Alopecia areata sufferer Julia Crittendon has written a book in hope it will offer encouragement to other female Alopecia Areata sufferers, after she found no literary or any support other than her family when she was diagnosed seven years ago.
Her recent self published book, “Metamorphosis: Inspirational Stories of Women Living with Alopecia”, charts the experiences of 22 women as the dealt with hair loss and what it’s like to be a bald woman.
Hair loss is not a male-restricted domain, it can affect up to 40 per cent of women and alopecia areata specifically, can affect as many as one person in a thousand at some time in their life and spares no regard for age or gender.
It is a condition of hair loss which falls into the category of autoimmune diseases, which means for one reason or another, the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. The result is rapid and patchy hair loss, usually starting with one or more small, round, smooth bald patches on the scalp which can, in extreme cases, progress to alopecia totalis (total scalp hair loss) or alopecia universalis (complete body hair loss).
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition which, with monitored treatment, can see results. However there is no prognosis to determine its success.
“If hair loss is still in the patchy stages there is better chance of regrowth,” trichologist Leonora Doclis said. “Very often it grows back spontaneously by itself but if it hasn’t after six months it might be worth considering treatment.”
Despite the statistics, baldness in women remains a very hush-hush issue but the impact cannot be written off as mere vanity.
“For all sufferers the condition can be a shocking and traumatic experience,”says Leonora.
A study on the psychosocial impact of alopecia areata found that the condition causes dramatic and devastating emotions in patients, which can negatively affect their self-esteem, body image and self-confidence.
“Sometimes doing something about it might be enough to make you feel better,” Leonora explains. “But it is discretionary and sometimes people need further help when general family support isn’t enough. In these cases I would recommend counseling.”
The psychological impact can be heightened in women because of social pressures on them to be attractive.
“People are still hiding from it,” Julia from Mansfield, Ohio said. “These women are standing up to what was meant to destroy and depress them and are turning it into positive, productive energy so that the next woman who loses her ‘crown and glory’ won’t fall victim to what society deems as ‘normal’.”
The women who contributed to the book described it as a therapeutic journey. Jenn Pendergrast from Florida who was diagnosed in 2006 said she has finally accepted that she is totally bald.
“It was actually the first time I put my story into words and I cried the entire time I was writing,” she said. “It felt awesome to put all that had happened into words for others to read.”
Netherlands resident Tamara Cramer Bornemann, who also contributed to the book, was diagnosed with alopecia areata when she was five years-old. “I only wore a wig once, when I was about seven years-old, and I didn’t feel too good about it,” she said. “So from that moment I went through life without a wig. The teenage years were pretty difficult because I wanted to be normal. In my 20s I felt in bloom and enjoyed life.”
Julia said it took her five years before she went bald in public. At one point she tried wearing a $3,000 wig but these days she shaves her head. She recalls telling herself before her first outing, “This is me, take me as I am.”
(Images courtesy of arianne... at flickr)
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