Although it will only affect a small percentage of women, hair loss is a symptom of menopause that carries potentially grave emotional consequences. A recent article in the British Medical Journal suggests that female hair loss can even be emotionally traumatic, triggering psychological conditions such as anxiety or depression.
Hair loss in women is officially known as “alopecia”: a chronic, inflammatory dermatological malady affecting the hair follicles which causes hair loss on the head and/or body. The causes of alopecia differ, ranging from stress, to hormonal disorders, to obscure causes. Although a large body of medical literature documents this condition, very little focus is placed on the emotional effects of hair loss.
In order to explore the emotional effects of hair loss, authors Nigel Hunt and Sue McHale reviewed articles examining hair loss in women from several sources going back to 1980. The investigators concluded that hair loss can have intense psychological consequences for women.
Hair tends to be an essential part of a woman's self-identity and self-esteem, and abrupt hair loss can be acutely harmful to the patient's self-image, generating anxiety and depression. Some women have even reported feelings similar to mourning upon losing their hair, such as they would feel after losing a loved one. Women suffering from alopecia areata, when only patches of hair are lost, reported fewer emotional side effects than women with alopecia totalis, where all the hair on the head is lost.
The mental consequences of hair loss in women can lead to family, social and work-related difficulties. 40% of women report marital tension due to their hair loss, while 63% report problems related to their careers. Psychological disorders are also more numerous in women with alopecia than in the rest of the population.
Women who experience hair loss during menopause are strongly encouraged to seek some form of psychological help in order to overcome the potential emotional trauma associated with the condition.