit as shallowly as birthday candles in a cake, can be removed as effortlessly as a grape can from its stem. Pulling out just one shaft of hair at a time always felt so insignificant, something imperceptible. Who could notice one strand missing from a whole, overly thick head of hair?

Once they’d been removed from my head I would stuff the hairs away down the side of my bed. One day, I was cleaning my room and I shoved my hand down the side of my bed, collected all the hairs I could and rubbed them together between my palms into something resembling a scratchy ball of wool. I kept on scraping up more hairs and adding them to the ball. I shoved the whole thing into a plastic bag, this object the size of a small bird’s nest and when I went to double-bag it, so I could dispose of it in the garbage bin at the end of the driveway, what threw me was the weight of it. 

I don’t know when exactly I realised I wasn’t able to stop. I do remember the shock and strange satisfaction of discovering, right at the crown of my head, a small circle of skin that I’d pulled completely clean of hair.

Meet The Women Making Thousands From Their Wardrobes



Read more about why Dumont decided to write a book about her compulsion to pull at PRIMER.


Improve your inbox.  Sign up to our free  weekly newsletter.


Would You Pay $100 For A Face Massage?


Yes, You Really Should Be Using Acids For Your Skin


“Should I Have Kids?” One Woman On The Mother Of All Questions


Want more stories?