Is there a relationship between stress and hair loss?
Although it has been seen by some as an old tale, in fact, it seems that there is such a relationship. So, what is the impact of stress on hair loss and why does it arise?
The language and wisdom
For centuries, people have associated stress with hair loss and hair fall. That has been so commonplace that it has even entered into the language in expressions such as “no need to lose your hair over this” or “keep your hair on” when people are becoming angry and stressed over something.
Both clearly indicate that there has long been such an association. However, hard evidence for such has equally long been lacking.
Through science and experimentation, it’s now known that three specific types of hair loss, affecting both men and women, can be driven by stress in total or part:
- Telogen effluvium. This condition arises when stress pushes the hair follicles (or numbers of them) into their inactive state. That means after as little as a few weeks, you may see hair loss or hair drop when shampooing or brushing/combing your hair.
- Trichotillomania. This slightly scary name refers to what most of us call ‘compulsive hair pulling’ or ‘hair twisting’. In some cases, the affected person isn’t fully aware they’re doing so and in others, they may be but just can’t stop. This is a psychological condition sometimes associated with stress and at times, other aspects of mental health. The end effect is a weakening of the hair and increased hair loss. Once incorrectly associated largely with younger women, it’s now known to also be commonplace in younger men.
- Alopecia areata. This is a disturbing condition where the body’s own immune system starts attacking the hair follicles – with predictable results. There are a number of causes of this and one is strongly suspected to be stress.
In all cases, the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood but the role of stress as a key component is now generally accepted.
So, yes, stress can easily lead to hair drop.
Unless you have special hair treatment or medical training, you will be unlikely to be able to precisely define the cause of your hair loss and balding.
If your hair seems to be suddenly thinning significantly and/or bald patches are appearing, you should consult a doctor. A sudden and rapid loss of hair is perhaps an indication of an underlying medical condition of which you may be unaware.
If your hair loss is slower, you could alternatively consult a hair care specialist for their opinion.
The treatment of stress
Clinical stress requires counselling in order for the exact origins and causes to be identified. Your doctor may help with that or they may refer you to a specialist.
The expert may then recommend any of several courses of action, including:
- various relaxation techniques (meditation, hypnosis, yoga, holidays, hobbies);
- dietary changes;
- a change of lifestyle to achieve a better work-life balance.
You should always only seek counselling, meditation and hypnosis as stress treatments when you have been referred to a specific practitioner by a doctor or other qualified medical expert.
One of the most important and sometimes difficult factors with stress is to acknowledge that you’re suffering it.
Most of us like to think we can cope and that admitting we’re struggling to cope with stress is something of an admission of defeat. However, stress can be serious and in some medical situations, it can literally kill.
So, don’t be heroic. If you feel you’re under mounting stress and are struggling to cope, hair loss or not, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor.