The Department of Dermatology at Singapore General Hospital explains the psychological and physical causes of hair loss.
Other causes of hair loss
Hair loss: Trichopagia
At its extreme, people who suffer from trichotillomania may eat the pulled hair. Experts don’t yet fully understand what causes this condition and, while unusual, this disorder known as trichophagia can lead to physical problems like abdominal pain, vomiting and bleeding. In more severe cases, ingested hair form indigestible “hairballs” which, if left untreated, may perforate the intestine. Surgery may be required to remove the “hairballs”.
After the dermatologist diagnoses the problem as an obsessive disorder, the patient is usually referred to a psychiatrist. Recognising that hair-pulling is an illness is often enough for people suffering the mild form of the disorder to overcome it. But for those who suffer the more serious form, the psychiatrist may prescribe behavioural therapy such as relaxation or habit-reversal training. Once patients have gained a heightened awareness of their condition, they are taught “competing responses” that they can use whenever they feel the urge to pull their hair out. For example, they are taught to keep their hands occupied so as to avoid touching their hair.
“For some people, trichotillomania is mild and can be quelled with awareness and concentration. For others, the urge may be so intense that it makes thinking or doing something else feel almost impossible,” said Dr Lee Haur Yueh, Consultant (Head),
Department of Dermatology,
Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the
Hair loss in adults
This condition, also known as androgenic alopecia, is the most common cause of hair loss in men and women. It involves the male hormone androgen. The female variation is known as female pattern baldness. It results in diffuse thinning all over the scalp. The condition usually affects women later in life than men and may be genetic, although the exact cause of this pattern of hair loss is unknown.
Thought to be an autoimmune condition, alopecia areata occurs when your body attacks its own hair follicles. It’s often characterised by circular bald patches as hair falls out in clumps. The good news is that the hair usually grows back in three to six months, even without treatment. The condition seems to run in families. The exact cause is yet to be determined.
Scalp diseases and others
Fungal and bacterial infections, and hormone changes such as those experienced after pregnancy, can cause hair loss. It can also be due to curling or braiding hair too tightly, drugs, anaemia or thyroid disease.
The above information was adapted from
"Beautiful Inside Out" - The SingHealth Guide to Women's Health.