Alopecia areata is a skin disease that makes you lose patches or large sections of hair on your scalp and body. It's not life-threatening, but it can be life-altering. Hair is a part of your identity. Losing your hair could change the way other people see you and how you see yourself.
Alopecia areata can affect your emotional well-being and your quality of life.
Some people even think about suicide. It's normal to be sad or angry when you have a condition that affects your self-confidence and self-esteem.
While you treat the physical symptoms of alopecia, it's important to also care for your emotional health. Getting the right kind of support can make a big difference in how you feel.
How Alopecia Areata Makes You Feel
It's normal to run through a range of emotions after an alopecia areata diagnosis. You might feel:
- Embarrassed by the hair loss
- Guilty that you might have done something to cause your condition
- Lonely because you don't want anyone to see you
- Angry that you have this condition
- Frustrated that your treatment isn't helping enough
Tips to Reduce Stress
Living with a chronic condition can be stressful. And stress might worsen hair loss. Some people with alopecia areata say their stress levels are higher before their symptoms appear.
Here are a few ways to manage stress before its effects show up on your scalp:
Get active. Any kind of exercise is good for your mental health, whether it's a walk, bike ride, or swim. Physical activity boosts mood and eases anxiety. If hair loss makes you too embarrassed to exercise in front of other people, wear a cap or wig, or work out at home.
Meditate. During this practice, you breathe deeply and focus to quiet your mind. Meditation is a good tool to help you relax. If you have trouble quieting your mind, try yoga, deep breathing, or whatever other stress-relief method works best for you.
Stick with your treatments. You'll feel more in control when you do everything you can to manage alopecia. Follow the treatment plan that your doctor prescribed. There are a few medicines that regrow hair, but you might need to try a few different medicines to find the one that helps. The process can be frustrating, especially if your hair falls out again after it grew back in. Don't give up. If one treatment doesn't work or stops working, ask your doctor about other options.
Get creative. Try to see the upside to alopecia. Use the hair loss as a way to express yourself creatively. Experiment with different colorful scarves or caps. Try on wigs with fun hairstyles. Wear big and bold sunglasses to distract from your scalp.
Practice self-acceptance. Learning to love your new self can be hard, but self-acceptance makes it easier to cope with alopecia. If you can't learn to embrace your condition on your own, get advice from a therapist or counselor.
Find your tribe. Some people in your life will be more understanding than others about alopecia. Surround yourself with people who can relate to your situation and want to help. If your friends don't understand what you're going through, look for new friends in the alopecia support community.
When You Need More Help
Many people with alopecia areata learn to accept their condition and even find ways to put a positive spin on it. Others take longer to reach self-acceptance or never get there.
Alopecia can make you feel sad, angry, or lonely. But if those feelings last for 2 weeks or longer and they're affecting your daily activities, you could have depression.
Ask yourself if:
- You feel sad, hopeless, worthless, or guilty.
- You have no energy and feel more tired than usual.
- You have trouble sleeping, concentrating, or remembering.
- You can't function well on most days.
- You often skip school or work.
- You avoid family and friends.
These kinds of symptoms are warnings that it's time to get help. Medicine and talk therapy are the two main treatments for depression symptoms. Sometimes these treatments are combined.
Treating depression early can improve your overall health and help you get a better handle on your alopecia areata.
Where to Find Support
Support is important to help you cope with the physical changes that alopecia areata brings and make you feel more comfortable in your own skin. Talk to friends and family if you are open to sharing your condition with them.
You might feel more comfortable opening up about your emotions at an alopecia support group. A support group is a safe space where you're surrounded by other people with the same condition. You can look for a support group through the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) or find a group online. NAAF also offers one-on-one phone support if you'd rather talk to someone in a more private setting.
If you need more help than a trusted friend or support group can offer, ask your doctor to refer you to a licensed therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional. Some therapists specialize in chronic conditions like alopecia.
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