Stress Can Lead to Hair Loss
Do you ever feel like your hair is thinner than it used to be? It might be that you’re getting older, in which case it’s natural to experience some hair loss. However, it might also be related to your stress levels day in and day out. If you’ve been going through a particularly stressful time lately or experienced big changes in your life then stress related hair loss may be something else you’ve been worrying about lately. (1)
This is a condition where stress causes many more hairs than normal to transition from the active growth phase (anagen) to the resting phase (telogen) which is when many hairs can fall out. The excessive shedding results in noticeable thinning of the hair.
You may also be pulling your own hairs out. Although you think that picking out a few hairs a day isn’t going to make a difference, over time hair pulling can result in massive hair loss. Trichotillomania is a psychiatric condition where sufferers feel an uncontrollable urge to pull hairs from their body. They relieve their stresses by pulling hairs, and this results in hair loss. This condition requires extensive counseling (like with cognitive behavioral therapy) and possibly medications such as SSRIs (commonly used as anti-depressants).
This is an autoimmune condition who’s mechanism is not entirely understood. In alopecia areata the immune cells of the body attack the hair follicles and lead to hair loss. The condition manifests as circumscribed round bald patches on the scalp. Severe stressors are associated with alopecia areata. Luckily, most cases of alopecia areata go away on their own within 2 years. Alopecia areata is first treated with corticosteroid creams or injections directly into the bald patches.
Most Common Causes of Hair Loss
The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary hair loss, but it is not stress related. (2) Hereditary hair loss is also known as male pattern baldness, female pattern baldness, and androgenetic alopecia. This type of hair loss is related to the genes you got from your parents. Unlike stress related hair loss, hereditary hair loss is unavoidable.
The second most common cause of hair loss is telogen effluvium – which can be a cause of stress related hair loss. The hair loss in telogen effluvium is distributed evenly throughout the scalp without hairline recession. Generally, people who have telogen effluvium won’t have bald patches, but they will see diffuse thinning especially in the top of the scalp.
Telogen Effluvium is Reversible
Telogen effluvium is reversible once the stressors on the body are removed. The most common causes of telogen effluvium are childbirth (aka postpartum alopecia), crash dieting, trauma, surgery, anti-depressant use, chronic illnesses, and chronic stress. If you can remember a recent traumatic event in the past 1-2 months and you suddenly are noticing hair loss, the best thing to do is wait it out. Your hair will regrow naturally without having to do anything. If, however, you’ve just been chronically stressed for the past 6 months because you started a new job, the only solution is to reduce your stress levels. Try doing more exercise, eating a healthy diet, and worrying less.
Treatment of Stress Related Hair Loss
If your stress levels are still sky high or you haven’t seen any hair regrowth after trying to remove possible causes, your dermatologist can recommend that you try minoxidil (aka Rogaine). (3) It’s hypothesized that Rogaine works by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles thus leading to shedding of the telogen hairs. These telogen hairs can be replaced by brand new, actively growing anagen hairs. Rogaine can be used by both men and women, and it’s the only FDA approved product that can cause hair regrowth. Unfortunately, if you continue to be stressed out you will have to use Rogaine forever to continue seeing results. Should you manage to chill out, you can then stop using the Rogaine.
Cover up Stress Related Hair Loss
Other ways to effectively cover up thinning hair include using hair pieces like wigs or, my personal favorite, hair fibers. Hair fibers are best described as hair powders. You sprinkle a little bit of hair fibers onto your scalp in the areas that look thin and BAM your hair instantly looks thicker. I’ve used Viviscal hair fibers in the past in the part of my hair when I wanted it to look fuller in that area.
I find that when I try to do a braid hairstyle a lot of the times I end up with weird parts and bald lines on my head. I can sprinkle some hair fibers into the parts to cover up those holes. Thankfully, hair fibers come in a variety of hair colors and brands that you can try for yourself. They look really natural, and nobody will ever be able to tell your hair isn’t as luscious as it seems.
Don’t forget that hair loss that you think is stress related might actually be due to an underlying medical condition. Some conditions that can cause hair loss include: thyroid problems, anemia, nutritional deficiencies, weight loss, and anorexia. Make sure that you consult with your doctor if you notice excessive hair loss before self medicating and embarking on a trip to CVS for the Rogaine.
Have you ever noticed hair loss after a experiencing a big stressor in your life? How did you deal with it?
- Mayo Clinic. Can stress cause hair loss? http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/expert-answers/stress-and-hair-loss/faq-20057820
- American Academy of Dermatology. Hair Loss. http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/e—h/hair-loss/signs-symptoms
- Wikipedia. Minoxidil. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoxidil