Hair Loss and Women (cont.)

Hair Loss, Loss of Self-Esteem

"Suddenly, hair becomes the most important part of their appearance and even their personality -- it's not only the first thing they notice about other women, it's the only thing -- and it can end up causing a great deal of anxiety," Reed tells WebMD.

This, say other experts, can be especially true, if a woman has relied on her looks as her calling card, or even if it represents a good portion of her identity.

"If a woman is tied up in her physicality, if her sense of self-worth and self-identity are defined by her physical self, then hair loss is going to have a much more traumatic effect than it would on a woman whose persona is much more wrapped around her intellect," says psychotherapist Lauren Howard, CSW, a specialist in women's mental health issues and an active participant in the Alopecia Areata Foundation.

If you are someone whose looks have played an important role in your identity, Howard says there's nothing wrong with that and you shouldn't compound your problems by feeling guilty that you care so much about your hair.

"If you are concerned about your appearance, don't feel shallow about it, or ashamed of it; give yourself permission to care and to feel bad about your hair loss, then get a handle on the situation and do something about it," says Howard.

Psychiatrist Shari Lusskin, MD, holds a similar philosophy and says women with hair loss should not be embarrassed about feeling bad.

"Unlike other physical problems that can affect your looks, like being obese, for example, losing your hair is something you can quickly and easily do something about, and you shouldn't feel so embarrassed by your problem that you don't take advantage of what can be done to help you," says Lusskin, director of reproductive psychiatry at New York University Medical Center in New York City.

Lusskin says you'll feel a lot better if you take a proactive self-help approach.

"If hair loss bothers you, don't run from it, investigate all your options, both medical and over-the-counter treatments, and in the interim, until they start working, look into temporary solutions -- wigs, hair pieces, hair extensions," says Lusskin.

Howard agrees and adds that women who are concerned about their looks really don't need to suffer.

Don't Feel Bad About Feeling Bad

"If you really find you can't cope with the change in your appearance, there is nothing wrong with wearing a wig -- it's a very good and logical solution, particularly if you are waiting for a treatment to kick in," Howard tells WebMD.

Reed says that while most women he treats are reluctant to try a wig or hair extensions at first, in the end, he says, many find it is the best solution, particularly if their appearance is key to their sense of well-being.

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