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“Freed From His Insecurities, Raed Dreams of Becoming A Famous Footballer”

“I don’t need to go to the barber shop – I’ve shaved my hair off by myself,” said 10-year-old Raed, who suffered from trichotillomania that he developed  together with other PTSD symptoms.

Raed lives with his parents, 3 brothers and one sister in Beit Hanoun Town, in the north of the Gaza Strip. The area where the family lives is near the border with Israel and always takes the brunt in any military escalation.

During the military offensive Israel launched against Gaza in May, 2021, Raed’s house was flattened to the ground, an experience which deeply affected the fifth-grader and made him feel insecure.

Raed suffered from frequent nightmares and has grown more and more introvert, his family noticed. However, what was most worrying to the family was the hair pulling disorder. It was so bad that Raed’s scalp was almost wholly lacking hair.

Then such a problem led to other problems: he became an object to jokes, sarcasm and even bullying at school and in the neighbourhood. Thus, he could only leave home with a cap on, to conceal what provided his peers with the laughing matter.  

Heartbroken over her son to be in such a condition, his mother tried what she said “every possible way” to rid her son of the hair pulling habit. She hit him (unaware that her son was suffering from PTSD symptoms) and taped his fingers so as to stop him from pulling his hair.

“I wrapped his fingers with tape before bedtime in order to prevent him from pulling his hair. That was so horrible a solution, but I had no other choice. He bitterly cried and disparately plead for having his fingers being untied. Sometimes I would feel sorry for him and undo the tape,” his mother recalled.

Fortunately, Raed’s family was visited by GCMHP’s psychological First Aid teams, who immediately referred him for specialized intervention at Gaza Community Centre.

Raed came to the center with his mother and started his treatment journey. The intervention started  with building rapport, and included play and draw therapy as well as CBT techniques such as occupying his  hands with activities to break the conditional attachment between them and his hair. The intervention plan also included family counselling to know how to deal with the child and stop using physical punishments, and use positive reinforcement, instead.

He began to gradually show signs of improvement after several sessions. His sleep improved, and he began to reintegrate with his surrounding community.

 More importantly, his hair grew back after a few weeks of the therapy and he came to come to therapy sessions with his hair uncovered. On one occasion he came to GCMHP community centre with a nice haircut, smiling with a feeling of contentment and confidence about how he looked.

“I love to have the same haircut of footballers,” Raed told his therapist.


“My son can now have a better sleep. He is confident about himself. At some point we lost hope that his hair would grow back because every time it grew out, he pull it off. You helped me a lot, I feel so grateful to for all what you have done for my son and my family,” Raed’s mother said.

Freed from his insecurities, Raed now has dreams. He wants to grow up to be a famous footballer in an internationally renowned club.