After a teenage girl in India's family spent thousands of dollars to treat a stomach pain that lasted for three years, doctors discovered more than 2 pounds of hair stuck inside the girl on April 9.
Upon diagnosing the 17-year-old, known only as Komal, with Rapunzel syndrome -- a rare condition in which a person eats their own hair -- doctors had to immediately perform surgery on her, the Daily Mail reports.
“It took us an hour and a half to retrieve the hairball. She is doing well now,” the surgeon who performed the operation, Dr. Shreehari Dhole-Patil, told medical journal BMJ, which published a case study.
Shortly after the surgery, Dhole-Patil questioned the girl and learned Komal had trichotillomania -- a psychological disorder in which one pulls out one’s hair, Mayo Clinic reports. She also had trichophagia, a condition in which one eats the pulled out hair.
Komal told the doctor she had been eating her own hair since she was 12 years old. Her parents say they will now take her to a psychologist to properly treat her condition.
“For the last three years, we had thought she had some gynecological problem as told to us by doctors. We even spent $7,200 on various tests and medicines but no doctor could see the hairball in stomach,” said Komal’s father. “While we are shocked to learn that our daughter had this condition, we are relieved to know she is fine now."
Several factors contribute to trichotillomania, but it is frequently used as an unhealthy coping mechanism by young teenage girls.
“For many people with trichotillomania, hair pulling is a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings, such as stress, anxiety, tension, loneliness, fatigue or frustration,” Mayo Clinic writes. “People who have trichotillomania may also have other disorders, such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
Trichotillomania is not the only mental health condition affecting young Indian girls to capture international attention.
In the U.S., an Unbound Medline study reveals Indian and other South Asian teenage girls have some of the highest suicide rates in the country due to a variety of factors, ranging from pressure to achieve to racial issues, The Huffington Post reports.