Alopecia, Hair Loss, Medication and Hormones

Did you know there are different types of Alopecia? Well, if not, there are and I will do  a general overview of they types before digging into my type.

From Wikipedia “Common types include: male-pattern hair loss, female-pattern hair loss, alopecia areata, and a thinning of hair known as telogen effluvium.[3] The cause of male-pattern hair loss is a combination of genetics and male hormones, the cause of female pattern hair loss is unclear, the cause of alopecia areata is autoimmune, and the cause of telogen effluvium is typically a physically or psychologically stressful event.[3] Telogen effluvium is very common following pregnancy.[3]

Less common causes of hair loss without inflammation or scarring include the pulling out of hair, certain medications including chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, hypothyroidism, and malnutrition including iron deficiency.[2][3] Causes of hair loss that occurs with scarring or inflammation include fungal infection, lupus erythematosus, radiation therapy, and sarcoidosis.”

Androgenic Alopecia is what I have and it is considered “pattern hair loss”, both female and male. This is typically has a genetic component and a hormonal component. There is no cure, you can take medication that blocks the hormone that causes the hair loss and for men there is hair transplants, some people see less hair loss with special shampoos that contain minoxidil.

When I was a child I had so much hair that it gave me migraines. My hair was thick and long. Besides starting to gray at the age of 11 I didn’t really notice the slow hair loss that started in my late teens. In my twenties I kept my hair super short and I still had plenty.

After my first son was born my hair started to come out in fist-fulls when I would wash it. I asked the doctor at this time and was told it was normal due to hormones after birth. Months later it was still happening and they told me there was no way to check my hormones…. this is a lie, do not accept this as an answer. The problem for hair loss in women is that it can be caused by so many different things.

I went to a dermatologist who took a biopsy of my scalp to determine the cause. Drum roll, it was hormones. My body was producing too much testosterone and causing the hair follicles to shut down to put it simply. It’s actually a balance between several hormones but they put me on a testosterone blocking medication to slow down the loss of hair.

For me, the loss is not just my scalp, it is also my eye brows and eye lashes. Minoxidil, biotin and folic acid supplements never helped me but spironolactone did help for a bit. Then we got pregnant again and I had to stop because that medication can cause birth defects. After our second son was born I tried the medication again for a bit but it didn’t seem to work anymore. The clips of hair extensions I had been using to assist what hair I had were now not wide enough to actually cover the areas where I lost hair. That is when I started shaving my head.

Here’s the thing, as females we are bombarded with advertisements for shampoo and beauty products for luxurious hair. “Hair is part of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. This is why thinning hair is kind of a big deal – it can be a very frustrating topic for many women as there is no quick solution to getting more hair instantly.”ZRTLab. This blog page has a good selection of nutrients and supplements to keep your healthy.

Types of treatments for hair loss include the minoxidil shampoo and hormone blocking medications, which once they are stopped the hair loss resumes. Some other types are laser combs or helmets which are supposed to stimulate hair growth; platelet rich plasma taken from your own blood, separated and then injected into your scalp. Stem cells, like the plasma is in research still as treatment and then supplements like biotin and folic acid.

As a person who could no longer grow hair I felt like less of a woman. I know this is not true, I still have value but it took many years for me to embrace that fact. If I am being honest, I still have moments when I don’t feel like I fit in because my lack of hair. I had my eyebrows tattooed on so that when they fall out it is less noticeable.

With my MS I take a medication that is actually a form of chemotherapy, this can cause hair loss. So now my hair loss is not just related to my hormones but a side effect of the medication I take to keep my body from destroying my brain. I have people assume I have cancer because I keep my head covered and after the 10th time I usually just accept their empathy without correcting them because I get very tired of having to explain my personal health issues to strangers who feel the need to know what’s wrong with me.

When it’s cooler outside I am able to wear one of my wigs since it is less likely to cause me to overheat and make my MS symptoms worse. As you can imagine, this also gets a lot of questions but usually from people who see me more often since I go from no hair to hair. When I am at my youngest son’s school it’s amusing because the kids all think I got a hair cut or magically grew hair (if only).

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_loss

https://www.zrtlab.com/blog/archive/hormones-and-hair-loss/

https://www.aad.org/female

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/treating-female-pattern-hair-loss

Finding Self Worth

Dictionary.com defines self worth as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person”. Self worth and self esteem are two different things even though they are typically seen as the same thing. Self worth is actually your value as a person, outside of how people see you and not comparing yourself to others.

According to this article on psychalive.org “studies now show that basing one’s self-worth on external factors is actually harmful to one’s mental health. One study at the University of Michigan found that college students who base their self-worth on external sources (including academic performance, appearance and approval from others) reported more stress, anger, academic problems and relationship conflicts.”

In order to build self worth you need stop comparing yourself to other people and challenge your inner critic. It’s a process, one that I struggle with because I am very critical of myself, and have been since I was a child. Since my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, it has gotten worse. My inner voice tells me I should be a better wife, a better mother, a better keeper of the house. I should be thinner like all the images women are bombarded with on a daily basis on television, magazine, billboards and the internet. Most of the things I have issues with are actually self esteem but it also impacts what I believe to be my self worth.

Dr. Kristin Neff states “A true sense of self-worth can also be fostered by practicing self-compassion. Self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you would treat a friend”. Building self worth can involve taking part in activities that you feel are important, volunteering can help change the way you value yourself. Taking part in activities and interests that you enjoy and find meaningful can help think more positively about yourself.

Self esteem is influenced by self worth but is based purely on actions and in comparison to others. Self worth is internal that comes from self love and acceptance of yourself as a person and does not change with people’s opinions of you.

This blog states : “To have a high level of self-worth means having a favorable opinion or estimate of yourself. It means having unshakable faith in yourself and in your ability to follow through and get things done. Having a high degree of self-worth means feeling worthy of good things. It means feeling deserving of happiness, health, wealth, success, and love — irrespective of the difficulties you face, the disappointments you experience, or of people’s opinions. In a word, it’s unflinching.”

So how can we change how we perceive our self worth? Stop talking down about yourself, stop making light of your talents. Instead of belittling yourself you can be humble but perhaps instead of shrugging off compliments, accept them graciously. You don’t have to be arrogant to know your value as a person. Practice self love, not by constantly saying how great you are but seeing yourself as you would see a good friend. You would never tell a friend how terrible they are or criticize their every decision and action.

From positivepsychology.com, the article notes steps to increase your self worth, the first being “Remind yourself that your bank account, job title, attractiveness, and social media following have nothing to do with how valuable or worthy a person you are.” The second is “Whenever you notice your inner critic start to fire up with the criticisms, make her pause for a moment. Ask yourself whether she has any basis in fact, whether she’s being kind or not, and whether what she’s telling you is something you need to know.”

Once you value yourself as a person, it is much easier to build up your self esteem. The reason you cannot solely depend on self esteem according to Dr. Christina Hibbert is “When we focus on building self-esteem, we work on being better at this or that—at losing weight, becoming healthier, thinking more positively, developing healthy personality traits. And all of these things are good. But what happens when we place our entire value in them? What happens when those “good” things change or come crumbling down? Our value crumbles right along with it. ”

So as I read these articles, and read books by Brené Brown I know that I need to work on both my self worth and my self esteem, but self worth is the first step towards increasing my self esteem.

What do you do to value yourself?

 

Sources

https://www.psychalive.org/self-worth/

https://blog.iqmatrix.com/self-worth

https://www.wikihow.com/Build-Self-Worth

What is Self-Worth and How Do We Increase it? (Incl. 4 Worksheets)

Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-neglect/2019/05/the-difference-between-self-esteem-self-worth-self-confidence-and-self-knowledge/

https://www.drchristinahibbert.com/self-esteem-vs-self-worth/

https://yvonnefbrown.com/self-esteem-vs-self-worth/