A woman who refused to marry her childhood sweetheart after her hair pulling addiction left her bald has finally said "I do" with long locks.

Ruth Sweet, 25, from Leicestershire in the UK, was diagnosed with Trichotillomania when she was 14 - a condition where people feel an irresistible urge to pull their hair - after the trauma of seeing her parents get divorced.

But after spending over $4,000 on pioneering treatment to help her hair regrow, Ruth was finally able to marry Josh Sweet, 26, with the locks of her dreams. with Josh Sweet, 26.

Ruth walked down the aisle with flowing blonde locks. Photo / CATERS
Ruth walked down the aisle with flowing blonde locks. Photo / CATERS

The healthcare assistant said: "I felt like a new woman when I looked in the mirror on our wedding day, it was the best day of my life.

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"I had no confidence at all without my hair and I wanted to be able to look back at the photos and feel like me.

"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.

"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."

Ruth with her bridal party. Photo / CATERS
Ruth with her bridal party. Photo / CATERS

For more than a decade Ruth had little confidence, but she learned to hide her secret by dressing up her hair with clever styles to hide bald patches, and wearing hairbands.

And her groom only found out two years ago, despite the duo being together for five years.

"I've known Josh since my diagnosis but he didn't know until around two and a half years ago that I was actually pulling my own hair out as I concealed it so well," Ruth recalled.

"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."

Other member's of Ruth's family have been diagnosed with much milder versions of trichotillomania and while their urge to pull eventually went away, Ruth's only got worse.

Ruth said: "When I didn't feel in control of a situation or my emotions yanking at my hair helped.

"It was tough growing up with bald patches but I used headbands a lot and would tie my hair up to hide it.

"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."

Ruth said while she was pulling her hair out she felt safe. Photo / CATERS
Ruth said while she was pulling her hair out she felt safe. Photo / CATERS

In the end, it was Josh who persuaded Ruth to finally stop pulling her hair out.

"He told me I was beautiful with or without hair so I made the decision to shave it off completely to stop me pulling," she said.

But she was now faced with the problem of how she was going to regain her hair.

After visiting her doctor on numerous occasions, Ruth was turned down for NHS funding to help combat the condition.

But determined to get help in a bid to marry Josh, Ruth went private and saw a specialist and has now spent over $4,000 in a bid to help her hair grow.

Ruth was fitted with an Intralace system last summer.

The contraption is constructed from a breathable mesh and contains human hair which is integrated into the existing hair.

Her own hair is able to grow underneath the mesh as it prevents her from pulling out strands.

She added: "The Intralace system has been worth every single penny, I can't recommend it enough.

"I tried initially to get funding through the NHS but it's like a postcode lottery and despite my doctors and specialists supporting me I was rejected.

"The initial cost was £1,500 but I have to go back for follow ups a couple of times a year.
She couldn't be happier with the results and is now raising awareness during International No Pulling Week to help others who may not realise they're suffering from the condition.

"Before this though I would not eat or stop until I had pulled the right hair, it had to be thick and frizzy and have a big root on the end," she said.

"I would pull multiple hairs at a time and cause my scalp to bleed, which I would then pick at to keep the scab going, but now the mesh prevents me from pulling."

Trichotillomania

Lucina Ellery, a leading hair loss specialist said: "Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder that's considered to be genetically predisposed.

"It is an irresistible urge to pull out your hair and the aim is to calm you down, there will be evidence of hair loss from repeatedly pulling.

"People often start with eyelashes and eyebrows and then migrate to the head, the favourite pulling areas are the crown and behind the ears.

"The Intralace System is a wonderful tool for those who don't want their condition to be visibly exposed as it gives you additional hair to make up for the missing hair and a hair dressing facility in an environment where Trichotillomania is understood.

"There is no known cure for Trichotillomania but the Intralace has been found to be helpful on many levels.