Hair Dysmorphic Disorder (HDD)
Most of us have something we don’t like about our appearance — a crooked nose, an uneven smile, or eyes that are too large or too small. And though we may fret about our imperfections, they don’t interfere with our daily lives.
But people who have hair dysmorphia (HDD) think about their real or perceived flaws for hours each day.
They can’t control their negative thoughts and don’t believe people who tell them that they look fine. Their thoughts may cause severe emotional distress and interfere with their daily functioning. They may miss work or school, avoid social situations and isolate themselves, even from family and friends, because they fear others will notice their flaws.
They may even undergo unnecessary transplants to correct perceived imperfections, never finding satisfaction with the results.
Characteristics of Hair Dysmorphia
HDD is a hair dysmorphia disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance.
People with hair dysmorphia can dislike any part of their body, although they often find fault with their hair, skin, nose, chest, or stomach. In reality, a perceived defect may be only a slight imperfection or nonexistent. But for someone withhair dysmorphia, the flaw is significant and prominent, often causing severe emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning.
Hair dysmorphia can develop in the late teens, or 20’s and research shows that it affects men and women almost equally.
The causes of hair dysmorphia are unclear, but certain biological and environmental factors may contribute to its development, including genetic predisposition, neurobiological factors such as malfunctioning of serotonin in the brain, personality traits, and life experiences.
People with hair dysmorphia suffer from obsessions about their hair that can last for hours or up to an entire day. Hard to resist or control, these obsessions make it difficult for people with hair dysmorphia to focus on anything but their imperfections. This can lead to low self-esteem, avoidance of social situations, and problems at work or school.
Hair dysmorphia sufferers may perform some type of compulsive or repetitive behavior to try to hide or improve their flaws although these behaviors usually give only temporary relief. Examples are listed below:
- camouflaging (with hair position, makeup, hats, etc.)
- comparing their hair to others’ hair.
- seeking surgery
- checking in a mirror
- avoiding mirrors
- hair pulling
- excessive grooming
- excessive exercise
- changing hair styles
To get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, people must mention specifically their concerns with their appearance when they talk to a hair loss specialist or mental health professional. A trained clinician should diagnose hair dysmorphia.
Effective treatments are available to help hair dysmorphia sufferers live full, productive lives.
- Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) has been shown to increase cellular survival, proliferation and function. LLLT stimulates and preserves hair follicles in patients with androgenic alopecia, hair dysmorphia and other hair loss disorders.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches patients to recognize irrational thoughts and change negative thinking patterns. Patients learn to identify unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving and replace them with positive ones.