By Dr. Rinky Kapoor
‘Hair fall cure’ is one of the most commonly searched phrases on search engines. Every person suffers from hair fall at some point in their lives. Medically hair loss is called alopecia and it can affect any part of the body. Hair is considered a mark of beauty and not having hair especially scalp hair frequently causes physiological distress. Hair loss changes the way a person looks. It causes many personal, social, and work-related issues and it makes the patient feel that he or she is no longer fitting into the expectations of the society.
Hair falls can be because of a number of reasons such as genetics, hormones, disease, stress, etc. The socio-cultural importance of hair is quite substantial and although hair loss is not a medical risk its importance to mental health necessitates an individualized treatment approach. Psychodermatology and psychotrichology in dermatology are commonly accepted terms in modern medicine. The link between mental health and hair loss is quite well established. There are two ways that these two are related: physiological distress causes hair loss and vice versa. Hair loss caused because of psychosocial issues leads to more stress which in turn leads to more hair loss which then causes more depression, anxiety, and distress and thus the cycle continues. The common symptoms that hair loss is affecting mental health include:
Depression which causes a feeling of low mod, lacking of personal and other family activities, loss of energy, unable to sleep
Anxiety that causes a feeling of tension, sweating, and palpitations
Reacting negatively to social situations and indulging in drinking, smoking, etc.
Physiological distress causes hair loss
Stress is a part of our daily life but when stress is severe and prolonged it causes distress which results in hair loss. Stress causes three types of hair loss.
Telogen effluvium in which stress causes the hair follicles to rush into a resting phase. this type of hair fall happens suddenly and the patient notices hair loss while combing or washing hair. This type of hair loss is usually triggered after 2-3 months of the stress full event. Thus, stress can be a primary or secondary cause of telogen effluvium.
Trichotillomania is the uncontrollable urge to pull one’s own hair. The patient tends to pull their hair from the scalp, eyebrow, eyelash, chest, groin hair, etc. this is usually a way of dealing with stress, uncomfortable feelings, tension, boredom, or frustration. About 1/3rd of the patients have a poor quality of life or have psychiatric conditions or suffer from mood or anxiety disorders.
Alopecia areata is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles causing hair loss. it is a kind of nonscarring alopecia
Hair loss affects mental health
Emotional suffering is the most common impact of hair fall. Most patients suffering from hair loss go through an intense period of identity crisis which is especially challenging for women, children, and adolescents. Other common effects include depression, anxiety, and other obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Another major type of hair loss that affects the mental health of patients is chemotherapy-induced hair loss. recent studies have shown that about 8% of females thought of giving up on chemotherapy to avoid hair loss. about 55% of chemotherapy patients reported feeling negative about their body image and depressed because of hair loss. this feeling is common in men and women.
There is a clear and distinctive need of prioritizing the psychological effects of hair loss among patients. This can be done through
Professional counseling by mental health professionals
Educating the patients about the hair loss solutions and other options.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Including the psychological impact of hair loss in dermatology education
It is important to stress to the patients, family members, colleagues, and society in general that there is no magic pill or a miracle surgery that will reverse hair fall quickly. Stress-related hair fall usually corrects itself but it is a slow process.
(The author is a Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetic Dermatologist & Dermato-Surgeon, The Esthetic Clinics. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)