Always up for a good laugh and a heavy dose of transparency about her life, comedian Amy Schumer is getting honest about a serious secret.
The writer and director recently premiered her new Hulu series, “Life & Beth,” and with it revealed her decades-long struggle with trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder.
The show, which premiered on March 18, follows Beth (Schumer) as she attempts to cope with her mother’s death by digging into her past and experiencing flashbacks of her days as a teenager. Similar to Schumer’s previous projects (think "Trainwreck" and "I Feel Pretty"), “Life & Beth” draws on Schumer’s life experiences.
“I really don’t want to have a big secret anymore,” the comedian told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview. “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.”
Trichotillomania is a compulsive disorder that can give a person uncontrollable urges to pull out their hair. According to Mayo Clinic, “most people with trichotillomania pull hair in private and generally try to hide the disorder from others.”
“I think everybody has a big secret, and that’s (trichotillomania) mine,” Schumer explained to THR. “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.”
In her conversation with THR, Schumer explained that the symptoms of her disorder first cropped up during a time in her life when things with her family were particularly up in the air. Schumer has been open in the past about her experience of watching her father having to declare bankruptcy when she was an adolescent, as well as his multiple sclerosis diagnosis and the pain of watching him lose the use of his legs. During this time, and as described in her 2016 book, "The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo," Schumer experienced her parents’ separation and watched her mother leave her father for another man, who also happened to be Schumer’s best friend’s father who was also married at the time.
In "Life & Beth," Schumer’s character’s hair pulling becomes so severe that she feels compelled to wear a wig to hide her bald patches. It’s a storyline that Schumer told THR she had experienced as well. At one point, her hair pulling became so bad that, like the character Beth, Schumer also went back to school wearing a wig after her disorder spiraled too out of control.
“It’s not that I used to have this problem, and now I don’t,” she explained. “It’s still something that I struggle with.”
For Schumer, the fear that she could pass on the genetic disorder to her 2-year-old son, Gene David Fischer, is very real. She admitted that “every time he touches his head, I’m having a heart attack.”
Fans of Schumer and viewers of her newest project, which also stars cabaret performer Murray Hill, were quick to turnout and support the actress for being honest about her experiences with hair pulling.
“Thank you for opening up about trichotillomania,” one fan of the series commented on the actor’s Twitter. “I’ve had it for almost 6 decades. Like you, I have felt so much shame over the years, but I know it’s not my fault. It’s in my genes. I’m trying to overcome the shame by talking about it with people. Thank you!”
“Kudos to amy schumer for bringing attention to trichotillomania in her new show!” One user on Twitter wrote, adding that they felt “seen.”
Also commenting on their experience with the disorder, another user wrote, “Hair pulling and #bfrbs rarely make headlines, so these moments matter. Thank you @amyschumer for sharing your “big secret,” which is mine too. Mental health conditions like #trichotillomania may not be curable, but shame is.”