By Iolee Anagnostopoulou
Struggling with hair loss and the toll it’s taking on your self-esteem? Well, fancy meeting you hair! (Sorry, the title pun kinda opened a portal.)
But seriously, I get it when it comes to the psychological effects of hair loss. For more than 15 years, I’ve been desperately trying to hide a growing bald patch right above my forehead. Tried bangs, special styling, moving the parting to cover it up…the best solution? A beanie hat.
‘Invest in your hair,’ they say, ‘it’s the crown you never take off.’ And that’s kinda true. For women especially, hair symbolises beauty, vitality and femininity. It’s no wonder hair loss victims are more prone to psychiatric and paranoid disorders like depression, anxiety, or social phobia. Sadly, it also goes vice versa: depression and stress can also cause hair loss, thus worsening the mental condition — a vicious circle.
Hair loss can mess with your head so much that I started preferring winter over summer because the hat sorted the problem. No being stuck in front of the mirror before going out trying to — often unsuccessfully — conceal my bald patch and camouflage my visibly shorter fringe. To avoid revealing my problem, I didn’t need to walk with my head turned sideways (like a lunatic) in the wind’s direction. It basically feels like, no matter how fit, young, healthy or happy I look, during that dreadful moment when I see people notice and stare at it, I immediately turn into someone who’s ‘dealing with something’.
As Tough As They Comb (sorry, I really can’t help it)
Several things can cause hair loss, from genetics and medical conditions like alopecia to hormonal imbalances, stress and childbirth. But here’s a plot twist for you: I don’t fall into any of the above categories. I don’t suffer from any physiological conditions, and my part-Balkan, part-Mediterranean hair-itage is actually quite strong. In fact, my hair loss didn’t ‘just happen’.
My hair isn’t falling.
It’s being pulled.
And that’s why it is my biggest and most shameful insecurity. Because I’m doing it to myself, I don’t even have a legit explanation for the bald patch. At least not one that wouldn’t raise eyebrows and make people wonder what the hell is wrong with me.
It took me ages to do some research on the matter. Surprisingly, I discovered that what I thought was a bad habit is actually a mental disorder. Trichotillomania is a type of chronic impulse control disorder that involves hair-pulling. Put simply, it’s an irresistible urge to pull out hair from your scalp or other areas of the body, leading to the inevitable bald spots that later destroy your self-esteem.
Learning To Live In Peace And Hairmony (last one, I promise)
I believe I developed trich as a coping mechanism when I was a child, probably after my brother was born, as that’s the earliest record I have of me pulling my hair — in VHS, no less. I’m so mad at my mother for not taking me to someone at the time. She (and other close relatives) thought it would simply “go away” by making remarks, reminding me to “cut it out”, or commenting on my thinned forelock, even though it clearly upset me. Yet, even when it became apparent it wasn’t a phase, none of them bothered to actually help me!
I realise the early 90s were pre-Google times, and mental health was still kind of taboo…I just wish one of them would have spared me the embarrassment and humiliation my hair loss has been causing for the past 15 years. Nonetheless, I’ve since accepted that my parents, like all parents, weren’t perfect. No matter what they did or didn’t do in the past, it’s time for me to become my own parent and take ownership of my mental health.
And as much as I envy those voluminous locks in shampoo commercials, I need to accept that my hair, or my hair-pulling disorder, doesn’t define me. Of course, it’s hard to ignore the toll it’s taking on my confidence, but I’m focusing on the good and working on the bad.
I’m waiting for news on a therapist and counselling appointment as I type this. My first-ever step toward dealing with the self-destructive coping mechanism that caused my hair loss. By addressing those skeletons in the closet and reevaluating my hair’s role in my self-image, I’m reclaiming my mental health and, hopefully, my luscious forelock too!
The healing path is difficult, as is trying to navigate and cope with an insecurity that takes such control over your life. I can say one thing for sure, though, writing about it really helps! So why not start by sharing your hair loss story with us in the comments and see how that goes?
Take baby steps and remember to love yourself — on good, bad, and no hair days.