Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Magnus Mfoafo-M'Carthy

Advisor Role



Compulsive hair-pulling (which is sometimes diagnosed as the OCD-Related Disorder, Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour, "Trichotillomania)" is an understudied experience that has significant social and emotional impacts on the women that it affects. This study focused on the meanings that are derived from the interactions that women with compulsive hair-pulling experience with social discourses surrounding mental illness, physical appearance, and behaviour. Guided by relativist ontology and the co-creation of understanding between researcher and participants, this qualitative exploration was guided by anti-oppressive practice and used an arts-based research method called Body-Map Storytelling. In group format, four women were invited to describe their knowledge, experiences, and journey visually on a life-sized tracing of their own body over five consecutive weekly sessions. The end result of these sessions was a life-sized depiction of each person's visual telling of their story, which had been co-created within the context of guided facilitation through the sessions. The visual data and the participants’ personal narratives of creating the body maps were analyzed thematically. The participants shared contrasting experiences of wanting to be both visible and invisible, feeling whole and fragmented, and building oneself up and breaking oneself down. They shared the impacts of compulsive hair-pulling on the pressure that they feel; from self and others, around self-disclosure, to meet social expectations and how they resist this pressure. Participants shared the impacts of being labelled and how they accept, reject and resist labels. The final theme arising from analysis was that of self-guardianship. These findings add to current knowledge on compulsive hair-pulling, mental illness stigma and visual research methodologies as an example of a study guided by anti-oppressive theory conducted by a researcher who herself shares the identity of compulsive hair-puller with the research participants.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons