After an Alopecia Areata Diagnosis, Seeking Support Is Vital




Let’s put it on the table right now. There is nothing fun about being diagnosed with Alopecia areata. One doctor I know said, “Well, if you’re going to be diagnosed with something, take this one and run.” This makes sense coming from a man who looks at cancer cells under a microscope all day long. Yet, exactly where do you “run” when alopecia is the diagnosis?
People may generally throw themselves into different treatments, scour the Internet for herbal and dietary considerations or even consider those suggestions that fall somewhere between hope and hopeless. Yet, when the dust settles, and reality sets in, many of the psychological challenges begin to take root. Anger, frustration, depression — all of these emotional responses are very real and to be expected. All loss is really experienced at 100 percent, so many will go through a grieving process. As a result people tend to isolate, hide and cut themselves off from friends, family and loved ones. Normal social situations now become painful and avoided at all costs. Issues of low self-esteem and self-worth, sitting just below the surface for many, begin to move to the top and wreak havoc in our daily lives. Our ability to exercise control or dominion over our personal and professional relationships falters.

While we try every possible remedy within our budget, over time we start to actually believe that we’re balancing out, getting better even if the physical results we’re looking for have yet to materialize and, pardon the expression, take root. People start to think they’re in a place of acceptance, when all they’ve really accomplished is gained enough strength to keep the boulders from crashing to the ground and taking them with them.

This is what’s known as unresolved grief. It’s like an active volcano that could blow at any time. People try to convince themselves and others that they’re OK when they’re anything but. The challenge is, when you’re challenged by alopecia, chances are most of the people around you are not. Friends listen, some better than others, yet after a while they don’t quite know what to say. Their well-intentioned advice, often unsolicited, appears to fall on deaf ears. Some even grow weary, tired of listening to the same old stories.

Why specific Alopecia areata support can make a difference

Bottom line, you’re grieving a powerful loss. Getting some counseling support coupled with a cause-specific alopecia support group can make all the difference. And here’s why.

  1. Alopecia areata tends to cause people to isolate. Yet losing contact with people is a dead-end street. Being around those challenged by the same condition breeds a necessary camaraderie. Knowing you’re not alone breaks the pattern of isolation. Knowing the thoughts you entertain on a moment-to-moment basis are also those of others with the same condition is often a relief.
  2. A support group is apt to put you in touch with more people doing research and finding solutions or treatments you may not have heard about. More people tends to mean more health care practitioners with different theories and solutions. Information is king. Take advantage of it.
  3. Support groups are usually free. Many people can’t afford one-to-one counseling, especially if they want to use their financial resources for new treatments and programs.
  4. Support groups are just that — support. The people and the counselors are present to listen, with no time frame or agenda attached to when you “should get over it.” This actually improves the quality of time you spend with family and friends, because you have a place to download and then have your space to re-engage with family and friends.

Two additional things to be aware of when you seek out a support group: First, be resilient to the quality of your mental health. It often impacts a physiological shift that will work well for you. What I’m saying is, find the right group, be it all men, all women, men and women, age relatable — whatever it takes to make sure you’re getting the necessary support. Just showing up is not enough. Second, as you connect with a support group, make sure you don’t begin to label yourself with any particular banner or headline. Some might disagree with me, but I’m of the belief that what you are challenged by is not your physical condition but the unresolved feelings you have about yourself that have been triggered by your diagnosis.

Create an internal balance that separates who you are as a person from your physical condition. You are not your illness. This can be helpful when seeking support in groups, making it less likely that you will only be able to identify with others who share your physical challenges. Isolation is not just about flying solo. Cutting yourself off from anyone outside of these support groups can be just as polarizing and disconnecting when it comes to dealing with friends, family, even coworkers.

To your health!