TEQUESTA, Florida (WPTV) -- It's something you may have never heard of but affects roughly five to 10 million Americans.
From people who hide it to celebrities who are open about it like comedian Amy Schumer, trichotillomania is a condition that changes someone for life.
During the "Let's Hear It" meet-up in Tequesta, WPTV spoke with Barbara Lally, who lives with trichotillomania. It's a disorder in which someone cannot control the urge to pull out his or her hair.
She's hoping to make a big difference to others with the same condition.
Lally's been "pulling" since she was 10.
"I could be in the mirror pulling and then two hours go by and it feels like two minutes," Lally said. "You just cannot, you know, it's really hard to snap out of. I went from zero to 100. Like, once the eyebrows were done, the eyelashes."
Lally's disorder is more common than you might think.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America said six in 1,000 people could develop trichotillomania in their life.
Early on, Lally maneuvered through when her hair was missing. She sometimes used excuses people would believe.
"'Oh, my brother pranked me,' or if I had a bald spot up here, 'Oh, I had gum in it. I had to cut it out,'" Lally explained. "But really I had a hard time controlling it."
There's no known cure for this disorder. Lally tried therapy and medication but ultimately decided to turn her experience into something positive, starting with a book.
"Before I wrote the book, I kind of had this moment where I said, 'What am I doing? I keep fighting this. I don't talk about it,'" Lally said.
Now she uses the platform from her social media pages to help others cope.
"It's nice to be able to talk about a topic that feels heavy, but then you joke, because you get it," Lally said. "It's OK if you don't stop. Like, you're fine. You can still be happy, successful, loved for who you are, even if you don't stop."
Lally has her own website with links to podcasts and other ways to learn more about trichotillomania.
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