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JANET PULLED HER HAIR OUT FOR YEARS.. BUT SUPPORT GROUP HELPED HER TO FEEL MORE CONFIDENT.

JANET Addis developed a compulsive reaction to stress that lasted for decades - but she's battled back to regain control of her life.

The 43-year-old, from Arbroath in Angus, said: "I've always been quite highly strung and it didn't take much for things in life to start stressing me out.

"My stress came from trying to ensure that everything was perfect.

"I went through school and college working very hard to get perfect grades. Once I left school and started working as a secretary, I wanted that to be perfect too.

"Ensuring everything was in its place and that my life was as ordered and controlled as possible was the priority for me. At the same time, I went out of my way to avoid conflict, so it could be stressful for me when things weren't the way I thought they should be at work or home."

Many people develop unhealthy habits to try to deal with their stress - like drinking or smoking more, or eating too much.

Janet reacted to her problems by starting to tug and pull at her hair. She explained: "When I was younger, I used to play with my hair a lot. Then, when I was 17, I was having difficulty dealing with problems at college and started to pull out my hair.

"It made me feel better for a while after I did it but eventually it became a habit that seemed impossible to break.

"In the beginning, it was the way I dealt with my stress but the compulsion to pull my hair quickly became a cause of stress in its own right."

Although her colleagues never remarked on her patches of missing hair, Janet felt increasingly isolated, seeing her small circle of friends lessen, and she began to spend most of her free time at home alone.

She left work in 1991, became pregnant and spent the next few years raising her daughter before returning to study, doing an English degree at Dundee University.

During her time at university, Janet spent as little time as possible socialising and continued her compulsive behaviour.

After graduating in 2005, she realised she needed help with her problems and visited her local volunteer centre. From there, she began attending Augment Scotland, a local support group, where she began to feel more confident.

She found she could manage her compulsion and now she is able to stop herself from pulling out her hair.

Janet said: "I've realised I can deal with my own stress. When things start to get too much, I listen to loud rock music. And when I have trouble sleeping, I listen to classical music.

"Talking to friends about my problems helps. I spent decades bottling up my feelings and never telling anyone how I felt.

"I'm back in work - four days a week at Tesco - and still volunteer at Augment. I feel more relaxed and confident."

GO to stepsforstress.org for tips and practical information on dealing wi th stress. You can also order a copy of the Steps for Stress booklet from the website.

CAPTION(S):

PAINFUL: Janet tugged at her hair to deal with stress
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 14, 2010
Words:523
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