Amy Schumer Said She's 'Carried So Much Shame for So Long' Due to Trichotillomania

The comedian and mom recently opened up about her "big secret" of suffering from the hair-pulling disorder.

Amy Schumer attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California
Photo: Getty Images

During a flashback scene in the penultimate episode of Amy Schumer's new Hulu series, Life & Beth, a teenage Beth (the titular role played by Schumer) pulls out her hair during stressful moments — a coping mechanism that causes the young character to lose so much hair, she ultimately starts wearing a wig.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in March, the comedian revealed that the poignant storyline was based on her own decades-long experience with trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder characterized by a compulsive, recurrent urge to pull out hair from various parts of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Like her young character, Schumer said she also pulled so much hair from her head that she once needed a wig.

"I think everybody has a big secret and that's mine," Schumer told the outlet. "And I'm proud that my big secret only hurts me but it's been what I've carried so much shame about for so long." She revealed that her symptoms first presented during a tumultuous period in her childhood.

But that doesn't mean the actress no longer deals with the compulsion. "It's not that I used to have this problem and now I don't," Schumer told THR. "It's still something that I struggle with."

She also admitted that she's fearful of her 2-year-old son, Gene, developing the disorder. Of her young son, she said, "Every time he touches his head I'm having a heart attack."

In a new interview on The Howard Stern Show, Schumer shared more details about her initial realization that something was amiss. "I thought I was okay, and I didn't realize that I was not okay, and that the hair-pulling was a symptom of that," she said. In the recent conversation, Schumer also shared that including a depiction of the disorder in her show was her way of letting go of the shame she's felt. "I really just wanted to try to let go of it and accept it about myself, and [Life & Beth] was part of that."

Schumer revealed that she now relies on hair extensions to conceal the effects of the condition. "I have probably half the amount of hair I should have," she told Stern. "I'm lucky that extensions have become so normalized," she said, pointing out that pretty much every woman you see on camera "is wearing a wig or has a lot of added hair." The comedian even shared that she used to be "embarrassed" to wear extensions, but now feels otherwise. "I just think all these things that we've been ashamed of and hiding...You know, we put on makeup, we put in extensions, we put on Spanx...It's all good. It's, like, just doing whatever you want to feel good."

ICYDK, trichotillomania isn't just your routine tweezing of stray hairs or fiddling with your strands during stressful moments, and it's not just a "bad habit" or a tic. It can cause serious distress — as well as bald patches or spots — in those who suffer from it. "Hair pulling is an obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder, under the category of body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs)," clinical psychologist Jenny Yip, Psy.D., previously told Shape.

BFRBs are a "cluster of habitual behaviors" such as skin-picking (dermatillomania), nail-biting (onychophagia), nose-picking (rhinotillexomania), and lip/cheek-biting (dermatodaxia)," as Terri Bacow, Ph.D., New York City-based psychologist, recently told Shape. Serving as a self-soothing habit, sufferers from these disorders "often feel they 'have' to do them to get a sense of relief," said Bacow, and the behaviors can be compulsive and difficult to control, sometimes with the person not even realizing they're doing it.

Treatment options for trichotillomania include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help identify and reverse the habits, and some antidepressants are also thought to help control symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. As Schumer noted in her interview, the condition is not something that just disappears with a little time or treatment. In fact, trichotillomania is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a "long-term (chronic) disorder," whose symptoms can "vary in severity over time."

While Schumer did not elaborate on what her diagnosis specifically entails as of the moment, she did tell THR that she no longer wants to feel shrouded in shame by her long-term struggles — and understandably and rightfully so.

"I really don't want to have a big secret anymore," she said. "And I thought putting it in there would be good for me to alleviate some of my shame and maybe, hopefully, help others alleviate some of theirs, too."

On Instagram, she expressed thanks "for all the love and for everyone's kind word and support on my trichotillomania," adding, "Big vulnerable vibes and tears of joy for the weight that's been lifted. Thanks to the community for embracing me when I needed it." (Up next: How to Support a Partner with Mental Illness)

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles