This research set out to enhance our understanding of what it means to live with hair loss diagnosed as alopecia areata (AA), exploring how individuals adapted over time. This was achieved through depth interview with 33 persons (19 women; 14 men) living with various levels of hair loss severity and duration. There is a growing body of quantitative evidence indicating that the condition can be emotionally, psychologically and socially devastating. This investigation explored the issue qualitatively, directly from the perspectives of those affected, so as to gain a fuller perspective on negative outcomes for men and women. Results revealed how a great deal of uncertainty accompanied the early AA career and much effort was invested as individuals attempted to make sense of their experiences and exert control over the condition. As hair loss worsened and physical appearance became increasingly `different', questions of identity and self came to the fore, causing those affected to feel that the essence of their personhood was under threat. Over time some adapted more successfully than others, although those most zealous in their efforts to keep it hidden from others undoubtedly led the most restricted lives. Both men and women expressed negative feelings about their hair loss, particularly from the head and around the eyes. However, there were also clear gender differences in meanings according to hair loss in particular body areas. Moreover, women invested more in `normalising' their appearance. I have argued that simplistic assumptions regarding the heightened threat for women undermine the gravity for men and contribute towards the difficulty many men experience in seeking and gaining support. This research represents a preliminary step towards a fuller understanding of the experience of living with AA. It is anticipated that these findings will enable professionals to improve the planning and delivery of health care for A. A.
|West, Emma Kuliana
|University of Essex
|Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
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