Psychological effects of hair loss and treatments
What is hair loss?
The loss of hair, also known as “Alopecia” is a very common health problem that is estimated to affect up to 50% of men and women, throughout their lives. In medical terms, hair loss is often characterized into two basic categories; scarring or “Cicatricial” Alopecia and Non-scarring or “non-Cicatricial” alopecia. Hair loss of the scalp is often further sub-categorized as “Focal” or “Diffuse” Alopecia.
Generally, hair loss can affect anywhere on the patient’s body, but most commonly it affects the scalp and as scalp hair is part of a person’s aesthetic, it has societal and cultural importance. This is the reason why hair loss of the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes, often cause psychological distress to patients of hair loss.
What are the main causes of hair loss?
The main cause of hair loss is primarily dependent on the specific type of hair loss, whether it is scarring or non-scarring and whether it is focal or diffuse.
- A Scarring Alopecia or hair loss, although uncommon, is one which is caused by an injury, infection or some form of inflammatory skin disease, which may include lichen planopilaris, folliculitis decalvans, and discoid lupus erythematosus.
- A Non-Scarring Alopecia or Hair Loss can either be Focal or Diffuse.
- A Focal non-scarring hair loss is, normally caused by a fungal skin infection such as tinea capitis; or some autoimmune disorder, like alopecia areata.
- Diffuse hair loss is what causes hair shedding and thinning, and is generally either due to stress “telogen effluvium” or caused by genetic factor pattern hair loss in males and females. Furthermore, such a hair loss can also be caused by alopecia areate, chemotherapy medication and a variety of diseases which may include, thyroid disease, anemia, and hyperandrogenism. Inversely, psychological imbalances including anxiety and depression can also cause diffuse hair loss as well.
What key facts should I know about hair loss?
It is imperative to keep a note of these factors in dealing with hair loss:
- It must be remembered that usually with any type of hair loss, once the hair starts shedding rapidly, the chances of regrowth diminish.
- Even if the hair grows back there may be repeated episodes of hair loss in the future.
- Medication for hair loss has an inadequate effect, especially for severe forms of hair loss.
- Hair transplantation surgical option provides an adequate and reliable solution, however, it cannot be applied to all types of hair loss and related diseases.
What are the psychological effects of hair loss?
Although actual medical research on the subject of the psychological problems which come into effect due to hair loss, is very limited; however, there is ample evidence to suggest that the experience of losing one’s hair can be psychologically damaging, causing severe emotional distress which usually leads to social, personal and work-related issues. As, hair loss in certain societies may be seen as failing body image; a severe hair loss may cause more psychological disturbance than mild hair loss as it changes an individual’s image, especially if it affects the person's eyelashes and eyebrows; features which define a person’s facial aesthetic.
It must be noted that there is a converse relationship between hair loss and psychosocial consequences which may lead to even more distress, anxiety, and depression. It is especially true for women who usually experience higher levels of stress than men due to hair loss and societal pressures.
It is recorded that, people suffering from hair loss have an increased tendency to suffer from psychiatric disorders, including social phobia, anxiety disorders, depression, and paranoid disorders as well.
Clinical features of psychological problems associated with hair loss?
Balding and hair loss can lead to depression, anxiety, and social phobia in patients.
- Depression can cause a lack of pleasure and interest in activities, a constant feeling of low moods, sleep deprivation and loss of energy, as well.
- Anxiety can lead to palpitations and sweating; caused by extreme worrying, trouble in regulatory those feelings, and a sensation of intensified tension.
- Behavioral Avoidance or Social phobia is an extension of the experience of anxiety coupled with social and economic suffering due to the hair loss factor.
- A social anxiety disorder can also develop whereby the patient suffers from a fear of humiliation or being judged negatively in social situations, due to some factor; which maybe hair loss; perceived as a loss of their aesthetic and prestige. And thus it results in the patient adopting avoidance of social or performance situations.
Such symptoms can have an enormous negative effect on a person’s psychological health and ability to study, work and personal wellbeing.
What are the treatment options for anxiety/depression caused by hair loss?
Treatment options can be split into two fronts, dependent on the severity of the psychological problems arising due to hair loss.
- Psychological Treatment – Of anxiety and depression due to hair loss can be treated with several therapies including; anti-depressants, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support groups. It must be noted that general psychological treatment of symptoms due to hair loss are primarily focused on coping with the loss of the symbol of power, strength, and vitality which hair represents on a biological and social level. Rather, other treatment options, such as surgical hair transplant enables to focus on the root cause of the psychological disturbances and in recent studies has shown as a viable and logical solution to such psychological problems associated with hair loss as well.
- Surgical Treatment – Hair Transplant offers the perfect solution to patients suffering from hair loss and also in treating the root cause of the psychological effects associated with the problem. It must be understood that the loss of one’s hair; a symbol of youth can have devastating psychological effects on the identity and self-worth of a person; and hair transplantation surgery can offer the best solution to address that very problem.
- Case Study 2008 – Dr. Parsa Mohhebi & William Rassman – Impact of hair transplant surgery restoration on patients suffering from physiological problems due to hair loss and baldness.
- The study picked patients of hair loss and psychological problems associated with that hair loss and who underwent surgical hair transplant surgery and observed psychological improvement due to hair transplant surgery.
- The results of the study suggested a huge improvement in each aspect of the lives of the patients. Almost 18%, of the patients, felt a greater sense of life and wellbeing, in terms of youthfulness, energy levels, career, sex life, and overall happiness. The study also showed a dramatic reduction in anxiety levels and an improved sense of self-confidence.
With modern and advanced hair transplant procedures a natural aesthetic isn’t hard to accomplish; which can greatly help in preventing and even in some cases reversing, the psychological problems associated with hair loss in patients suffering from both. Conversely, the more a person has suffered due to hair loss, the greater the positive effects can be seen on their physiological health; after a hair transplant surgery.
Generally, both men and women, who suffer from hair loss usually find hair restoration as making a huge improvement in their lives, in terms of social life, career progress, a better measure of self-worth and maintaining a youthful appearance. Thus, hair transplant surgery is a reliable option for the treatment of both physical and psychological symptoms of hair loss and balding.