Reactions to Alopecia Areata
Alopecia Areata can be challenging for those who have the disease and for their families. Although the illness impacts people differently, there are some common experiences among those affected.
You might be thinking that no one knows or understands what you are going through. But you are not alone as there are “Alopecians” everywhere in all walks of life, from all cultures and races. Many people with Alopecia Areata think this and then feel immense relief when they finally meet someone else with Alopecia Areata or when they learn of local support resources. In addition to having common thoughts and feelings about Alopecia Areata, there are also common psychological reactions to the disease.
People who have Alopecia Areata and their family members often experience a variety of feelings and frustrations, including:
* Feeling alone, withdrawn, and isolated
* Loss and grief
* Fear that others may find out you have the disease
* Fear that others may find out that you wear a wig
* Sadness and depression
* Guilt or self-blame that you somehow brought the disease on yourself
* Guilt related to how the disease is affecting family members and loved ones
* Frantic in regard to searching for an answer or cure (going to extremes)
* For parents, guilt that they may have genetically contributed to their child’s disease
* For parents, helplessness that they cannot stop the disease or help ease their child’s pain
* For siblings and other family members, shame and anger because the disease has also affected their lives
For many people, Alopecia Areata is experienced as a trauma. It can also be traumatic for the parents or other family members of those who have the disease. Many people who have experienced trauma find it helpful to talk with a mental health professional to help them work through their feelings and learn coping skills. A good way to know if you need counselling is to examine how Alopecia Areata is affecting your life.
Although experiencing the psychological reactions mentioned above is common, if your feelings are intense or overwhelming, or if your feelings and reactions are persistent, counseling should be considered. If Alopecia Areata has caused a dramatic change in your lifestyle, for example if you no longer participate in activities that used to bring joy to your life, if you are missing work or school frequently, or if you no longer feel you can talk or reach out to those who are close to you, we suggest that you may need counselling or to try and find support resources if possible via online, or face to face.
Alopecia Areata support groups
There are dedicated Alopecia Areata websites which have forums and support groups, and often these groups alone can provide sufficient help. These allow you to interact with other Alopecians, to read their experiences and to share your own. However, counseling from a trained professional can be beneficial as well. Counseling gives you more time to focus on your own specific experiences and provides a safe environment in which you can share confidential matters. This will enable you to discuss issues that you may not want to discuss in front of a group.
Alopecia Areata in the workplace
Though an Alopecia Areata diagnosis would have no affect on one's ability to perform in the workplace, many times individuals become distracted by their new appearance and the perceived reactions from co-workers. Whether or not you decide to open up about your Alopecia Areata in the workplace is entirely up to you. For many individuals, it depends on the nature of their work environment, the level of closeness they feel with their co-workers, and ultimately, the level of safety they feel in discussing what they are going through.
There are many different ways individuals have opened up about their alopecia areata in their workplace, though it generally involves a component of education about the disease.
Alopecia Areata in School
It is important to educate your childs' schools administration, teachers and fellow students of your child about Alopecia Areata. Though the autoimmune disease is common, many people still do not know about Alopecia Areata and as such make other assumptions. It is important to stress, particularly in a classroom setting, that your child is not sick, that Alopecia Areata is not contagious, and that Alopecia Areata will not stop a child from doing all of the activities that other children do. As a person who has grown into an adult from being bald from an early age I have always felt education is key to making a child’s school life a smooth as possible.