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Home > Articles > Psychological Effects of Hair Loss Require Immediate Attention

Psychological Effects of Hair Loss Require Immediate Attention

by Alexandra Kilpatrick

Clinically known as alopecia, hair loss can cause a myriad of side effects, from the physical to the psychological and emotional.

The medical condition can have a huge impact on self-esteem even if the hair loss is not visible to others.

The chronic disorder has three subtypes, including alopecia areata, alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis. Alopecia areata, the most responsive to treatment, involves the loss of patches of hair from the head, while alopecia totalis involves the loss of all hair on the head and alopecia universalis involves the loss of all head and body hair.

Dermatologists can diagnose the inflammatory disease, which affects the hair follicles. Although the condition is neither life threatening nor painful, it can cause skin irritation as well as physical problems after the loss of eyelashes and eyebrows. While doctors do not know the exact cause, they do know the autoimmune disorder is caused by both genetic and environmental factors.

“It affects everybody differently, but there is a large portion of people where it affects them severely psychologically and it’s almost devastating,” Hair restoration Dr. Kenneth Stein, affiliated with Embassy Studio in Chicago’s River North, told The Chicago Tribune. “It takes away their self-esteem and by bringing [their hair] back, it changes their whole outlook on life.”

“The experience of alopecia is psychologically damaging, causes intense emotional suffering and leads to personal, social and work related problems,” said a study in the British Medical Journal, according to the Tribune.

Women tend to experience the psychological effects of hair loss to a greater degree than men do, since hair is a key beauty component in women. About 40 percent of women with alopecia experience marital problems, while about 63 percent claim to experience career related problems, according to the study.

“For women, it’s totally devastating when they lose their hair, because women are supposed to have hair and guys take it in different strides,” Stein explained to the Tribune. “Fortunately for the guys that are bald, there’s the icon Michael Jordan, who shaved his head when he didn’t need to and showed that you can live with that.”

However, Stein admits that the majority of people want a full head of hair.

“You look at yourself and everybody critiques themselves, and having hair is something that physically, socially, emotionally looks better when you have it,” he explained to the Tribune. “Certainly as a woman, it’s just not acceptable to not have hair.”

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center Department of Dermatology discovered that psychiatric disorders are more common in alopecia sufferers than in the general population.

“Those with alopecia may be at higher risk for developing a serious depressive episode, anxiety disorder, social phobia or paranoid disorder,” the study said, according to the Tribune.

“It’s extremely important to have good health, but that doesn’t matter to everybody,” Stein told the Tribune. “What does matter to almost everybody is how they look. That’s why people wear nice clothing, that’s why they wear jewelry.”

Stein commented that hair loss can have even greater psychological effects if an individual develops a hyper focus on the condition, as this distraction causes them to lose confidence in their personal and professional lives.

“Anytime you do an interview with somebody looking for a job, you’re looking for confidence in that person and it may or may not have to do with how their hair is, but it has ot do with how they handle themselves based on that,” Stein explained to the Tribune. “I think that people who have a full head of hair tend to be a little more confident in themselves.”

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