Stress caused by the fear of becoming unemployed seems to be causing an increasing number of people to lose their hair, with a higher incidence of the condition occurring among women, doctors in northern Taiwan said on Wednesday.
Li Cheng-hung (李承鴻), a dermatologist at the Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital in Taipei, told reporters that among his patients, more women than men were suffering from alopecia areata, a skin disorder that causes the hair to fall out in patches.
Citing a typical case, Li said a 20-year-old female worker at an information technology company had developed bald spots from constantly worrying that she might lose her job because her boss might not be happy with her performance.
Li said it took more than six months of treatment, using a combination of methods, for the woman’s hair to grow back.
He said that psychological and physical stress can disrupt a person’s immune system and destroy the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.
The skin doctor advised people with such a problem to consult a hospital dermatologist instead of seeking other unconventional treatments.
He said a dermatologist would usually assess a patient’s condition before giving localized treatment, prescribing medicines or using pulse therapy — a short, intensive administration of pharmacotherapy.
At Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Linkou branch, another skin doctor, Huang Yao-li (黃耀立), confirmed that the number of hair loss patients was on the rise, probably because of the growing stress of everyday life.
“The skin and hair are like a mirror that can reflect the degree of stress a person is experiencing,” he said, adding that in addition to seeking medical treatment, patients need to learn how to cope with stress.
Although emotional stress is believed to be a contributing factor to alopecia, it is not fully understood what the primary cause of the condition is.
Some researchers believe that genetic factors play an important role, since there is a higher incidence of alopecia areata among people who have a family history of the disorder.