Phalacrophobia is the irrational fear of going bald. Though this anxiety disorder typically affects more men than women due to male pattern baldness being more common than female pattern hair loss, neither sex is susceptible to this phobia. The fear of losing hair or becoming completely bald is a fear that both men and women share.
It has been shown that baldness may be genetic and passed down from previous generations. Currently, there is no cure for balding, nor is there a way to completely prevent it. This alone may have something to do with some people developing phalacrophobia.
The realization that someone who is balding has minimal options to treat their condition may strongly correlate to them developing phalacrophobia. Treating baldness or hair loss is often painful, time consuming, and expensive. Women who are balding severely typically wear wigs. Men, on the other hand are more likely to get surgical procedures such as hair transplants where they graft sections of growing hair onto an area where hair growth is absent.
Other people who suffer from phalacrophobia may choose to take medications to help either regrow their hair or to slow down hair loss. A common drug used by men to help treat their male pattern baldness is Propecia. This medicine helps to decrease the amount of DHT the body produces, which may help regrow hair.
However, there are many possible side effects of Propecia such as sexual dysfunction, which may even continue after you stop taking it. The medication may also increase your risk for prostate cancer and may even cause birth defects in pregnant women by merely touching the medication.
Symptoms of Phalacrophobia
Someone suffering from phalacrophobia may find the thought of becoming bald to be completely repulsive and grotesque. They may also feel extremely uncomfortable when around other bald or balding people as this may remind them of their own fear of becoming bald. The thought of becoming bald or actually seeing evidence that they are balding will often bring forth immense dread and feelings of worthlessness.
Someone with phalacrophobia may have very low self-esteem, as well as a poor self-image. In fact, someone suffering from phalacrophobia doesn’t even have to be balding at all. They can have a thick, full head of hair, as well no family history of baldness, yet still be extremely fearful of becoming bald themselves.
Someone with phalacrophobia may believe that they are balding when there is no sign of it happening at all. They may also be overly concerned with their hairline or the thickness of their hair. They may also refrain from wearing hats or anything else that might thin out their hair.
Below, you will see some common symptoms of phalacrophobia:
Intense anxiety at the thought of becoming bald
Fear of other people who are bald/balding
Using hair loss products when there are no signs of balding
Insecure with a poor self-image
May feel incompetent about most things
Overly concerned with their appearance
Intense fear of being judged by others
Very judgmental of other people’s hair
Causes of Phalacrophobia
There are no known causes of phalacrophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment my play very significant roles in someone developing an intense fear of going bald. People who have a family history of mental illness, especially of phobias and other anxiety disorders may have a heightened risk for developing phalacrophobia.
So, someone who already has a genetic predisposition to mental illness may then merely require some sort of traumatic experience or environmental influence for them to develop full-blown phalacrophobia.
Such a traumatic experience may be that they started balding at a very young age (i.e. 16 or 17 years old) and were teased by their peers for their condition. Such an experience may have crushed their confidence and even influenced them to be more anti-social and bitter towards most people. Besides being scorned by your peers, some people may even experience mocking and criticism from their own family members.
Other reasons as to why someone may develop phalacrophobia is that they suffered from an anxiety disorder prior to developing a fear of going bald. Such mental illnesses that could have been a precursor for someone to develop phalacrophobia could be generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), among others.
This would make sense as someone who is already suffering from an anxiety disorder apparently had the genetics to do so. So, overtime their anxiety may simply be concentrated toward a specific thing, such as the case with phalacrophobia.
Phalacrophobia Treatments (abridged)
Just as there is no cure for male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss, there is also no cure for phalacrophobia. However, there are some forms of treatment that may be able to help with reducing the symptoms associated with this phobia. For one, some form of talk therapy may be very beneficial.
Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be able to help treat phalacrophobia very well by helping the patient get to the bare root of their fears and understand the true reasons as to why they are so fearful of becoming bald. The patient may feel as though they know the reason why already. However, using CBT techniques may be able to help the therapist uncover some of the more painful, emotionally taxing reasons that the patient has suppressed in their subconscious mind.
Another form of therapy that may be very advantageous for someone suffering from phalacrophobia is exposure therapy. This form of therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to their fear for a given period of time. In the context of phalacrophobia, the therapist may have the patient look at pictures of bald people or perhaps have them look in a mirror if they are balding themselves. Though doing such tasks will give the patient heightened amounts of anxiety, the long-term goal is to desensitize them from their fear of becoming bald. Thus, minimizing the intrusive symptoms commonly associated with phalacrophobia, such as anxiety and hopelessness.
Anti-anxiety medication may also be helpful for reducing some of the symptoms associated with phalacrophobia. However, you should first talk to your doctor before you decide to take any medication or engage in any sort of therapy.
Reducing Caffeine for Phalacrophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with phalacrophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with phalacrophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Phalacrophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like phalacrophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with phalacrophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with phalacrophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with phalacrophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your phalacrophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Meditation for Phalacrophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from phalacrophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from phalacrophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with phalacrophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of phalacrophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with phalacrophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Phalacrophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with phalacrophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with phalacrophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with phalacrophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with phalacrophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Phalacrophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from phalacrophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with phalacrophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of phalacrophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Exposure Therapy for Phalacrophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as phalacrophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with phalacrophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with phalacrophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their phalacrophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with phalacrophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Exercise for Phalacrophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including phalacrophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of phalacrophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of phalacrophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with phalacrophobia over time.
Medication Therapy for Phalacrophobia
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as phalacrophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of phalacrophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of phalacrophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe phalacrophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their phalacrophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
Yoga for Phalacrophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from phalacrophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with phalacrophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with phalacrophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with phalacrophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of phalacrophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.