Updated: Jul 9, 2020
When someone with a full head of hair looks at someone who is experiencing hair loss what do they see? More than likely they will only see the thinning temples, crown, or maybe even shaved head, but it is impossible for them to see what is happening on the inside of that person.
People who aren’t suffering from hair loss will never fully comprehend how it can affect a person mentally. Not only does it negatively impact the way you look, but it has a drastic impact on your day to day emotions, so much so that scientific studies have been done trying to draw the connection between hair loss and its psychological impacts.
Of course, hair loss affects everyone differently. No two people will lose hair at the exact same rate or in the exact same pattern, but there is a general pattern (androgenic alopecia or pattern hair loss) that people tend to follow. The mental effects are the same in the sense that no two people will react to their hair loss the same way, but there are distinct patterns of thought and common psychological symptoms that have been identified by scientists.
In this article we will take a look at what some of those common psychological symptoms are and some of the ways you can treat them.
The common psychological consequences of hair loss
Physicians commonly state that cultural influences are the main underlying cause behind hair loss-related psychological issues. This is because society has set a standard that associates beauty, health, and youth with a full head of hair, and whether people admit it or not, studies have shown that hair strongly influences whether or not a person is perceived as attractive.
When someone is experiencing hair loss it may cause them to feel lesser/less attractive than other people, and if you are experiencing it at a young age you may feel like you have aged much more than your colleagues, as hair is a sign of youthfulness. Since hair loss is not something that can be fixed with a “magic pill” people tend to experience hopelessness and feel like they can’t do anything to stop their changing appearance and that they don’t have control over their life anymore. These intense emotions can cause a range of psychological disorders including:
-depression: low mood, lack of interest in activities, loss of energy, trouble sleeping, & more
-anxiety: worrying, difficulty controlling feelings, heightened tension
-emotional suffering: feeling alone, withdrawn, or isolated
-social problems: avoidance of social situations in fear that others will see their hair loss, this can lead to the development of social anxiety
-work related issues: one study showed that 63% of women with hair loss had career related problems
Sometimes the cause of hair loss may be stress-related or the result of a life event. The initial hair loss can then lead to increased stress and further progression of the hair loss. This relationship between stress/trauma and hair loss is very complicated and makes the job of determining the relationship between psychological complications and hair loss very difficult, hence why not much research has been done on the subject.
That’s not to say that no research has been done though. In the same study as mentioned above, it was found that 40% of the women studied with hair loss have had marital problems. This may be because hair loss has been proven to degrade the quality of life due to the potential social disadvantages of being perceived as unattractive. People with hair loss have also been shown to have many of the conditions above including depression, general anxiety, social phobias, and paranoid disorder at a much higher rate than people who don’t suffer from hair loss, all of which can lead to complications in jobs and relationships.
Unfortunately, much more in depth research is needed to fully understand the relationship between hair loss and the development of psychological issues. But, on the bright side we do know a lot about these psychological conditions in and of themselves and how to help them.
How to cope with the psychological side of hair loss
If you are dealing with any of the psychological issues we discussed above there are three ways to which you can (and should) deal with them.
Note: before you start any treatment plan be sure to talk to your doctor or dermatologist to determine the cause of your hair loss so that you can get the appropriate treatments
First, use treatments for the physical aspects of hair loss. Finasteride, minoxidil, and several other treatments have been either FDA approved so shown in studies to be effective for the treatment of hair loss. They can help regrow your hair and regain your confidence. Taking this proactive approach is the route I, Zeke, took and it helped me immensely both physically and mentally to overcome hair loss.
Second, you need to tackle the mental side of hair loss. This could include cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, medication, or any combination. There are medications that have been developed to help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and therapy has been shown to be very effective too. By alleviating anxiety and depression you can help clear up your mind and make room for…
Third, lifestyle changes. There are things you can change about your day to day habits that can greatly improve not only your mental condition, but even your hair loss (more info in linked article)! In short, you should exercise frequently (releases endorphins that physiologically improve your mood “happy chemicals), meditate to help manage your anxiety, eat healthy, and set/achieve goals for yourself. If you are able to successfully implement these healthy lifestyle changes into your routine you will undoubtedly see a different in both the physical and mental side of hair loss.
The mental downsides of hair loss are often neglected. Only those who are suffering from hair loss will truly understand the emotional distress it can cause. Unfortunately, the relationship between hair loss and the psychological effects it can have on a person have not been researched in depth due to the complexity of the subject. But, by being proactive about both the physical, mental, and lifestyle changes required to overcome it, you CAN beat hair loss.