A circus performer has revealed her lifelong battle with a rare anxiety disorder which causes her to tear out her HAIR.
Claire Ory had bald patches from the age of nine from regularly ripping huge chunks from her head.
The condition worsened four years later following the tragic death of her mum – and Claire began pulling out her eyebrows and eyelashes.
She became too ashamed to attend school and was diagnosed with trichotillomania.
The chronic hair pulling disorder is triggered by anxiety, a chemical imbalance in the brain and changes to hormone levels during puberty.
The schoolgirl was bullied when she began wearing wigs – but has learned to love how she looked and started modelling with her bald head on display aged 18.
Claire, now 22, said: “My parents obviously noticed the gaps in my hair and decided to shave my head when I was 11 to stop me from pulling.
“It was amazing. I was so happy and I felt like I looked and felt my age again.
“But this did not last.
“Going hairless at such a young age made me anxious and depressed. I started to develop school phobia.”
Claire, a circus contortionist from Bristol, says the hair-pulling became out of control after her mum Stephanie took her own life.
She said: “I began pulling my brows, lashes and body hairs, whatever I could get my hands on at 13.
“I gave up school and had to stay in a psychiatric hospital before I could get back to a normal life.
“But even after fighting depression over the next few years, the pulling was still a problem.”
Doctors recommend treating trichotillomania with a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) called habit reversal training.
It includes working out the triggers, replacing the hair pulling with another action, and keeping a diary.
“Although the habit was still bad, I was enjoying wearing different wigs and caps and I was even enjoying my bald head,” Claire said.
“I even started modelling with my bald head and it made me feel very confident. I loved working on new wigs, but after years of wearing them I lost interest.
“It took a lot of care with all the expensive shampoos and conditioners.
“I couldn’t wear them when I had sleepovers with friends, I was avoiding swimming pools or rollercoasters, and they made me sweaty and irritated my skin on hot days.”