When celebrities put a face to an illness everyone benefits

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The slap that was heard around the world may be quietening but reverberations continue around hair loss.

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Chris Rock’s tasteless joke directed at Jada Pinkett Smith’s condition – alopecia – sparked a violent reaction from her husband Will Smith, and overshadowed Jada bravely rocking her shaved head look at the 2022 Oscars.

Jada has publicly shared her struggle with alopecia and hair loss over the years, and curiosity about the disease has been sparked – it’s a terrifying condition that can cause devastating psychological trauma for sufferers.

“When celebrities bring diseases / conditions forward, they help erase the stigma behind them and make those who feel like they have to suffer in silence have the courage to be heard and feel less alone,” says Dr. Joanne Frederick, a mental health counselor at jflcounseling.org.

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According to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, whenever a celebrity comes forward with a physical or mental health issue, it gives regular folks comfort: “Many put celebrities on pedestals and feel that money and fame are enough to make people happy. Happiness cannot buy mental or physical health. ”

Most recently, Bruce Willis came forward to say he has aphasia, which will likely end his career as he has known it, says Hafeez. Years ago, Michael J Fox revealed he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and has continued acting while showing signs of the illness.

“Whether it is these conditions or others, when those who have influence come forward, it is a collective conversation starter. It helps to make the public aware and therefore, makes it a little easier for a non-celebrity to say, ‘I have XYZ condition just like XYZ celebrity’, ”says Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind at comprehendthemind.com .

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Frederick adds that stars like Pete Davidson, Chrissy Teigen, and Demi Lovato have used their platforms to help make conditions like depression and bipolar disorder easier to talk about. And on the physical front, Kim Kardashian has openly battled psoriasis, Selena Gomez with lupus and Lena Dunham with endometriosis.

According to Hafeez, alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disorder resulting in unpredictable hair loss. In most cases, hair falls out in small patches about the size of a quarter but for others it can lead to the complete loss of hair on their scalp, known as alopecia totalis or in extreme cases the entire body known as alopecia universalis.

While not life-threatening, alopecia can have serious psychosocial consequences, causing intense emotional suffering and personal, social, and work-related problems, says Hafeez. “Feelings of unattractiveness, depression and social anxiety build up over time, so you may find yourself avoiding social situations altogether.”

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Feeling unattractive internally affects the way you interact with people around you, she says. “And since people tend to gravitate towards happy, healthy, and confident people, individuals who are balding sometimes face social exclusion, while also being seen as less attractive.”

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Unfortunately, society views hair as our crowning glory. When hair thins, falls out, turns gray, or when a woman has a condition that causes her to lose it, such as cancer treatment or alopecia, this can often be the cruelest blow for all but the most secure women because of the judgment that society and media have conditioned us to value, says Hafeez.

The hair care industry is a multibillion-dollar one – the average woman is likely to spend $ 50,000 on hair cutting, coloring, extensions, products, and blowouts throughout her lifetime, adds Hafeez. “For a woman who has the spotlight on her, such as Jada Pinkett Smith, the pressure is enormous to face the paparazzi, and endure comments made by bloggers, media and those on social media who might take the opportunity to bully a celebrity when she is down. ”

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Taste your words before they leave your mouth

What not to say to someone with alopecia:

  • My friend lost her hair, and she did (insert certain medication / treatment here), and her hair came back! You should try it. ” Hair loss is different for every person and can be caused by several other circumstances, says Dr. Sanam Hafeez. Although it is great that your friend was able to see results, it is essential to keep in mind that they may have already tried / researched / thought about that.
  • “I’m jealous! It must be so easy to get ready in the morning! ” Someone who’s just lost their hair would probably trade in their supposed extra half-hour in the morning for their hair back, stresses Hafeez. “What you may think is a light-hearted joke, can rub someone the wrong way by making it seem like they should be grateful for their hair loss.”

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  • “You really do not have to worry, it will grow back, right?” The person may not know what their long term prognosis is and that statement vaguely infers that the person should “hide out” until their hair does grow back, says Dr. Joanne Frederick. “It is disempowering to the person with hair loss.”
  • “There are great wigs available now, why don’t you get one?” Rest assured, this is a thought that has occurred to almost every woman with hair loss, says Frederick. While some do choose to wear wigs for certain occasions, on a daily basis they can be hot, heavy and itchy. “When you say this to a woman, you might be well-intentioned, but it gives them the feeling that they are only presentable and acceptable with a wig on.”

Dr. Sanam Hafeez offers advice to those suffering from alopecia:

  • Remind yourself that hair loss, although frightening, is not life-threatening.
  • Work with beauty pros to find a hairstyle that flatters you; depending on your condition, there can be ways to work around your hair loss.
  • Consider therapy.
  • Find an alopecia support group, including the Canadian Alopecia Areata Foundation and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
  • Take care of your body and engage in things that make you feel beautiful and positive about yourself.
  • Take inspiration from celebs like Jada Pinkett Smith.

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