Continuing on from our last post, we have Hairs To You podcast guest Dr. Monica Vermani discussing all things hair loss and its connection with mental health and anxiety.
In this blog post, we recap Monica’s comments on hair loss specifically and how it can affect someone’s mental health and interactions with people in public. She also discusses whether women take hair loss harder than men and why men may feel more helpless when dealing with hair thinning or balding.
If you prefer, you can also listen to the full episode below:
How does hair thinning or baldness affect someone's mental health?
Monica Vermani: Symptoms cause us a lot of anxiety. What is anxiety? It's fear and self doubt, right? Self doubt affects our self-esteem if you want to call it that. And today, many people go through hair loss for a number of reasons. Stress levels are high, psychiatric disorders of major depression, anxiety disorders, social phobia. You know, there's a number of reasons why people can have symptoms of anxiety and depression that increase symptoms that are physiological, like hair loss. So to me, all problems in life, it doesn't matter what problem you go through — it manifests and shows up in your life in three ways; through physical symptoms, negative thoughts that go around in your head and negative behaviors that you go through or maladaptive behaviors that are habits and patterns.
On a physiological front, that's where the hair loss comes in. Physiological symptoms can be abdominal distress, headaches, muscle tension, hair loss, and hair loss is close to home with also our self-esteem. Many people tie their physical beauty to hair. It's one of those things that we have to recognize that anxiety levels go higher when we become self-conscious of the way we look and we don't feel happy with the way we look. Hair loss is a symptom of major medical conditions as well as psychiatric ones, but it's a signal that something's off course that we need to address, whether it's a medical condition or managing stress better or changing our diet and exercise and other things that can help facilitate hair growth. Many times, people get quite anxious about the way they feel as they're losing hair or they get fearful of like worst case scenarios. Your mind starts catastrophizing as a negative thought. What if this happens? What if that happens? What if I go bald? And so, there's a mental health impact of stressing somebody about how they look, how they're judged. Most of us worry about people's judgment out there. And when it comes to hair loss, there's an anxiety about how people are viewing us or seeing us, and how we're seeing ourselves.
If you’re insecure about your looks, it can affect your interactions with people right?
Monica Vermani: It can increase social anxiety where you worry about people's judgment and criticism of you. You might become more self-conscious if you're in the dating world, you might feel like you're not as appealing or attractive to the population you're trying to gain attention from. There's a lot of consequences when you start getting in your own head overthinking and being hard on yourself for something that is happening physiologically to you. And so when it comes to hair loss, many times people don't always notice the extent of it. We notice and we become very self-conscious as we notice.
And there's also a normal, healthy level of hair loss that I think we all go through with just season changes and things like that. We get hard on ourselves and we get worried about, does this mean more? And we catastrophize, it's an anxiety behavior. But it does affect our self esteem. And many of us take pride in the way we look and we tie our hair to a significant part of how we see beauty in the world.
Many women say hair loss is harder on them than men. Do you think that’s true?
No, I've had people in my office, it doesn't matter who you are. you struggle with what your hair means to you because you identify somehow a better look or more attractiveness to hair. And if anything, I find men have more anxiety related to, ‘I can't change it.’ And on the other hand [for women], if you're having hair loss, cut your hair shorter and it looks more voluminous, or you can do certain things to help enhance it or change your hairstyle or something like that. And many times, men find themselves more limited to the option of, ‘either I cut down my hair really short or shave my hair or find options of therapy like hair transplants.’
It's a different breed, but it's still people problems. Like it's not about men and women. It's about people wanting to feel attractive and you tie attractiveness to the way your hair looks and feels to you. And no matter what age, even when men sometimes naturally progress through age and lose hair, it doesn't mean they don't feel the grieving and loss of what they used to like with a full head of hair. And many times, we hear them cracking jokes and stuff. And I think that's what we do is we find a way to bring in humor, to take the edge off and more men do that than women do, right? But on a physical beauty, I think women are very hard on themselves to think that they need to always look a certain way and that men can have a belly or they can lose their hair and it's not a big deal, they'll still always attract someone, that's not true. Deep down inside, men are just like women. We all get insecure. We all feel self-conscious when our looks change and we're all grieving sometimes, age or losses due to physiological changes that come with life. And we're human beings. It's a human problem to feel a little bit self-conscious and maybe even judge yourself by who you were to who you are today. It is hard to accept changes in our body and changes in our physical looks for anybody.-----
Stick around as the next blog recap will see Monica go in-depth into hair loss in children and how parents should approach the situation!
You can also listen to the full podcast on YouTube below:
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