It has long been established that people diagnosed with one autoimmune disorder are more prone
to additional autoimmune diseases. However, a link has also been suspected between psychosis and non-neurological autoimmune disorders.
One of the conditions this includes is Alopecia Areata
, which can affect men, women and children, and involves the body turning on its own hair follicles. It has various phenotypes which each present in increasing degrees of hair loss
, from rounded bald patches on the scalp only, to baldness of the head, or from head to toe.
According to Psychology Today
, previous Taiwanese and Danish studies had found schizoprenia to be more common in people with certain non-neurological autoimmune disorders, including Alopecia Areata. With the presence of such an autoimmune disorder estimated to potentially increase the risk of schizoprenia by 30 to 45 per cent.
Now, new data from King's College London and the National Institute for Health Research in the UK disputes this in relation to autoimmune alopecia
'No significant associations'
Meta-analysis research detailing the findings was published in the Biological Psychiatry
journal on 28th June 2018. The study involved reviewing data for more than 25 million people taken from 31 studies which were performed prior to or in April 2018.
A positive correlation between non-neurological autoimmune disorders and psychosis was established, but the propensity varied dramatically depending on the disorder. It showed that both conditions could occur simultaneously, as well as finding that psychosis could increase the risk of developing non-neurological autoimmune disorders - or vice versa.
Whilst those showing most consistent links with psychosis were listed as being pernicious anaemia
, pemphigoid, psoriasis, coeliac disease
and Graves' disease
, the research paper states that 'no significant associations with psychosis were observed for alopecia areata'.
Study authors speculated that, 'specific factors, including distinct inflammatory pathways, genetic influences, autoantibodies targeting brain proteins, or exposure to corticosteroid treatment' may underlie any positive association between non-neurological autoimmune disorders and psychosis. They recommend monitoring at risk patients for early signs of psychosis and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
Mental health and alopecia areata
Due to the sudden onset and highly visible of all forms of Alopecia Areata, it is often associated with mental health struggles
, including anxiety and depression. Even England Rugby player Heather Fisher
, known for her mental toughness on the pitch, has spoken openly about finding her baldness hard to cope with sometimes.
Whilst Alopecia Areata treatment
can often be used by over 16s with the scalp-only form, those with the more extreme variations - Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis
- have no safe and effective options as yet.
Though wigs, hats and scarves may provide temporary respite, professional counselling
can be useful in helping people to come to terms with losing their hair. By learning strategies and coping mechanisms for dealing with both their own and other people's reactions to their baldness, people affected by hairloss can often become more confident. Anyone interested in taking this route should speak to reputable specialists to whom they can usually be referred or recommended by their doctor, dermatologist or by charities such as Alopecia UK