Our hair is a vital part of our identity. The way our hair weaves, curls, shines, and flows says a bit about who we are and how we want to express ourselves.
Hair loss is a struggle for both men and women. However, for women, it can particularly devastating. In one study that compared the psychological effects of hair loss in men and women, 52% of women felt extremely distressed while only 27% of men felt extremely distressed. Hair loss has an impact on personal confidence too, as the same study showed that 53% of women who experience hair loss felt less physically attractive and 65% felt less sexy. Generally speaking, men seem to be affected less, as hair loss caused only 35% of men feel both less physically attractive and less sexy. The important take away is that while both women and men experience hair loss, they experience it differently.
The emotional toll from hair loss goes beyond skin deep. Hair loss affects quality of life in other areas like personal relationships, work and school, and basic daily activities. Physicians and dermatologists, like me, need to ask about these factors, rather than simply diagnosing and treating the scalp and hair. There are many negative emotions and feelings that come with hair loss, and these must be acknowledged by physicians to care for patients holistically.
If you’re struggling with hair loss, here are a few things your doctor should know:
If you’re also suffering from fatigue: Fatigue can be more than a mental state, and your doctor can help you understand causes and solutions for fatigue that you may not be aware of. There are afflictions that cause both hair loss and fatigue, and knowing about both symptoms can help your doctor better diagnose your affliction. For example, your doctor may check both the health of your thyroid gland and your blood counts. A poorly functioning thyroid can lead to hair loss, as can low iron levels from anemia.
If you’ve also experienced weight gain: If you’re gaining weight and have noticed that you are losing hair as well, it’s important to let your doctor know about both. Weight gain can be caused by many factors, some of which include hair loss. For example, a poorly functioning thyroid and a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome can lead to both weight gain and hair loss.
If you’re also dealing with depression: Hair loss can lead to depression and anxiety that, in turn, may worsen hair loss. For this reason, it’s important for your doctor to know if you are exhibiting symptoms of depression. Some of these symptoms include: difficulty concentrating, a feeling of emptiness or loss of self-worth, difficultly enjoying activities that were previously enjoyable, trouble sleeping, or trouble with your sexual life. Your doctor can work with you to fully assess if there are other causes to your symptoms or if you have a clinical diagnosis of depression.
Hair loss can affect our sense of style and social confidence in profound ways. Your health providers can help work with you to figure out both the cause of your hair loss and which treatments to pursue, but only if you discuss your emotional and social information, in addition to the medical information they need to understand your situation holistically. If you give them full information, they will be better able to help you heal on a physical and emotional level.
* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.
Cash TF, Price VH, Savin RC. Psychological effects of androgenetic alopecia on women: comparisons with balding men and with female control subjects. J Am Acad Dermatol.1993;29(4):568-575; PMID: 8408792.
Cartwright T, Endean N, Porter A. Illness perceptions, coping and quality of life in patients with alopecia. Br J Dermatol.2009;160(5):1034-1039; PMID: 19183424.
Hadshiew IM, Foitzik K, Arck PC, et al. Burden of hair loss: stress and the underestimated psychosocial impact of telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia. J Invest Dermatol.2004;123(3):455-457; PMID: 15304082.