Long, thick, luscious hair has always been seen as a sign of good health, and youthfulness, while relatively thinner hair, or bald patches are indicative of ill health.
When hairless combs, brushes, and towels are projected as the milestones of healthy ‘breakage-free’ hair, the opposite is always projected as an 'embarrassment.'
Hair is one of the most visible features of our body, the loss of which tends to have a significant impact on people, say experts.
FIT reached out to psychologists and dermatologists who break down how hair loss can affect the mental health of the person undergoing it.
How Hair Loss Impacts Your Sense Of Self
“If somebody has diabetes or blood pressure, that will never show, right? So you can always hide it from the general public. But if you are balding, if you have bald patches, if you are losing your hair, every single person around you will start talking about it, and that impacts you,” says Dr Smriti Naswa Singh, Consultant Dermatologist, Fortis, Mulund-West, Mumbai.
A 2022 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Review said that individuals felt a sense of shame and embarrassment attached to hair loss.
“There is a lot of self-consciousness, and embarrassment when a person is experiencing hair loss. In the long term, it can really impact their sense of self-worth," Somya Narang, Counseling Psychologist and Founder, Katharsis Counseling, told FIT.
“I have also observed a sense of, what I am calling, grief attached to hair loss. There is some kind of a loss of the imagined self – of how I should have looked right now, or at this age,” Narang added.
A person who is undergoing hair loss may also experience anxiety, specifically due to it, the expert added.
It Could Lead to Social Withdrawal For Some
An overall loss in confidence could make individuals withdraw from their social circles.
“I think one of the behavioral changes is loss of social interaction. People lose a lot of confidence when they see any change in their physical appearance. When we go and interact with somebody, they are going to ask us about the changes in our appearance. In our society people really exchange personal questions publicly.”Dhritismita Bora, Research Scholar, Psychology Department, Guwahati University.
“In my practice, I have had people who stopped going for social gatherings, stopped attending parties, family functions because they are conscious of their hair,” added Somya.
“In a culture like ours, hair is seen to be a sign of beauty and is perceived as admirable or attractive, therefore hair loss due to any reason may lead people to feel unattractive or less desirable,” Rohit Bhutani, Counselling Psychologist, Residential Psychologist (Clinical Trainee) at PGIBAMS, Raipur told FIT.
The 2022 study, published in the Journal of Dermatological Reviews, also notes that women tend to be more affected by the psycho-social impacts of hair loss than men.
“Women have a culturally inflicted responsibility to maintain ‘good’ quality of hair. They are constantly being badgered by the ideas of what a healthy body looks like,” said Rohit.
“For men, if they observe hair loss at a young age, they tend to get easily concerned,” said Dr Reshma T Vishnani, Consultant Dermatologist, Trichologist and Aesthetic Dermatologist, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital Mumbai.
“Since hair loss is more noticeable in men, they tend to talk about it more,” Somya told FIT.
What Can You Do If Hair Loss If Affecting Your Mental Health?
"When individuals experience hair fall they are going to all kinds of places, trying all kinds of treatments and everything, which also adds to mental stress," Dr Smriti said. "In such cases, we have to work with patients beyond prescription," she added.
"When dealing with hair loss, it is a process which requires hand-holding," said Dr Reshma.
The journey of the treatment must be holistic – both physical and mental.
"It is the duty of the doctor to inform the patient about their problem, the treatment and the amount of time it will take to heal," said Dr Smriti.
Feelings of anxiety and distress around hair loss are normal. Reaching out at this time to medical professionals may prove helpful in gaining the right information and beginning the journey towards healing ourselves, added experts.