Hair Loss and Its Effect on Mental Health

Hair Loss and Its Effect on Mental Health

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Hair loss, or alopecia, is a common genetic condition that affects both men and women of all ages. Although the most common geographic location for hair loss is in the Czech Republic, with 42.79 of all men going bald, the UK still ranks fifth, with 39.23 men losing their hair. But what is the relationship between a person’s psychological makeup and their hair? Does hair loss cause psychological disorders, or is the reverse true and psychological disorders are responsible for hair loss?

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A healthy head of hair is often perceived as a complement to power, good looks, charm, and beauty, and therefore hair loss is associated with the opposite, often causing psychological problems and significant social impact as well as depression, anxiety, anger, fatigue, low self-esteem, and embarrassment. The famous tennis player Andre Agassi described losing his hair as like losing ‘little pieces of my identity.’ In an age where young people are more conscious of their appearance than ever before, it’s little wonder that hair loss clinics are prospering as desperate young men seek answers to their hair loss trauma.

Sadly, there is little in the way of a magic pill to help people going through the mental anguish of losing their hair. With hair loss still being regarded as a cosmetic problem rather than a disease, few academic funding bodies are willing to spend substantial money on hair research. While hair loss can be attributed to genetics in the majority of cases, some other factors can contribute to hair loss.

Depression

As depression becomes an increasingly common problem worldwide, its impact on hair loss is becoming more prevalent. Patients suffering from depression can often find their hair becoming dry, brittle, and easily breakable. The phycological states of depression, including low mood, low self-esteem, and low energy, can impact the hair growth phase, leading to hair loss. In turn, hair loss can give people suffering from depression a ‘focus’ for their negative feelings. It is also possible for some anti-depression medication to have an impact on hair loss.

Stress

While stress-related hair loss is not permanent, stress does play a big part in hair loss and reversing the effects relies heavily on managing and controlling the stress. Stress can put hair follicles into a resting phase, and hair follicles can lie dormant for around three months before eventually shedding. This will continue until the stress levels are reduced or stopped, at which point the hair will continue to grow as normal.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)

Dihydrotestosterone is a hormone that the body makes from the male hormone testosterone. Many men have a genetic oversensitivity in hair follicles to this hormone, which causes hair loss. Unfortunately, experiencing this hair loss can, in turn, increase stress levels, which can increase hair loss. In situations like these, patients are often left turning to solutions like hair transplant procedures to correct the hair loss and help renew their self-esteem. Some of the stigma surrounding hair loss can be attributed to unconscious bias. Hair and nail growth are shut down when the body is unwell to preserve energy for other bodily functions, meaning that we subconsciously link thick luscious hair to health and virility. This, in turn, means that hair loss can impact mental health just as much as mental health can have an impact on hair loss.

Going bald has been found to lead to exaggerated feelings of ugliness and body dysmorphic disorder, where sufferers experience acute anxiety about their looks. Certainly, the huge emotional burden of going bald can lead to impaired quality of life. Thankfully, there are several options available for people who find themselves losing confidence along with their hair. Improving diet and supplementing can have a positive impact as well as reducing stress and increasing exercise. For people suffering from the effects of depression and stress, it is worth consulting with a counselor or even considering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help develop psychological coping mechanisms and improve self-esteem.

There is little doubt that hair is an important social communication instrument. With the huge market of people looking for solutions to their own hair loss, new and advanced procedures are continually being researched. However, a lack of funding is prohibiting any serious breakthroughs in hair research. More funding from the government and industry will be needed to realize the potential treatments and alleviate the trauma for thousands of alopecia sufferers worldwide.

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