Phoebe Ottomar, from Northampton, spent years tugging at her hair, leaving her with golf ball-sized bald patches.

The 19-year-old was left devastated by the consequences of her habit – often refusing to leave the house - until she came across pioneering treatment that enabled her hair to grow back.

Phoebe is now helping to raise awareness about her hair-pulling condition trichotillomania, which affects over 840,000 British women.

Phoebe said: "I felt like a completely new person since I had my new hair system, it's fair to say it really has changed my life.

"I don't think you realise how important hair is until you've barely got any.

"For as long as I can remember I've always dreamt of having long hair, I used to be so envious of other girls in school.

"I was over the moon when I finally realised there was a way to get my hair back.

"It's amazing that my real hair is actually growing now and I have my confidence back."

Bald patches

Phoebe, a languages student, began pulling her hair out at the tender age of 8.

She said: "I started pulling my hair out when I was really young and I can remember looking at the hair root and being really fascinated.

"From there the pull became a release for me and I found it really therapeutic.

"When I was little we used to live in China and I think maybe the move back to the UK was what started it off.

"Then at secondary school it became worse – issues with friends and boys made me do it even more.

[Related story: 'I was addicted to pulling out my grey hairs']

"People would constantly ask me why my hair was so thin and why I always put it up.

"Hair is so important to a teenage girl but I just didn't have any and felt I couldn't relate to any of the girls in my year.

"I hated whenever conversation topics turned to hair.

"I constantly found myself scraping my hair back into a granny style bun to try and hide the hideous bald patches.

"I hated the windy weather as it would often blow the hairstyle out of place and reveal the sparse bits of hair.

"I would get so paranoid and stressed."

Nothing worked

Phoebe would constantly pull at her locks – but no GP or specialist was able to say why.

Phoebe said: "I went to therapy and tried hypnosis but nothing worked.

"It was when my mum noticed me pulling at my hair that we realised I had trichotillomania.

"She'd seen an article about it in a woman's weekly magazine and she knew I had the condition straight away."

Finally after hours of research with research with mum Joanne, 45, Pheobe discovered an answer to her problems.

Pheobe said: "We came across Lucinda Ellery – the leading expert on my condition.

"Lucinda helped me realise that thousands of other women suffer like I have, and after discussing treatment, we decided the best option was the Intralace."

Pioneering treatment

The Intralace System is not a cure for hair pulling but acts as a barrier and reminder to the individual to not pull their hair.

The pioneering system has a mesh which is placed between the individual's existing hair and their scalp.

This intricate design also has an ultra-fine mesh containing human hair which is used to completely disguise any hair loss.

Pheobe said: "I've been living with the system now for about five years and would never look back.

"My hair is really growing now and even when I try and pull my hair the system stops it from coming out.

"Not only has it helped my hair grow, but it's also helped me to kick the habit of pulling in the first place.

"I hope that my story helps just one other person realise what the condition is and that they're not alone.

"I would really recommend Lucinda, I don't know where I would be today without the help of her team'

"I no longer feel like a recluse and can finally do things that other teenagers do instead of hiding away.

"It's great, no-one can tell the hair's not really mine.

"Lucinda has different hair extensions and hair loss management studios across the UK which are well worth a visit."

Lucinda Ellery, the UK's leading expert on trichotillomania, said: "Through education we can help millions more women across the world become pull free.

"The average woman who is likely to experience this condition starts around the age of puberty.

"The condition is considered to be connected with those who are highly intelligent, sensitive and working in a high powered, pressurised job. The neurobiological condition causes overwhelming urges to pull out your own hair and often is release for dealing with stress.”

Image credit: Caters News