10/07/2013 12:58 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

I Literally Pull My Hair Out -- And So Do Many Canadians

At the age of 12, I developed a disorder called Trichotillomania, also known as "Hair Pulling Disorder" (to watch my story click here).

Trichotillomania is defined as an irresistible urge to pull out hair from one's scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of the body, resulting in noticeable bald spots/patches. It is also a Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour (BFRB), which is an umbrella term for any chronic behaviour that causes a person to consistently cause physical damage to oneself unintentionally through a compulsive act in order to relieve anxiety.

BFRBs are considered an OCD Spectrum Disorder because of the similarities they share with OCD. Other BFRBs include Dermatillomania (Skin Picking/ Excoriation Disorder), Rhinotillexomania (Compulsive Nose Picking), and Onychophagia (Compulsive Nail Biting).

Two to four per cent of Canadians live with a BFRB. That equals 1 to 2 million children and adults in Canada. BFRBs are often left undiagnosed because there is a lack of education and awareness amongst doctors, mental health professionals, and the sufferers themselves. Many who do have a BFRB may not even realize that they have a legitimate medical condition. Often people feel ashamed, embarrassed, and frustrated and may live in isolation or fear of having even their closest friends and family find out about their behaviours.

This week is incredibly important to not only me, but millions of Canadians across the country. October 1-7 is BFRB Awareness Week. Earlier this year, I founded the Canadian BFRB Support Network (CBSN), a non-profit organization/upcoming charity dedicated to being the number one support network and educational resource for Canadian pullers, pickers, and professionals alike. CBSN is aiming to reduce the stigma, shame, and isolation associated with BFRBs.

Through education, advocacy and empowerment CBSN hopes to make a real differences for lives that are affected. In order to get access to proper treatment options, our priority at Canadian BFRB Support Network is to reduce stigma, promote education, and raise awareness about BFRBs in order for sufferers to get appropriate support as early as possible.

This is the first time CBSN is celebrating BFRB Awareness Week since becoming a non-profit in July. Although we aim to break the silence and stigma surrounding BFRBs every day of the year, as Canadians, we can rally together as a community and spread hope to those who still may be suffering in silence. Together we can spread hope and necessary information about these otherwise silent disorders. October 7 is officially proclaimed to be "Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours Day."

My hope is that every single person in Canada will one day know what a BFRB is, and have the knowledge to help someone they know who may be affected by these disorders. Since having the first support group happen this past April in Toronto, CBSN has had eight other support groups develop across the country. I have never met someone else who pulled their hair until that first meeting, and it is a wonderful feeling to know I am not alone. So I urge all of you to learn more about BFRBs, and see the ways you can get involved and help CBSN grow to its full potential.


Learn more on CBSN's various websites:



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