Alopecia Areata and Hypnotherapy
Alopecia areata is an unpredictable auto-immune disease that causes loss of hair on the scalp and or on other parts of the body. Around 0.1% to 0.2 of the general population suffers from the condition and it is said to be largely induced by stress and negative emotional states. Most that lose hair see it grow back after a period of time however a small number, 7% to 10% suffer from total body hair loss (alopecia universalis).
Currently the documented treatments for this condition include cortisone injections used in milder cases that help to trigger hair re-growth. For more extensive cases where the patient has more than 50% hair loss, a topical immunotherapy is commonly used. This entails applying a chemical to the scalp which creates an allergic reaction that stimulates hair re-growth. After a period of six months, just over 50% of people treated with this treatment will show hair re-growth.
In the first study of its kind, Willemsen, Vanderlinden, Deconinck and Roseeuw (2006) from Free University in Brussels looked at hypnosis as a means to treat the alopecia condition. The two outcomes that were assessed were the levels of psychological well being and the clinical outcome of alopecia areata. In total there were 21 participants in the study, 9 who had alopecia universalis and 12 who had extensive AA – all were analyzed over a 5 year period. After the treatment (3 to 8 sessions of hypnotherapy), all participants had significantly lowered levels of anxiety and depression measured scores whilst scalp hair re-growth of 75% to 100% was seen in 12 of the 21 patients. 9 of those 12 including 2 with alopecia universalis had total re-growth of hair. 5 patients suffered a significant relapse at some point. The limitations of the study included the fact that the sample size was relatively small. A larger randomized study with a control group was needed to further explore these findings. Other studies namely Willemsen and Vanderlinden (2008), a similar study, also showed positive improvements in respect to both psychological well being and hair re-growth. More studies are needed to explore hypnotherapy’s potential in helping sufferers of alopecia areata.
The results of these studies are certainly promising and do offer some hope to people that suffer from the more extreme forms of the condition.
Willemsen, R., Vanderlinden, J., Deconinck, A., & Roseeuw, D. (2006). Hypnotherapeutic management of alopecia areata. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 55, 233–238.
Willemsen R, Vanderlinden J. (2008) Hypnotic approaches for alopecia areata. Int J Clin Exp Hypn 2008; 56: 318–833.