You have heard the saying ‘pulling your hair out’ to describe intense periods of stress, but have you ever wondered if it’s true? Unfortunately, stress and hair loss isn’t a myth – stress can have a significant effect on our bodies, including our hair.
Why does stress cause hair loss?
The most common three conditions linked to stress-related hair loss include telogen effluvium, trichotillomania and alopecia areata.
Telogen effluvium and stress
Telogen effluvium is a common cause of temporary hair loss. It can disturb the hair’s growth cycle when you’re undergoing stress, causing the hairs to shift prematurely into the shedding phase. As a result, you may notice that more of your hair seems to be falling out in clumps, as more of the hair will be at the same point of the growth cycle. However, stress doesn’t usually cause immediate hair loss – due to the nature of the growth cycle, stress-related hair loss typically presents around 6-12 weeks after stressful periods.
Poor nutrition can also be linked to telogen effluvium. Some people find that they lose their appetite or consume far more unhealthy foods when they are stressed than they ordinarily would. If your diet is lacking in the nutrients your body needs, hair loss is more likely.
Trichotillomania and stress
Trichotillomania is another common stress-related hair loss. Trichotillomania is a psychological condition where sufferers feel the compulsion to pull the hair from their scalp and other areas of the body, including their eyebrows and eyelashes. Sufferers may have significant thinning or bald patches as a result of pulling the hair.
It can be an extremely distressing condition for sufferers, and although it’s still unclear what causes trichotillomania, stress can be a trigger for some. Trichotillomania is treatable, so if you believe you suffer from this condition, visit your GP, who can refer you for treatment.
Alopecia areata and stress
Another common type of stress-related hair loss – and probably the most widely known – is alopecia areata.
When suffering from alopecia areata, the body’s immune system attacks the follicles, resulting in severe hair loss. In most cases, it will cause hair to thin, whilst in other cases, it may cause patches of bald spots on your scalp. The hair will usually regrow over time but then fall out again, creating a vicious hair loss cycle that can cause anxiety and lack of confidence. It can happen at any age, and although there is no sure answer as to what causes the condition, it is thought to be genetic.
Managing your stress levels is key, not just for the sake of your hair but your overall health. If you’re worried about your hair loss, make sure to visit your GP to check for any underlying health conditions that could be behind it.