There are several reasons why a person would look up what peladophobia is. Simple curiosity might spark the search or even personal reasons that make this subject resonate deeply with an individual. In any case, understanding peladophobia can be a way to create sensitivity on this matter and could make it easier to manage.
Peladophobia is described as the fear of baldness. This either refers to losing one’s own hair or fearing people who are bald. It does not stand as an officially recognised disorder under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it is widely accepted as a term to describe the fear of baldness, which falls under the umbrella of psychiatric disorders called phobias.
A danger or a stimulus predicting danger can trigger the mechanisms of fear. Fear can be innate or it can be induced by conditioning methods, and its purpose is to create a response to danger. In some cases, fear might not correspond to the real possibility of harm and can be disproportionately overwhelming. In these cases, this dysfunction in the mechanism of fear is considered a phobia.1
Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder triggered by certain situations or objects. Although fear might rise now and again in our everyday lives, if this fear is way out of proportion to the danger, if it persists for more than six months, and if it interferes with our quality of life, then it is considered a phobia. Most people who experience phobias cannot explain why and often do not seek help for it immediately.2
Phobias seem to impact many people’s lives, o9.1% of U.S. adults reported currently having specific phobias and 12.5% of U.S. adults reported suffering from a phobia at some point in their lives.3 Phobias in females seem to be more common than in males. Of adults with specific phobia, an estimated 48% had mild impairment, 30% had moderate impairment and 22% had serious impairment as a result.3 When focusing on teenagers, 19.3% of adolescents had a type of phobia, with 0.6% of those having severe impairment.3
The word peladophobia originates from the combination of Pelado, which stands for bald in Spanish, and Phobia, the Greek word for fear. It is unclear when exactly this term became mainstream, but it seems to be gaining ground in the popular sphere.
The term has been in use at least since 1925, and although it does not stand alone as a unique category under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (by the American Psychiatric Association), it appears in several texts and books, suggesting it has been reported numerous times.4
Each person has a unique experience of their phobia, and symptoms can vary in severity and nature. They can be psychological or emotional symptoms, or they can be physical symptoms. Feeling stressed, experiencing loss of control, feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed or feeling anxious or depressed can be induced by phobias.
In extreme cases, the person might feel like they have lost touch with reality, commonly referred to as disassociation, or that they are at the brink of fainting or even experiencing feelings of imminent death.5
Physical symptoms may manifest as:
- Feeling unsteady, dizzy, lightheaded or faint5
- Feeling like you are choking5
- A pounding heart, palpitations or accelerated heart rate6
- Chest pain or tightness in the chest5
- Hot or cold flushes5
- Shortness of breath or a smothering sensation5,6
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea5,6
- Numbness or tingling sensations5
- Trembling or shaking5
This can make people withdrawn from society, in their attempts to avoid these feelings and sensations.5,6
Causes and triggers of peladophobia
It is difficult to pinpoint a specific cause of a phobia, but there are certain factors that we can take into consideration when trying to explain these phenomena. Causes can be environmental; for instance, when growing up, a child might have parents who are deeply anxious or constantly worried, which could lead to the child being unduly anxious. Furthermore, experiencing long-term stress might lead to reduced tolerance to certain anxiety triggers, which otherwise could have a small impact on one’s life.7
Genetic predisposition has also been looked into because anxiety disorders seem to run in families.5 It is quite difficult to produce results that can link a certain gene to a certain phobia because of the complexity of the manifestation of both phobias and genes, but there seem to be some trends related to genetic background that require further investigation to explore the significance of genes affecting fear disorders.8
Phobias can be related to a single traumatic event. This could have been a situation in one’s life which had a significant impact on them, with lasting effects and dire consequences.9 In the case of peladophobia, the person experiencing this disorder might have been attacked or threatened by somebody who was bald.
The diagnosis of a specific phobia has been described by the American Psychiatric Association DSM as requiring an unjustifiable fear that is associated with a specific situation, which lasts over a long period and the patient tends to avoid this situation as it causes significant distress and impairment.10
Seeking professional help when dealing with these conditions is very important. If a phobia is left untreated, it can last for the individual's whole life. Although there is some evidence that phobias might spontaneously reduce in severity over time, there is also proof that if left untreated, phobias can cause functional impairment, leaving sufferers unable to be part of social life in healthy dynamics and might lead to isolation.
A specially trained professional can also investigate to exclude other entities which might present in a similar fashion, such as schizophrenia, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and avoidant personality disorder. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and hypochondriasis symptoms might also resemble those of a specific phobia but differ in key ways that medical professionals can distinguish. Lastly, there are conditions which exhibit findings in neurological, physical and mental status examinations, such as substance use, tumours and cerebrovascular diseases, which can give birth to phobias or phobia-like symptoms.11
Management and treatment
Peladophobia does not need to be a life sentence. Once it is recognised, then there are several treatment options that can yield good results. It is important for the individual to want to practice Self-Help and to be engaged with their treatment for this to bear fruit.
Therapeutic approaches include various forms of psychotherapy, the use of medication, technology-assisted therapy, and several other modalities which have been less explored but appear promising.
CBT is designed to produce coping skills for dealing with different problems.12 It focuses on how thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect feelings and actions. It focuses on solving the problems now rather than focusing on the causes in the past.
During exposure therapy, the patient is exposed to the object of their fear in a controlled manner, without the intention to cause any danger. In doing so, it is thought patients will be able to overcome their feelings of anxiety and distress.12
Other forms of psychotherapy such as hypnotherapy (psychotherapy using touch) and applied muscle tension are less explored but also seem to work, focusing one’s mind on other stimulants in different areas of the body.12
The use of medications such as antianxiety medications seems to be effective long-term only in conjunction with some form of psychotherapy.12 Although medications tend to have a more noticeable immediate effect, they can only be used as an aid to other forms of treatment and are not sufficient on their own.12
Technology-assisted therapy uses artificial modalities to create individually tailored treatments. For example, the use of virtual reality or augmented reality. This seems to be very well tolerated, especially compared to traditional exposure therapy.12
Peladophobia is a type of specific phobia. Its object is baldness, and it can affect patients in varying ways, but most commonly through displaying signs of anxiety and avoidance. People who suffer from this should be encouraged to seek help from a team of professionals. Raising public awareness can also help combat the stigma surrounding phobias and can produce better understanding and, thus, better ways of addressing this sort of problem. Treatment can make things better for people suffering from peladophobia and significantly improve their quality of life.
- Garcia R. Neurobiology of fear and specific phobias. Learn Mem. 2017 Sep;24(9):462–71. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580526/
- What is a phobia? - Mind [Internet]. Available from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/phobias/about-phobias/
- National Institute of Mental Health. NIMH » Specific Phobia [Internet]. 2017. Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia.shtml
- Association AM. Journal of the American Medical Association [Internet]. American Medical Association.; 1925. Available from: https://books.google.gr/books?id=lNQhAQAAMAAJ
- Ollendick, Thomas, and John March. Phobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents: A Clinician’s Guide to Effective Psychosocial and Pharmacological Interventions. Oxford University Press, 2004. Available from: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Pml2CAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Fleming L. Anxiety: Specific Phobias Assessment (Behavioral Health). Elsevier. 2020 Apr 28. Available from: http://repository.phb.ac.id/753/1/Anxiety-Specific-Phobias-Assessment-Skill-Behavioral-Health-COVID-19-toolkit_280420.pdf
- Available from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/phobias/symptoms-of-phobias/
- . Otowa, T., et al. ‘Meta-Analysis of Genome-Wide Association Studies of Anxiety Disorders’. Molecular Psychiatry, vol. 21, no. 10, Oct. 2016, pp. 1391–99. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2015.197.
- Loken EK, Hettema JM, Aggen SH, Kendler KS. The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for fears and phobias. Psychol Med. 2014 Aug;44(11):2375–84. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4079768/
- Steele K, van der Hart O, Nijenhuis ERS. Phase-oriented treatment of structural dissociation in complex traumatization: Overcoming trauma-related phobias. J Trauma Dissociation. 2005; Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J229v06n03_02
- Abdijadid CKSS. Specific Phobia - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf [Internet]. 2019. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499923/
- Thng CEW, Lim-Ashworth NSJ, Poh BZQ, Lim CG. Recent developments in the intervention of specific phobia among adults: a rapid review. F1000Research. 2020;9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7096216/