Cases of the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata, while not uncommon, are always puzzling, because no single cause can be attributed to the condition. The ensuing patchy hair loss it causes is almost universally considered to be a low point in the life of the people who go through it.
One of the many triggers behind the disorder is understood to be psychological long-term stress – which perhaps correlates with recent findings that Alopecia Areata could be linked to psychiatric disorders.
Grouped with psychiatric disorders
Writing in examiner.com, health journalist Daniel Calder points to a 2014 Iranian study that shows how some doctors believe Alopecia Areata can be grouped among primary dermatological disorders with psychiatric comorbidities, or even as primary psychiatric disorders with a dermatological problem. A comorbidity simply means that two conditions exist simultaneously.
Calder states that “there is a very high comorbidity rate when it comes to its (Alopecia Areata’s) association with a psychiatric disorder: approximately 78 per cent, with 50 per cent of major depressive order, as well as a high rate of obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
According to the study Calder refers to, a quarter of people with Alopecia Areata exhibited high rates of anxiety and depression over a period of 11 years.
This does, of course, bear the hallmarks of a classic ‘chicken or egg’ conundrum. Which came first? Were multiple cases of Alopecia Areata triggered by a patient’s existing psychiatric problems or – as we often see at Belgravia – do people who have recently been diagnosed with AA become stressed, anxious and sometimes depressed about having to deal with and come to terms with what can sometimes be a life-altering condition?
Difficulty processing emotions
While the latter may be true, the report does highlight the correlation between people with Alopecia Areata and a cognitive deficit known as alexithymia, which is characterised by difficulty in processing and regulating emotions. The Iranian report states that “Alopecia Areata has been specifically reported to be associated with alexithymic characteristics. There is a higher prevalence of alexithymia in Alopecia Areata patients than in the general population.”
Furthermore, the Iranian report points to another study in which the antidepressant citalopram was given to people with Alopecia Areata who also had a major depressive disorder. The results of the study showed that antidepressent treatment may help in improving Alopecia Areata in patients with a major depressive disorder, thus adding extra weight to the idea that Alopecia Areata and psychiatric disorders may be linked – something that was further backed by a recent study carried out at the University of Miami.
In some cases, a bespoke Alopecia Areata treatment course featuring high strength minoxidil may prove effective, and there have been many instances of impressive regrowth results from Belgravia clients within a matter of months. When this happens some of the more difficult personal aspects of the condition can be minimised.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.