Tell Me About It

Our son says his hair loss has ruined his life

Now 33, he hasn’t worked for three years and is suffering from severe depression

PROBLEM: Our son has been losing his hair since he was 16. In his twenties, he underwent (unbeknown to us) several botched hair transplants. He was earning good money as a qualified professional, so able to afford the expensive procedures. Now he is 33, has not worked for three years, and is suffering from severe depression.

He says he has scars and they are carcinogenic if exposed to sunlight. He wears a cap all the time. He is living at home now and has spent all his money. He is behaving like a teenager and not contributing financially to the household.

If persistently asked, he will wash up and put away the shopping. He has isolated himself and has nervous habits of talking to himself, clicking his fingers and laughing to himself.

He says he only has “half a head”. The transplanted hair is growing in the front, but the damage and scarring is at the back of his head. Our son says this hair loss has ruined his life. He cannot countenance ever having a family because of the “bald” gene.

He will not agree to any form of counselling and it breaks our hearts to see our creative, caring son so aimless and miserable. His anger has left him lonely and all his friends have moved on with relationships, family, etc. He seems dependent on coffee and social media. We are lucky at least that he hasn’t an alcohol dependency.

We, his parents, are hoping you can guide us in some way? How can we persuade him to get help? Where can we get help?

Under huge pressure, he agreed to see our sympathetic GP – but then backed out of that. We would have paid the fee for a consultation at an expert Hair Clinic, but he says there is nothing they could say that he doesn’t know already.

He says he is waiting for better technology for hair transplanting in about five years time!

ADVICE: The situation for your son and for your whole family is very difficult and seems to be resistant to change. You say that your son is suffering from severe depression and from what you say this appears to be the case and he needs the care of a community mental health team.

This is accessed through your GP and it will offer your son both medical and psychological interventions. You will have to be very committed to your son visiting your GP and there is probably a lot you can do to make this happen so do not give up on this possibility.

However, as is always the case with depression in the family, others are affected. You and your husband might be worn down from the years of worry and hopelessness and so you both might benefit from a visit to a family therapist (familytherapyireland.com) who will be able to help you address the family patterns that have been created in the maintenance of this problem and also help you come up with new strategies for dealing with this crisis.

Hair loss is regularly sited as one of the most stressful things that can happen to men, but most of them come to accept it and manage their baldness in a way that allows them to keep their self-worth intact. What your son has experienced is traumatic and he seems to have focused all his self-esteem and value on to this one issue or defect as he sees it. It is not unusual to focus all of one’s angst and negativity on one thing and to place all recovery and hope on that.

However, recovery will require him to address these things with a combination of in-depth, ongoing interventions and, as the people who are closest to him, you are likely to be best ones to make sure this happens. Further attention to hair transplants at this time may not be where the money and focus should be and it is probable that this should be considered when he is in a better place mentally. There is also the fact that your son has not worked in many years and this may be a causal factor in his depression.

His previous history of success in both a career and the workplace should be harnessed and any involvement in the outside world is likely to be of benefit to him. This might start with some small piece of volunteering that uses his area of expertise – perhaps a local charity could use his skills for a couple of hours a week. This might focus his attention on a new target that is not hopeless or negative but even such a small step might require optimism, support and patience from you.

Do you and your husband have full lives? Are you modelling lives that are focused externally and have positive and engaging aspects to them? As we are so influenced by those closest to us, it might be that you, like your son, are waiting for life to get going once he (or the problem) is fixed.At the very least, you and your husband can model getting help for the family and keep your son posted as to your progress and engagement with the family therapist as he might be encouraged to attend with you.