Chapter 5 – Psychology of Hair Loss
Hair loss affects millions of men and women, both young and old. It can decrease self-esteem and confidence, and limit the ability to enjoy life to the fullest. Persons balding at a young age may feel deprived of an essential element of their youth. This feeling is created and affirmed by cultures all over the world. Images on television, in the movies and on print ads, constantly reinforce the association between a youthful appearance, sexuality, and a full head of hair.
Balding affects people in different ways, but certain emotional reactions seem to be shared by many.
The most common concern that people have when they begin to lose their hair is that they will be less attractive to the opposite sex. The interesting thing is that this is often only the view of the person that is balding and not that person’s partner. The spouse or friend of those experiencing hair loss commonly state that the only thing that bothers them is that it makes their partner depressed. The balding does not bother them per se.
It is interesting that women sometimes express that they want their spouses to look good for the wedding pictures, but once married, they become far less concerned about their spouse’s hair. In fact, when a married man suddenly becomes interested in having a hair transplant, we have seen the spouse become suspicious of extra-marital interests and even object to the husband having the procedure.
Hair loss is a universal marker for aging, with one’s mane gradually diminishing over time. Your body slowly changes as well, with more sagging and wrinkles and ones muscle mass decreasing. However, hair loss hair can also occur suddenly at a young age, making you appear much older than you actually are.
A practical concern with looking older is that the person may not be as competitive in the work force. Unfortunately, studies have shown that this is a real phenomenon. When employers are screening job applicants, all other things being equal, those with hair are viewed more favorably than those who are bald.
People experiencing hair loss complain that the way they look does not fit with their own image of themselves. This occurs when someone begins to lose hair early i.e., in their late teens or twenties, but it is as much a problem when someone has had a full-head of hair for years (and is used to receiving compliments about their hair) and then their hair thins unexpectedly in middle age.
Another aspect of balding is that people feel a loss of control. Hair is one of the few body parts that you can actually manipulate yourself. You can grow hair long, cut if off, you can wave it, dye it, or pull it back in a pony-tail. It serves as a form of self-expression. As people start to lose this form of self-expression, they can become depressed and withdrawn. But not everyone responds this way. People react very differently to their hair loss, with some considering it only a minor nuisance and others finding it so debilitating that they won’t be seen in public without their head covered.
One of the things that makes going bald difficult is that, for some reason, people feel that commenting or joking about hair loss is “fair game” when they wouldn’t dare mention that someone had bad skin, or had a limp. I often point out to patients, that just because people chose to comment about thinning hair, doesn’t mean they are judging that person or really care much about it. It just seems to be a socially acceptable thing to mention.
Women seem to believe that female hair loss is less acceptable than hair loss in men. While this may be true, the vast majority of women have hair loss in a pattern that can be easily camouflaged. Women are often reassured when they realize that about 40% of women experience hair loss over their lifetime, but it is to such a small degree that it is rarely recognized by others.
The important things to remember are that hair loss is very common, it is much more acceptable with age, and it is generally less important to other people than the person experiencing hair loss thinks. That said it is not unreasonable to be upset about going bald. Fortunately, for those who are bothered by their hair loss, there are now excellent medications to prevent hair loss and excellent surgical treatments to restore hair once it is gone.
In seeking treatment for their hair loss, younger men often consider a surgical option first. They shun the idea of having to take a medication “for life” and think that surgery will be a permanent solution to their problem; often not realizing that having surgery at a young age may create far more problems than it will correct. Unfortunately, these young people, in a panic, may fall prey to unscrupulous physicians whose practices are built on “selling” hair transplants to those in an emotionally fragile state.
It is the responsibility of the physician to make sure that an emotionally distraught patient is making informed choices and understands the long-term implications of any treatment option – especially surgery. In the younger patient, it is often prudent to slow down the decision making process. This can be accomplished with multiple consultations, stressing the importance of drug therapy and, when appropriate, getting parents or other significant persons involved. The doctor should allow the patient to reflect on the situation and the decisions involved – and should never rush to operate.
Older patients are often more deliberate about the decision to undergo hair transplant surgery. Many have considered the procedure for some time, and understand the challenges of making emotionally charged decisions, getting accurate information and finding a doctor they trust. They often research their options more thoroughly. Outsides factors may finally tip the balance in favor of having surgical hair restoration. These factors may include a search for a new job, a divorce, or simply the availability of financial resources. Alternatively, it may reflect the indulgence of a confident, successful person doing something extra for himself.
When hair loss becomes an obsession, it is rare that either medical treatments or surgery will satisfy the patient’s need for perfection. In situations where the emotional reaction far exceeds the degree of hair loss or where the expectations of treatment is more than can be achieved with existing technology, psychological counseling is in order.
Although each individuals motives may vary, it is not unreasonable for people at any age to want to improve their appearance, and it is hard to deny the great impact that hair plays in this regard. However, a decision to proceed with hair restoration should be made with a clear head, a specific objective and with as much factual information as possible.
Continue reading: Chapter 6 – Hair Loss Medications »»
Table of Contents
|Chapter 1||Brief History of Hair|
|Chapter 2||Hair and Its Functions|
|Chapter 3||Causes of Hair Loss|
|Chapter 4||Hereditary Baldness|
|Chapter 5||Psychology of Hair Loss|
|Chapter 6||Hair Loss Medications|
|Chapter 7||Hair Transplant Basics|
|Chapter 8||Follicular Unit Transplantation|
|Chapter 9||Follicular Unit Extraction|
|Chapter 10||Master Plan for Restoring Hair|
|Chapter 11||Goals and Expectations|
|Chapter 12||Numbers of Grafts Needed|
|Chapter 13||Hair Transplant Repair|
|Chapter 14||Hair Loss in Women|
|Chapter 15||Hair Systems and Camouflage|
|Chapter 16||Preparing for a Hair Transplant|
|Chapter 17||The Hair Restoration Procedure|
|Chapter 18||What to Expect Following Surgery|
|Chapter 19||Hair Transplant Fallacies|
|Chapter 20||Choosing Your Doctor|
|A Final Note|
|About the Author|