Will Smith’s Slap of Chris Rock After Comment About Jada Pinkett’s Hair: What Is Alopecia & How Does It Affect Sufferers Physically & Mentally? by Dr. Sanam Hafeez
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Will Smith slapped Oscars® host Chris Rock following a tasteless “joke” he made about Smith’s wife's alopecia. In December 2021, Pinkett- Smith made the brave decision to shave off all her hair revealing at the time that her alopecia had progressed. While it is challenging enough for everyday people to live with this troubling condition, it is magnified 100-fold when one has to face paparazzi and comedians all too eager to take potshots because they don’t understand the magnitude of this condition and the mental toll it takes on those who suffer from it.
Will Smith, on edge because of his Oscars® buzz and the understandable anxiety, certainly behaved out of character. However, it wasn't impulsive. He is not an impulsive man. He had copped a lot of ridicule by other men online over his wife's affair which may have made him feel emasculated or embarrassed. But he didn't slap any of those guys. The slap, apart from an unfortunate incident between two of Hollywood's respected (not to mention, black) royalty, may have been a culmination of winning back his masculinity, or a show of strength in his marriage. Will Smith, is a personal icon to me, for so many reasons, not the least, his decent behavior in the spotlight for decades. Slapping another great the way he did, undid so much of that, and I am still reeling for my fallen hero.
What Is Alopecia?
Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disorder that often results in unpredictable hair loss. Alopecia affects roughly 6.8 million people in the United States. In the majority of cases, hair falls out in small patches around the size of a quarter. For most people, hair loss is nothing more than a few patches, though in some cases it can be more extreme. Sometimes, it can lead to the complete loss of hair on the scalp (alopecia totalis) or, in extreme cases, the entire body (alopecia universalis). The condition can affect anyone regardless of age and gender, though most cases occur before the age of 30.
The Psychological Toll of Alopecia
Hair loss is usually thought of as something men start worrying about as they get older. But there are various forms of hair loss, often extensive and sudden, which can impact anyone – male or female – at any time. There are three main forms, distinguished largely by the extent of the loss:
- Alopecia areata, referring to the partial loss of hair from the head, usually patchy rather than general thinning.
- Alopecia totalis, which is the loss of all head hair.
- Alopecia universalis, the loss of all head and body hair.
There has been very little research carried out specifically by psychologists; dermatologists and other medical practitioners have conducted most of it. Alopecia can have serious psychosocial consequences, causing intense emotional suffering, and personal, social and work-related problems.
Alopecia Can Bring Up Feelings of Depression, Anxiety and Embarrassment
Alopecia has been linked with high levels of depression and anxiety. The latter is evident in the fact that many people who experience balding will try to hide it, as it’s a source of embarrassment for them. Research shows that more than 40 percent of men deal with alopecia by the time they turn 35.
Alopecia Can Make You Feel Unattractive
Hair plays a big role in self-esteem and self-expression. After they experience hair loss, people often find themselves losing confidence. It can make them think they are unattractive, resulting in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts. Feeling unattractive internally affects the way you interact with people around you. And since people tend to gravitate toward happy, healthy and confident people, individuals who are balding sometimes face social exclusion, while also being seen as less attractive.
Alopecia Impacts Your Social Life
You don’t feel like going out. You feel stressed about meeting new people. You indulge in destructive behaviors such as eating unhealthily. Your work and relationships are affected. This is a consequence of all the above-mentioned reasons. Feelings of unattractiveness, depression and social anxiety build up over time, so you may find yourself avoiding social situations altogether.
Alopecia Can Force You to Change Your Personal Style
People who deal with alopecia often change their personal style to cover up bald spots. Many people start wearing scarves or wraps on their heads. Some start sporting caps or hats on a frequent basis to prevent bald spots from showing. All of this can be uncomfortable to do, especially if it’s forced upon them because of their condition. Alopecia, while not life-threatening, can result in the development of serious mental and social issues. It’s important to understand the condition and get the necessary therapy.
Positive Ways to Cope With Alopecia
- Remind yourself that hair loss itself is not life-threatening.
- Put your bald spot in perspective.
- Work with beauty pros to find a hairstyle that flatters you.
- Consider therapy.
- Find an alopecia support group.
- Take care of your body, and do and engage in things that make you feel beautiful and positive about yourself.
- Take inspiration from celebs like Jada Pinkett- Smith.
- Find support at the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
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