Dealing with the Stress of Hair Loss in a Culture of Hair
Culturally, hair is a vital expression of our heritage, gender, individuality, and often our sexuality. Health professionals have found that hair loss may be even more devastating to women than men, causing worry and even depression in women. 2, 30 But in many Western or Western-influenced societies, where youth is revered over age and experience, hair loss can affect the self-esteem of both sexes. While it may seem easy to dismiss these concerns as vanity and self-indulgence, the fact is that research and anecdotal studies reveal that the perception of youth is a real advantage even in areas as fundamental as job markets and financial security. 18
Studies show that men who successfully treat their hair loss experience psychological benefits. In fact, case studies in male patients with moderate to significant hair loss reported improved sex lives and positive career effects following hair transplants. Interestingly, those who felt the psychological benefit were patients who were in the initial stages of hair loss and especially if the patients were younger adults rather than those in advanced stages. The physicians speculated that this perhaps correlated to the higher levels of stress experienced when hair loss first starts and even more so when combined with the greater impact on the presumably more active and tenuous social life of younger adults. And anecdotal evidence suggests that the benefits of treating hair loss extend even to the patient’s partner as the psychological stress of balding is alleviated. 2
It’s easy to see why hair loss can be so disturbing, but did you know that it can also cause adverse physical effects too? All of these effects should be considered when weighing the cost and benefits of treating hair loss, and efforts made to address and treat the psychological stress of hair loss. Aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, calming herbs, and Ayurvedic nutritional support can all help alleviate stress.
- Impaired immune system. Besides the noticeable emotional impact, the stress of hair loss may also alter immune system responses and create inflammatory conditions that lead to more oxidative stress. 57 To add insult to injury, research evidence suggests that this free radical damage can lead to further hair loss and even grey hair. Severe emotional stress can even cause acute hair loss, in the form of diffuse alopecia areata. 206
- Dysfunctional hormone regulation. Like a vicious cycle, stress over thinning hair can lead or contribute to already existing insomnia. Without enough sleep your body cannot sufficiently break down cortisol hormones from the adrenal glands—which may already be high because of stress. These chronic high levels of cortisol due to stress can lead to adrenal gland dysfunction and conditions such as obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes that can create a poorly regulated androgen hormone environment and make hair loss even worse. 30, 37, 207
- Impact on health decisions.The trauma over the potential loss of hair associated with many chemotherapy drugs is such a serious side effect for cancer patients that it has caused some patients to reject certain treatment regimens. Hair loss can further negatively affect a patient’s overall cancer treatment outcome with the potential risks of depression and anxiety. 4
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