You want everything to be perfect on your wedding day. From the flowers, to the big dress, to your hair and makeup.
It’s why Ruth Sweet, a 25-year-old health care assistant from Saltby, Leicestershire, refused to marry her boyfriend, Josh Sweet, 26, for so long. She had spent the last decade hiding the huge bald patches on her scalp, caused by a condition that compels sufferers to pull out their own hair.
Ruth was diagnosed with Trichotillomania – an impulse-control disorder where a person is unable to stop themselves pulling out their own hair – when she was a teenager.
‘I started pulling when I was 14, my parents got divorced and I found it hard to process, I felt relief every time I yanked another strand of hair out,’ she says.
‘I would spend hours searching for the right hair to pull and while I was pulling I felt safe, like I had a security blanket around me. I just couldn’t stop and before I knew it there were huge bald patches, women have about 150,000 hairs on their head and I think over the years I’ve pulled every single one out.’
What the NHS says about Trichotillomania
- Trichotillomania is a condition where a person feels compelled to pull their hair out.
- They may pull out the hair on their head or in other places, such as their eyebrows or eyelashes.
- Trichotillomania is an impulse-control disorder, a psychological condition where the person is unable to stop themselves carrying out a particular action.
- They will experience an intense urge to pull their hair out and growing tension until they do. After pulling out hair, they’ll feel a sense of relief. Pulling out hair on the head leaves bald patches.
- Trichotillomania can cause negative feelings, such as guilt. The person may also feel embarrassed or ashamed about pulling their hair out, and may try to deny it or cover it up. Sometimes trichotillomania can make the person feel unattractive and can lead to low self-esteem.
- The cause isn’t known but some experts believe it is a type of addiction. Others believe it may be a way of relieving stress of anxiety.
- It’s believed around 800,000 people in the UK suffer from it, yet only 10% of people are thought to get treatment for the condition.
It massively affected her confidence and she spent hours doing her hair in different styles to disguise the bald patches.
‘It was tough growing up with bald patches but I used headbands a lot and would tie my hair up to hide it,’ she says. ‘I felt too ashamed to be open about what I was doing and I hid it from everyone at school and university.
‘But I did get caught out a few times, the worst was when a patient at my old job pulled my wig in front of all my colleagues who didn’t know, I was mortified.’
Despite dating Josh for five years, she says she only admitted she was pulling out her own hair two-and-a-half years ago. ‘If he ever noticed any bald patches I told him my hair was falling out on its own, and hid that I was pulling it out myself,’ she recalls. ‘But he told me I was beautiful with or without hair so I made the decision to shave it off completely to stop me pulling.’
Determined to get her confidence back and finally marry the love of her life, she sought help from the NHS but they wouldn’t fund the treatment she needed, despite her doctors and specialists recommending her for it.
So, she went private hair solution center and was fitted with an appropriate system for her needs, a hair replacement prosthesis that is constructed from a breathable mesh and contains human hair which is integrated into the existing hair where possible.
Ruth’s own hair was able to grow underneath the mesh as it prevented her from pulling out strands.
The whole thing cost her around $2,000 but she says it was ‘worth every single penny’.
Because it meant she finally got to marry the man of her dreams on July 16 this year – with her dream hair.