Hair loss can have a profound effect on your mental health. Although male pattern baldness is very common (about 6.5 million men are thought to be affected by male pattern baldness in the UK alone) it can still be incredibly distressing for many men. Likewise, women can also develop feelings of anxiety and depression when experiencing hair loss. In this article, we look at the effects hair loss has on mental health, as well as potential treatment options for male pattern baldness and other types of hair loss.
Reduction in self-confidence
Hair loss can have a huge impact on self-confidence. Men usually feel less confident when they lose their hair because they feel less attractive. Feelings of low self-esteem and self-assurance are especially common in younger men experiencing male pattern baldness, who often report feeling (to paraphrase) “spurned by fate”. Frustrated that they are going bald before their peers, affected young men feel as though they have been struck by ill-fortune – and this often results in diminished self-confidence.
Many men also believe hair loss makes them undesirable to potential partners. This belief – whether real or perceived – can also have a detrimental effect on self-confidence. A lack of self-confidence can make men (and women) avoid social situations, and may lead to more profound feelings of depression and anxiety.
Low self-esteem can also impact one’s dating life. Research has shown going into a first date with confidence makes the process of romantic initiation easier. People who are confident are more likely to be romantically successful.
On the other hand, those with low self-confidence may find it harder to attract a romantic partner. People with low self-esteem are more likely to be dismissed or ignored by potential partners because low self-confidence is often associated with behaviors that result in social and romantic rejection.
As previously mentioned, prolonged feelings of low self-esteem may manifest into more serious conditions like depression and anxiety. These conditions – as well as the feeling of low self-confidence – are likely to be exacerbated by romantic rejection.
There are, however, a number of solutions for male pattern baldness out there. One such solution is finasteride. Finasteride slows hair loss by blocking the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a molecule that causes hair follicles to shrink and stop producing hair. In some cases, finasteride can also contribute to hair regrowth.
However, finasteride has several side effects – including depression – that users should be aware of before taking it. Therefore, it is advisable to talk to a doctor before taking finasteride to ensure it is safe to take and does not interact with any medication you are taking. To learn more about some of the common side effects of finasteride, check out Numan’s article “The 3 Best Hair Loss Treatments for Men”
Another alternative is hair transplant therapy. There are two main hair transplant methods:
Follicular unit transplantation (FUT, or strip method): a strip of skin (with hair attached) is taken from the scalp and split into hair grafts. These are then placed into small cuts made in the part of the scalp affected by male pattern baldness.
Follicular unit extraction (FUE): the entire head is shaved and a device is used to remove individual grafts of hair one by one. Like the FUT method, these grafts are then inserted into small cuts made in the scalp.
Both finasteride and hair transplant therapy have their pros and cons. For example, whereas finasteride is relatively inexpensive, hair transplant therapy can cost anywhere between £1000 and £30,000. On the other hand, finasteride can have various side effects such as erectile dysfunction, headache, and dizziness. Therefore, it is best to weigh up the pros and cons before deciding on any kind of treatment for hair loss. As always, seek the advice of a doctor before making a decision on any hair loss therapy.
Anxiety and Depression
As previously mentioned, hair loss can induce feelings of anxiety in men. However, it is not only men who are affected in this way. Women also experience feelings of anxiety when affected by hair loss.
Recounting her struggle with alopecia in Elle magazine, Juliet Cooke felt an “overwhelming” sense of panic when she found out she had alopecia – a form of hair loss characterized by a partial or total loss of hair on the scalp (as well as other parts of the body).
Once she began to lose her eyebrows, her anxiety quickly turned to depression. She felt “totally flat”, and “couldn’t get up in the mornings or show [her] face”. After hitting “rock bottom”, she decided to take matters into her own hands and shave her hair off once and for all. This was her method of regaining “control” over her condition and has since gone on to raise awareness about alopecia in the mainstream.
Men can also become depressed after experiencing hair loss. In one survey, 38% of men said their hair loss “makes them feel depressed”. A study by Pamela A. Wells et al. showed that increasing degrees of hair loss was associated with greater feelings of depression, as well as a “loss of self-esteem, introversion, neuroticism and feeling unattractive”.
Young men, in particular, appear to be most affected by the prospect of hair loss, with 41% of men under 35 said they would rather lose their home or sight in one eye than all of their hair. Wells’ study highlighted that young men felt more unattractive and had less self‐esteem than older men experiencing hair loss.
Clearly, hair loss can have a huge impact on one’s mental health. Hair loss can trigger feelings of low self-esteem, which, in turn, can translate into more profound feelings of depression and anxiety. A variety of treatments exist that can help to reduce the rate of hair loss such as finasteride and hair replacement therapy. However, the pros and cons of each should be weighed (and expert medical advice should be sought) before attempting either of them.