The Psychological Impact of Alopecia on Women

While the unpleasantness of alopecia is valid for countless men, there are several reasons (cultural and personal significance of hair, perceiving hair loss as being normal or abnormal) for expecting alopecia to be more stressful, if not to provoke psychological debilities for women. Cash, Price, and Savin examined this aspect by studying new patients with alopecia problems (96 women and 60 men).  The patients were administered with tests in order to evaluate their image of their own body, personality and psycho-social adaptability similar to those from the previous study. The researchers used the HLEQ survey to establish the specific effects experienced by alopecia patients. They also included a women control group of 56 patients without alopecia problems who were intrerested in a treatment for cutaneous problems that were not noticeable.
This research revealed the fact that most women with alopecia had considerable preoccupation with anxiety, helplessness, concern, and the feeling of being unattractive: coping with the stress, seeking information and selective social support, struggling to control their negative thoughts and emotions about their own condition, trying to conceal hair loss with hair-styling, engaging in compensatory activities in order to try to restore the integrity of the image regarding their own body.
Indeed, women reported a greater socio-emotional stress and efforts to cope with this condition than men. The results indicated that although alopecia was clearly a frustrating experience for both sexes, its effects were much more problematic for women.  While about ¼ of the men were very upset because of their balding problems, 70% and 52% of the women expressed a very high level of dicontentment in their past and present.
Other proof of the psychological impact of alopecia on women appear in the differences between these women and the female patients in control of their own body image and psycho-social adaptation.  Compared to the latter, women with alopecia problems acknowledged more social anxiety, diminished self-esteem and reduced psycho-social well-being, less control and satisfaction with their own lives than the pacients being in the control group because of simple cutaneous problems. In addition, women with alopecia were not only more unhappy about their condition but also experienced deeper negative feelings about the overall image of their body.
As an answer to Cash’s previous results, the most affected men were less adaptable, strongly dissatisfied with their hair, and invested in their appearance.  Statistical analyses indicated that the women who were most affected by hair loss were the less adaptable ones, who had invested considerably in their appearance and expected alopecia to progress.  Although these correlations can’t indicate a causal role in people’s psychological reactions to hair loss, these results are explicit on a practical, clinical level: women who look for medical consultations for alopecia are more psychologically troubled than the typical patients represented by the control group and by balding men.
This study’s results regarding the moderately negative impact of alopecia on men strengthen Cash’s previous conclusions, based on the group of men selected randomly from the population, of which none was looking for treatment.  A comparison of men’s reactions in the two studies clearly shows that displeasure was higher in the group looking for medical treatment than in the one consisting of people selected from the population.  Understandably, the psychological in part motivates patients to look for effective remedies for alopecia and associated anxiety.

Table of Contents:
Alopecia among women
Hair loss and the image of the self
The Psychological Impact of Alopecia on Women