When a pretty, refined-looking young woman with shoulder-length black hair went to the No. 7 People’s Hospital in Hangzhou, eastern China, and entered Dr. Luo Fugang’s psychiatric consultation office, he didn’t notice anything amiss.
Then the anonymous 21-year-old university student removed her wig, revealing a bald scalp.
It turns out that as a teenager, the young woman developed a habit of pulling out her hair to reduce stress, particularly during exam periods.
“Back then, there was a huge amount of pressure from my studies,” she told Qianjiang Evening News. “I was really stressed because I had to attend all sorts of training classes.”
When she was 13, the girl accidentally ripped out some of her hair and miraculously felt better.
Dr. Luo identified the woman’s compulsion as stemming from the pressure she experienced in her childhood. “Her mother is a teacher and has been strict with her since she was young,” he said. “The many restrictions affected her emotional state.”
Before pulling her hair, the girl had compulsively bitten her nails.
“I thought my hair would just grow back, so I didn’t care about it much,” she said, explaining how she continued to pull out additional hair throughout her middle and high school years to combat anxiety.
But what started out as an accidental fix soon became a compulsion. The girl reported being unable to fall asleep before removing a few strands.
Her scalp began to suffer irreversible harm from constant removal. A dermatologist told her that her hair follicles had been damaged to the point that it was unlikely for new hair to grow.
Losing her hair made her distraught. She cried many times over her condition, but couldn’t shake it. After going practically bald, she began wearing a wig. Even then, she feels the need to pull hair out of it.
The woman’s family had her see the psychiatrist upon realizing the seriousness of the problem.
Dr. Luo warns parents to notice signs of compulsive behavior in their children, such as nail-biting, as they can indicate subconscious fears or chronic anxieties and lead to longstanding psychological disease if left unchecked.