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“‘You lose your hair, what’s the big deal?’ I was so embarrassed, I was so self-conscious, I was so depressed:” a qualitative interview study to understand the psychosocial burden of alopecia areata
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1186/s41687-020-00240-7
BackgroundAlopecia areata (AA) is characterized by hair loss that can affect the scalp and body. This study describes the psychosocial burden of AA.
MethodsParticipants diagnosed with AA who had experienced ≥50% scalp hair loss according to the Severity of Alopecia Tool (SALT) were identified by clinicians. A semi-structured interview guide, developed with expert clinician input, included open-ended questions to explore patients' experiences of living with AA. Data were thematically analyzed to identify concepts and relationships.
ResultsParticipants (n = 45, 58% female, mean age 33.3 years [range 15-72], mean SALT 67.2 [range 0-100]) described the AA diagnosis as "devastating". Both males and females reported emotional and psychological impacts of AA including feeling sad/depressed (n = 21), embarrassed/ashamed (n = 10) and angry/frustrated (n = 3). Patients felt helpless (n = 5) due to the unpredictability of disease recurrence, and anxious (n = 19) about judgement from others. Many patients avoided social situations (n = 18), which impaired relationships and increased isolation. Coping strategies included concealment of hair loss through wigs or make-up, although fear of the displacement of these coverings also caused anxiety and the avoidance of activities that could result in scalp exposure (n = 22). Some patients became more accepting of AA over time, which lessened the emotional impact, though efficacious treatment was still desired. A conceptual framework was developed, and a conceptual model was created to depict the relationship between the physical signs/symptoms and the associated psychosocial effects of AA.
ConclusionAA impairs patients' emotional and psychological wellbeing, relationships and lifestyles. Greater disease awareness and effective treatments are needed.
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