Coping with Alopecia
Alopecia and the experience of hair loss can be overwhelming, emotionally taxing, and frustrating, especially because it's unpredictable. It's not uncommon for you to feel isolated, stressed, anxious, or even depressed while on your journey. It's helpful to remember that you are not alone — across the world we are 147 million strong1.
We're happy to provide resources and guides created by some of the forefathers of the alopecia community to help you cope and adjust your lifestyle with hair loss.
As a direct result of two studies conducted in 2013 and with the response of 97 Australian women (18+) and 8 Australian men suffering some form of alopecia areata, our friends at the Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation (AAAF) created a guide with coping strategies to consider throughout your experience2. We're proud to share a few below and encourage you to download the full brochure.
Strategies To Consider
- Understand that you will have the need to search for a meaning
- Explore and rebuild self-esteem
- Motivate your thoughts to keep a positive outlook
- Support from loved ones, being treated as "normal"
- Seek and understand professional sympathetic support
- Wear wigs, hats, beanies, and scarves or be bold and go bare
- Accept the journey of mixed feelings — it's okay to have bad days
- Focus on who you are and what you want from life
- Acknowledge the unpredictability of alopecia
- Inform others and increase community awareness
- Self-empowerment by helping others with alopecia
Grief and Alopecia
Because a diagnosis of alopecia can feel devastating, it's normal to grieve your hair, and your lifestyle, among other things. While some can quickly adapt to the unpredictable (and often extreme) changes to their appearance with little or no impact on their lives, many people with a diagnosis of alopecia feel negative psychological impacts3.
AAAF research suggests that men, women, and children alike are at high risk of experiencing various emotional problems that can occur regardless of whether the hair loss can be easily masked, or whether the loss is a much larger patch that is impossible to hide3.
The AAAF outlines the following as initial steps to understanding the relationship with grief and the loss of your hair:
Understanding Alopecia and Grief
The process of grieving is a healthy reaction. It's often a very difficult experience, but grief following a loss is a normal reaction. A person may experience a variety of emotions including sadness, depression, hopelessness, guilt, fear, isolation, loneliness, anger, and frustration. It’s okay to feel sad and to cry, and this can be a necessary step in the process for some people3.
Grief is a process, not an event. This is true for people of all ages. Grief is not a mental state, nor a specific kind of feeling such as sadness. Indeed, it is possible to be happy or sad or experience any type of emotion during the grieving process.
It is important to remember that somebody who is grieving may not necessarily be sad all the time. There are typically different stages of grief, and it is possible to have ups and downs throughout the process3.
Grieving hair loss is a unique process. Although there may be some similarities, the grieving process of hair loss should not be compared with other types of grief, such as mourning the death of a loved one, or the grief experienced as a reaction to a terminal illness. All types of grief usually follow a characteristic pattern, but each type follows a distinct series of stages unique to the type of loss experienced3.
Everyone experiences grief differently. Just as every person is different, every person’s reaction to hair loss is different too. Learning to come to grips with a diagnosis of alopecia can depend on characteristics such as age and gender, or it can be a very different experience for two similar people.
Most people go through a grieving process that can range in time from a few weeks to a few months. Everyone is very different when it comes to the emotions they experience after losing their hair3.
Do not expect each of the stages of grief to follow in a rigid order. The information provided in this brochure is simply an explanatory tool to assist understanding. People can experience stages of grief at different times and in different orders.
There is no one way to grieve. In fact, trying to determine if you or someone close to you may be on a certain stage of the process, can be unhelpful if you try to conform to every symptom typically experienced at that stage. These stages are better used as a reference guide to understanding that the grieving process following hair loss can be a very broad experience, and these stages may or may not make up some of this experience3.
Continue reading and learn more about the stages of grief and alopecia by downloading the AAAF Grief and Alopecia Areata Guide.
If you don't feel like you are adjusting to changes in a positive way after several months and believe that your emotions are affecting how you function at work or home, we encourage you to make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional.
Purchasing a wig can be a daunting and complicated process, and with so many different styles and options to choose from, it can be difficult to know what will work best for you and make you feel your best.
Selecting a wig hairpiece is just the beginning. This stage of your journey can also be a major financial investment, so to minimize the risk of purchasing a piece that you're not completely in love with, AAAF has created this comprehensive guide to choosing the wig that's just right for you.
Grooming and Cosmetics
Now that we've gotten your noggin taken care of, there are many other areas of our bodies and appearance that are impacted by hair loss. Depending on your diagnosis or severity of hair loss, alopecia may affect your eyelashes, eyebrows, nails, and more.
Take a peek at this guide created by the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) that addresses many of the grooming and cosmetic hurdles that alopecia presents. This thorough guide offers tips ranging from camouflaging your scalp, shaving your head, eyelashes and brows, to maintaining and caring for synthetic or human hair, and wig alternatives.
Support for Kids and Teens
For resources to support a child or teen with alopecia, click here.