It’s not the hair, it’s the loss.male hair loss | psychology of hair loss
Some of the most stressful situations in life, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, will elicit predictable feelings of sadness, fear, anger, frustration, even panic. Although at first glance, these stressful situations may appear different from one another, a second look reveals that they share a common denominator—loss. It’s not a great leap to realize that the problem with hair loss isn’t really the lack of hair, it’s the emotions resulting from that loss.
Along with the loss of hair, you are also losing the dream of youth, mostly because baldness makes you look older. Hair loss has always been associated with getting older because even the baldest man at age sixty had a full head of hair at age sixteen. That’s just the way male pattern baldness works. It is a condition of advancing age. Thoughts of getting older, however, eventually trigger thoughts of death, which we all spend the majority of our lives trying to avoid. For most men, the unconscious association regarding hair loss is:
Loss of hair = Loss of youth = Inevitable aging = Death
These associative links have a domino effect. Once the mind has completed the chain, our most basic instinct—the survival instinct—takes over immediately. It mobilizes a combination of desperation and denial. And although everyone knows that “No one lives forever,” no one wants to believe it. So, people comfort themselves by saying, “I’m not that bald; I’m still young.” But eventually, progressive baldness becomes difficult to ignore because of its high visibility. This is why men may cover their heads with hats or begin parting their hair a bit lower than they should—anything not to see their hair loss. Out of sight, out of mind. And there’s nothing wrong with a little denial. But be careful. A little denial can quickly become a lot of denial. And it often does.
Unlike other visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles or a sagging chin, which tend to creep up slowly over many years, baldness can strike suddenly, swiftly, and extensively. One patient who came to our office had started to lose his hair at age nineteen. By twenty-three, he had little more than a horseshoe of hair around the perimeter of his head. His youthful appearance had disappeared as he was transformed into a replica of his father, seemingly in the blink of an eye. He said of his hair loss, “I look twenty-five from the eyes down, and sixty from the eyebrows up.” Not surprisingly, he could not accept the difference between his self-image and his actual appearance.
Part of the difficulty in accepting his appearance was due to the high visibility of baldness as a sign of aging—much more so than crow’s feet or a sagging chin. Let’s compare. Crow’s feet and sagging chins are usually measured in millimeters; the results of which, while not welcome, are not so dramatic as to make a twenty-five year old suddenly look like his grandfather. And perhaps more important is the fact that wrinkles, by and large, are tolerated in men. Men who have lined faces are sometimes thought of as rugged or distinguished. In stark contrast to such “rugged” wrinkles, baldness can be measured in square inches, visible even from across a crowded room. Such a dramatic and extensive change in appearance only serves to increase the sense of loss of familiar self-image, making it more difficult to accept.
The difference between self-image and reality may also exist for the man who has just lost his first few hairs. Though he may still have almost all of his hair, his initial panic may cause him to imagine himself looking like a billiard ball by next week. This man is consumed with fear because of an anticipated loss of his youthful self-image. Either way, whether anticipated or actual, a psychological conflict arises from a perceived difference between the picture in the mind and the picture in the mirror. For the young man who loses hair quickly, the change in appearance is most dramatic and alarming. But the truth be told, in the minds of all men, no time is considered a good time to go bald.
If you want to know more about solutions to your own hair loss that are tailored to your own unique situation, contact Dr. Harris today.
From The Hair Replacement Revolution by Dr. James Harris and Dr. Emanuel Marritt (Square One Publishers). Reprinted by permission.
Dr. James A. Harris is an internationally renowned hair transplant surgeon, inventor of patented follicular unit excision technology, published author in the field of hair restoration and an advocate for patient care. Learn more about Dr. Harris or read rave reviews from his patients.