How to Cope With Hair Loss From Alopecia Areata – Everyday Health

A diagnosis of alopecia areata (AA) can lead to discussions with a dermatologist about how to best manage and treat this autoimmune condition. However, being diagnosed with this incurable, sometimes lifelong form of hair loss can also bring about significant emotional aspects to consider.
“Alopecia areata can be absolutely devastating for patients and their loved ones,” says Brittany Craiglow, MD, of Dermatology Physicians of Connecticut and associate adjunct professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven. “It’s important for those affected to understand that it is normal for hair loss to be very upsetting — it’s really not ‘just hair.’”
Additionally, Pareen Sehat, clinical director at Well Beings Counselling in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, explains that many people with alopecia areata face ongoing stress, anxiety, and other mental health-related concerns. “One’s appearance is a key factor in helping one maintain a positive self-image,” she says. “So, hair loss tends to shatter an individual’s confidence and self-esteem. “They may not feel beautiful anymore, in turn causing depression and taking a severe toll on their mental health.”
In addition to following your treatment plan recommended by a dermatologist for your specific case of alopecia areata, we talked with experts about other ways you can cope on a daily basis when managing this unpredictable autoimmune condition.

“Stress can happen at any age,” explains Brooke Jackson, MDboard-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon in Durham, North Carolina. “I have had young children who develop AA triggered by life-changing events — a new school, a bully, a sibling at home, and parents’ divorce. Some of my adult patients have developed it due to stressors — good or bad.”
She notes that some of the stressors she has seen trigger AA in some of her adult patients include a death in the family, a family illness, making a major move, planning a wedding, and home-schooling children while working from home, just to name a few.

She also recommends creating boundaries when you can. “No one, except an infant or a dependent child or parent, needs 24-hour access to you,” Jackson says.
“All disease processes are rooted in inflammation,” explains Jackson. While there’s no such thing as an AA diet per se, she recommends decreasing inflammation in your diet. If you’re interested in getting started with an anti-inflammatory diet, Jackson recommends checking out Forks Over Knives, a plant-based eating program that focuses on whole foods.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for alopecia areata-related accessories, consider checking out the National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Marketplace. In addition to headwear and soft headscarves, you can find hairpieces, a variety of quality wigs at variable price points, and eyelashes.

“Support groups provide a safe space for those coping with alopecia areata,” explains Sehat. “It allows people to meet others who are going through the same challenges as them. What’s more is that these groups are an excellent way to help people rebuild their self-image, embrace who they are, and become confident in their own skin.”
In addition to accessories, the National Alopecia Areata Foundation was the No. 1 recommended online resource overall by the experts we spoke with. You can find resources for support groups on their website.
“The National Alopecia Areata Foundation is an excellent place to help those thinking about seeking therapy to cope with their condition,” says Sehat. “The foundation has different support groups and also provides online assistance through peer mentors and phone support. It has multiple other resources to understand more about alopecia and even helps you get in touch with a therapist.”
“Counselors are invaluable in providing support, a safe space, and suggestions for how to manage stress,” says Jackson.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression related to alopecia areata, you may consider one-on-one support from a professional counselor or therapist. The exact techniques may vary between discipline, as well as your needs, but a therapist can help you work through your struggles while also helping you come up with coping strategies.
“When working with clients the goal is always to treat the root of the issue,” says Sehat. “Therefore, in this type of situation, we would like to address and treat the anxiety and stress that is causing the hair loss. Also, if we want to get deeper into the root cause, I would suggest addressing where the anxiety stems from. In my clinical experience, most of the anxieties that we experience as adults stem from childhood experiences.”
Sehat explains that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one possible treatment that can help, as well as other psychotherapy techniques, such as eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), Lifespan Integration, and somatic-based therapies.
“It can be disheartening to suddenly start losing hair, but there are many treatment options to combat hair loss and regrow your hair,” says Michele Green, MD, a New York City–based cosmetic dermatologist.

By talking with a dermatologist about the options that are available to help treat alopecia areata, this can also take the focus away from the more frustrating aspects of this condition. Also, you can ask about potential future treatments that you should be on the lookout for.
“Learning about the exciting treatments on the horizon can also provide much needed hope and optimism,” says Dr. Craiglow. She points to the promise of Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors as one example of a treatment that could potentially be approved as an official AA therapy.
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