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Amy Schumer reveals she struggles with a disorder called trichotillomania: what is it?


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Comedian Amy Schumer is raising awareness about a mental health issue she’s been secretly battling so far, according to multiple reports.

“I think everyone has a big secret and it’s mine,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in a mid-February interview.

“And I’m proud that my big secret only hurts me, but that’s what I’ve been so ashamed of for so long.”

Trichotillomania, pronounced (trick-o-till-o-may-nee-uh), is a condition marked by repetitive hair pulling that is classified as one of a group of body-focused repetitive behaviors such as than the nailbiting, pulling hair, or pricking skin, which leads to physical harm and psychological distress, according to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.

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The condition occurs in about 1.7% of people in the United States during their lifetime, usually beginning equally in boys and girls in late childhood, but by adulthood 80-90% of reported cases involve women, according to the foundation.

And for Schumer, it started before she became a teenager when her life seemed turned upside down, according to her 2016 collection of essays, “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo.”

“The person pulling their hair most often has no conscious awareness that they are doing it, but in some situations they are doing it,” says Dr. Elie G. Aoun, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia. University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Board Member of the American Psychiatric Association.

“In such cases, it would be akin to self-injurious behaviors, intended to create a physical sensation that overrides pre-existing emotional discomfort, distracting the mind from its stressors.”

Trouble started for Schumer when his father had just filed for bankruptcy, his mother left him for her best friend’s father as he also came to terms with being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, THR noted.

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Aoun told Fox News that the condition negatively affects the patient’s self-esteem, compounding their anxiety, so often patients are stuck in a “vicious cycle that they find it difficult to break out of.”

It’s unclear what exactly causes the condition, but research from 2020 suggests it’s a combination of biological and psychological factors, with around 79% of people with trichotillomania having another health condition. mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD and ADHD, according to Psychiatry Research.

Schumer fears she could pass the disease on to her son, admitting, “Every time he touches his head, I have a heart attack.”

She channeled her troubled childhood in the half-hour Hulu comedy-drama titled “Life & Beth,” which premiered March 18, according to THR.

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She plays the main character, Beth, who in one scene needs an ill-fitting wig before returning to school so she can hide the condition, which actually happened to her in real life, according to the outlet.

Patients with trichotillomania hide their hair loss so often now that the standard frequency of use of diagnostic manual psychiatrists, DSM-5, also known as the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, has relaxed. the requirement that patients must have visible hair loss to diagnose according to the National Drug Use and Health Survey.

Amy Schumer's Oscars

Amy Schumer’s Oscars
(Getty Images)

Aoun told Fox News that it’s important to be aware that the condition not only causes severe hair loss, but can also lead to skin infections and scarring from repetitive hair pulling.

He recommends aggressive moisturizing of the scalp to protect the skin and reduce the risk of fungal infections or other types of infections.

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But the first step to managing the condition is being aware of it, which can be achieved with physical barriers, “…either on the fingers or on the head which serve as a physical reminder of the behavior itself,” added Aoun.

He recommended an alternative physical act, such as fidget spinners and spinning rings, that patients can use when they have to pull their hair.

Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes

Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes
(Getty Images)

But if those strategies fail, Aoun said drugs like naltrexone, which is approved by the U.S. Food Drug and Administration to treat alcohol or opioid-related disorders, or lithium, which is a mood stabilizer, have been shown to be effective in treating the condition.

“And it’s not that I had that problem and now it’s not,” Schumer told THR, “it’s still something I struggle with.”

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“And I was thinking of putting it in [the Hulu series] would be good for me to alleviate some of my shame and maybe hopefully help others alleviate some of theirs as well.”


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