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J Dermatol. 1999 Oct;26(10):625-32.

Alopecia areata, stress and psychiatric disorders: a review.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Virgen Macarena Hospital, School of Medicine, University of Seville, Spain.


Although the results of some studies have proven negative, the influence of psychological factors in the development, evolution and therapeutic management of alopecia areata is, in general, well documented. Life events and intrapsychically generated stress can play an important role in triggering of some episodes. The comorbidity of psychiatric disorders, mainly generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and phobic states, is high. The role of treatment of concomitant psychopathological disorders is a vital one. Indeed this treatment can positively affect how the patient adapts to his/her alopecia and social setting and perhaps can even lead to a better dermatological evolution of the alopecia. Therefore, controlled studies analyzing the possible links between psychiatric symptoms, treatment with antidepressants or benzodiacepines, evolution of alopecia, medium term prognosis, and immune function are necessary. Basic psychotherapeutic support may prove to be of use in many cases and can be carried out by the dermatologist, although a subgroup of patients may need psychopharmacological or psychotherapeutic specialized treatments. Studies using operative diagnostic criteria and structured interviews are still scarce. Therefore, it seems necessary to design studies using modern psychiatric methodology. Controlled clinical trials to test the efficiency of psychoactive drugs and psychotherapy in the disease are also needed. By studying in depth these and other related aspects, we may improve the clinical management of our patients.

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