Hypnosis may play a beneficial role in the outcome of alopecia areata according to a study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. Hypnotherapy is a holistic form of medicine thought to improve a person’s health from the inside and out.
“Not only is hypnotherapy beneficial for those suffering from hair loss, but it can even improve the patients’ conditions both physically and mentally,” the authors of the study wrote.
The study, which included 28 participants between 15 and 66 years of age with severe alopecia areata, were given hypnotherapy sessions every two to three weeks and asked to practice self-hypnosis exercises at least twice a week. They were monitored over a six month period but during that time seven participants dropped out of the study due to lack of motivation. Along with hypnosis therapy for hair re-growth, the participants were given therapy to help reduce stress.
The results showed a significant decrease in the stress and anxiety levels of all participants however only 12 of the 21 participants showed significant improvement in hair growth. Interestingly though this included four participants who had alopecia totalis.
“Results demonstrate that hypnotic interventions may ameliorate the clinical outcome of patients with alopecia areata and may improve their psychological well-being,” the authors concluded.
Hair loss is more dynamic than you might think. Even the healthiest individual with no evidence of hair loss in the family can be subjected to the devastation it can cause. Alopecia areata is a highly unpredictable condition but has been linked to the presence of stressful events in the period 6 months up to one year before the outbreak of the disease and appears to be more prevalent in people who are less able to deal with stress.
Alopecia areata, a condition that affects about one person in every thousand, is an organ-specific autoimmune disease which means, for one reason or another, the hair follicles come under attack by the body’s own immune system. The result is sudden, patchy hair loss on the scalp or body, usually starting with one or more, round, smooth bald patches. In extreme cases it can lead to complete baldness of the scalp (alopecia totalis) or even loss of all body hair (alopecia universalis).
Many people can identify that an increased level of stress can cause a higher chance of experiencing hair loss. For those suffering from alopecia areata, it`s a vicious cycle. Not only can the cause be due to stress, but so can the side effects. Other than the physical loss of hair, alopecia areata doesn`t affect any other part of a person`s health, but it can be socially debilitating which is enough to cause even more severe distress.
Dr. Elena Dimitrova, hair and scalp specialist at the Belgravia Centre says stress management is an important part in the treatment of alopecia areata.
“It has been proven that a couple of sessions with a psychiatrist can be beneficial in the treatment of alopecia areata. Individual therapy can help to pin-point the trigger so that problem can be addressed and the condition can hopefully be reversed,” Dr. Dimitrova said.
“Hypnosis is used to insert some other ideas because when you’re subconscious you can accept ideas you otherwise might not. Hypnosis could possibly be beneficial as part of a treatment course program.”
However, the study revealed treatment was unsuccessful in nine participants and five of the 12 successful participants experienced severe relapses in the four month to four year follow up period.
“Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. Stress compromises the autoimmune system but controlling stress may not be enough,” Dr. Drimitrova says.
“It is not harmful to try hypnosis but the main treatment for alopecia areata is steroid injections or MINOXIDIL.”