As much as we don’t want to admit it—and at least 85% of us will be forced to at some point—hair loss and confidence are related. It doesn’t matter if you’re the constantly preening type, or the guy who prefers the convenience of the buzz cut. Studies have shown that society judges us based on our hair, and it always has. It’s common for men to experience a range of negative emotions surrounding a suddenly visible scalp. Just like your hairline, the effects that going bald can have on your confidence are important to keep an eye on.
Here’s a rundown of the common ways hair loss can impact confidence:
By inducing stress about age and mortality
For many, finding the first few hairs in the shower drain is the introduction to the aging process. It provides an unwelcome glimpse of mortality. Of course, speaking from experience, this occurs only after one rules out possible sources like the dog, roommates, and vagrants breaking to shower). Historically, a man’s hair has served as a public measuring stick of his youth and virility, and it’s not easy to say goodbye.
Studies have shown that people use adjectives like “dynamic,” “dominant,” “masculine,” and “younger” when describing those blessed with a full head of hair. Those with receding hairlines, on the other hand, were assumed to be less successful, assertive, and confident. Worse yet, on average they are viewed as 3.6 years older than they really were. Basically, even if you’re able to laugh off bald jokes and prefer the look of Bruce Willis to Fabio, society doesn’t. In fact, it’s actively trying to remind you that you aren’t as capable as you would be if you only had a full head of hair.
By leading to anxiety about more hair loss
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is “is characterized by feelings of tension,” and “worried thoughts.” Anxiety about losing one’s hair can be pervasive and hard to avoid. What’s worse, anxiety often results in physical symptoms such as high blood pressure and more hair loss. So, as you’re worrying about your hair starting to fall out, your anxiety may be making it even worse.
These effects are even stronger in young men experiencing early hair loss, according to a recent German study. Subjects said their receding hairlines symbolized bigger issues such as the loss of youth and their attractiveness. To make things worse, thinning hair also can be a sign of bigger health problems. So don’t just wallow in your misery: start getting informed and looking for solutions.
By diminishing one’s self-image
The positives about hair loss are usually presented by pointing out the outliers. You know, those bare scalps that managed to break the glass ceiling (again, Bruce Willis and Michael Jordan). Want proof? GQ has a ranking of the 100 most powerful bald men in the world. Perhaps they’re working on a list of the 100 most powerful fully coiffed men in the world, but it’s unlikely. They don’t need to.
A quick scan of your local weathermen and news anchors probably won’t turn up many widow’s peaks. You’ll find some in your sitcoms and dramas, but they’re probably going to be portraying idiots and/or crooks. As a result, the notion that baldness equals inferiority is as pervasive as the media itself. Unsurprisingly, considering the explosion of social media, maintaining a positive self image is more important than ever before.
By lowering self-esteem
This onslaught of negative messaging is not just reflected in the media. The Daily Monitor cited a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology that reported 60% of balding men have been teased about their hair loss and a whopping 75% actually feel less confident as a result of their recessions. In other words, these attacks aren’t just hitting our subconscious, but they’re often out in the open.
Once a person’s self-esteem becomes damaged, they often become withdrawn and suffer personally and professionally. According to an article in Men’s Health, the key is to either accept your current situation or decide to do something about it.
By creating body dysmorphia
While much can be corrected by talking to a professional or changing some habits, there are cases when it turns into a clinical issue, such as with body dysmorphia. It’s a condition defined by the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation as “a disabling preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in appearance.” Not surprisingly, hair loss is one of the main culprits for men.
According to the non-profit Mental Health America, there are several courses of action to take when afflicted with body dysmorphia. Solutions include medication, therapy, and even support groups. To see how you or a loved one can get help today, check out the MHA website.
By triggering depression
If there’s a glass-half-full outlook on experiencing hair loss, it’s that you’ll have a really long time to get used to your new situation. According to Men’s Health, the balding process typically takes 15-25 years, and five years on the short end. That means lots of time to look in the mirror and agonize about just how noticeable your bald spot is from every angle you’re flexible enough to try.
However, that also means prolonged feelings of anxiety and stress, which, when left unchecked, often give way to clinical depression. This is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. Feelings of depression that persist almost every day—for most of the day—for at least two weeks.”
Keep this top of mind
Another symptom of depression is often a feeling of isolation, that you’re totally alone in your plight. But, remember: as many as 85% of American men will experience balding in their lifetimes. Literally tens of millions of people in the United States are dealing with it right now. While it may seem trivial, it’s important to be aware of the possible psychological effects losing your hair can have, even on those of us who think our confidence is made of Kevlar.
The effects are very real. Luckily, so are your solutions.