Annabella Mortimer Pic Case Study

Annabella Mortimer, Alopecia Areata

"It was great to talk to someone with the same problem, receive advise about coping mechanisms and find out more about how she (Audrey) carries off wearing a wig. Audrey put me in touch with some great contacts, should I need some help with my current stage of alopecia and prepared me well for if the condition worsens."


I first developed alopecia areata in my early thirties. Initially I had classic thumb print lesions of missing hair, which left a smooth patch of bare skin. These grew back after a few weeks - so I didn't think too much of it.  The alopecia never went completely but, on the whole, was never visible to others.

After my mid thirties, patches of hair went from the sides of my head. These didn't regrow and slowly became visible to those around me. This hair loss coincided with my second pregnancy and postnatal period.

I kept looking into possible treatments but, from what I read, nothing really worked - and if it did it would only be temporary.  So I decided not to start treatment because I didn't want to get caught up in a cycle of hope and disappointment. I take some pride in the fact that I am not fussy about how I look and I wanted to brazen out the hair loss.

Then I went on holiday with a friend (who was training to be a dermatologist) who thought steroid injections would probably help. My hopes went up as despite my better intentions, I had started feeling self-conscious.  Later that day - when my hair blew in the wind - she realised there was more hair missing than she had first realised and said, "Oh, the area might be too big for steroid injections".  So, inadvertently, she had got me on the very roller coaster of hope and disappointment I had wanted to avoid - I had really wanted to stay steadily along the path of acceptance.

After this episode I arranged to see a dermatologist and started a course of intra-dermal steroid injections (painful but quite quick).  I responded well to the treatment and hair grew back in the places where I had been injected. This was great, it meant people couldn't see the bald patches and I could keep my alopecia to myself.  I had been in denial about how visible the hair loss was - I presume my way of coping at the time - and it was not until everyone commented on the regrowth that I realised how polite and discreet everyone had been.

The regrowth remained for a while but has now started falling away again.  I am undergoing another course of injections but am trying to balance hope that the treatment will work with accepting the disease for what it is.

Whenever I tell people I have alopecia areata, the first question is always, "Is it stress related". I then at a loss for how to answer. What exactly is stress? On reflection, I think I am quite far down the anxious/type A personality. I hope that once I become the serene Zen like person I'd love to be, my hair will go back to normal! Dream on me thinks.

For now I have quite extensive hair loss over the back and sides of my head that is, which is more or less, not noticeable to others and I am content for the time being. If I lose more hair I might consider further treatment - oral steroids or the topical sensitising treatment.

I never want to get to the stage when people stare as I walk along the street minding my own business. Only on a good day would I be able to carry myself in a way that other peoples' looks and stares would be their problem not mine.

I made contact with Audrey when a friend recommended her and discovering that she had Alopecia for over 30 years, I was keen to meet her. We did meet, before she had even set up Esteem and it was a really useful session.

It was great to talk to someone with the same problem, receive advise about coping mechanisms and find out more about how she carries off wearing a wig. Audrey put me in touch with some great contacts, should I need some help with my current stage of alopecia and prepared me well for if the condition worsens.

Annabella Mortimer, London