Psychosomatic factors in first-onset alopecia areata

Psychosomatics. 2003 Sep-Oct;44(5):374-81. doi: 10.1176/appi.psy.44.5.374.


Although the onset of alopecia areata has often been anecdotally linked with emotional stress, findings from the few controlled studies have not been univocal. The authors compared outpatients experiencing a recent onset of alopecia areata (N=21) with outpatients affected by skin conditions commonly believed as having a low psychosomatic component (N=102). Participants were administered Paykel's Interview for Recent Life Events, the Experiences in Close Relationships scale, the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale, and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. Multiple logistic regression was used to control for age and gender. The total number of recent life events (last 12 months) was not different between the alopecia patients and the comparison subjects. Also, the alopecia patients and the comparison subjects did not differ in terms of the number of undesirable or major events. The comparison subjects even experienced a greater number of uncontrollable events. Alopecia areata tended to be associated with high avoidance in attachment relationships, high alexithymic characteristics, and poor social support. The results suggest that personality characteristics might modulate individual susceptibility to alopecia areata.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Alopecia Areata / epidemiology
  • Alopecia Areata / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rome
  • Social Support