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Hair Loss and Stress

  • Friday 16 September 2022
  • 4 minute(s) read

Excessive stress can sometimes lead to certain types of hair loss. In turn, hair loss can increase stress and anxiety, causing more hair loss. If stress is the root cause of your hair loss condition, it is important to talk to your doctor about stress-management therapies that can help.

Effective therapies for stress include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy (MBSR). For some, music or art therapy may be more effective.

Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist to work on resolving the stress in your life. In the meantime, you may be prescribed oral minoxidil to stimulate the scalp and increase hair growth. Read on to learn more about the relationship between stress and hair loss.

Why Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?

Stress and anxiety can cause hair follicles to go into a resting phase (telogen). Although the resting phase is part of the hair growth cycle, only 15 percent of the hair on a healthy scalp should be in the telogen phase. 1 When stress causes too many hair follicles to remain in the resting phase, it delays the growth of new hair strands, leading to hair loss.

a man covering his face and showing signs of stress

This particular type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium. Hormone fluctuations and poor nutrition can contribute to this type of hair loss, but stress is the main risk factor that causes hair to fall out during routine washing and combing.

Everyday situations can cause more stress than you think. Situations like relationship problems, financial difficulty, and pregnancy can trigger telogen effluvium. To prevent stress-induced hair loss, visit your doctor or a professional counselor. A therapist can recommend relaxation techniques or an exercise routine to combat stress.

Types of Hair Loss Linked to Stress

In addition to telogen effluvium, stress is linked to a hair loss condition called trichotillomania. This is a psychological condition that involves the unconscious pulling of hair during stressful periods. Trichotillomania, also called hair-pulling disorder, is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It typically begins in adolescence and is more common in women. 2 You may be diagnosed with this condition if your doctor finds evidence that your hair has been forcefully removed.

a man in a counseling session

Finally, stress-induced hair loss can be caused by an autoimmune disorder (alopecia areata). An autoimmune disorder involves the body’s defense system attacking its own cells. Stress and anxiety may not directly cause alopecia areata, but hair loss and balding from this condition can induce stress and increase the risk of telogen effluvium. The good news is that hair loss caused by anxiety is usually temporary.

Is Hair Loss from Stress Permanent?

Hair loss from stress is not always permanent. The reversibility of your hair loss depends on your type of hair loss. If you have telogen effluvium, you may experience hair regrowth with corticosteroids or vasodilators like minoxidil. 3 With time, the right medication and successful stress-management therapies can help with hair growth.

Hair loss from a hair-pulling disorder may also be reversed in some cases. Over time, extensively damaged hair follicles may grow out slowly or not at all. While there are currently no approved medications for treating trichotillomania, several forms of behavioral treatments may help. 4 If your hair-pulling disorder is diagnosed early on, there is a good chance that your hair will grow back normally, and your hair loss may not be permanent.

If you have alopecia areata, you may also have a chance of regrowing your hair. For some, alopecia areata may not destroy all hair follicles, but others may experience scarring and irreversible hair loss. A peer-reviewed publication estimates that 34 to 50 percent of patients with alopecia areata spontaneously recover their hair growth within one year. 5 To find out whether your hair loss is permanent, talk to your primary healthcare provider for an assessment.

a man getting a haircut at a barbershop

How to Regain Hair Loss from Stress

Addressing the main cause of your stress is an essential part of your hair loss treatment. Visit this article to learn more about hair loss treatment options.

After an assessment and a proper diagnosis, you may be prescribed minoxidil 5% or another hair loss medication based on your condition. Some drugs for hair loss, such as finasteride, are only approved for men.

In one study of adolescent twins, researchers found that the capacity to handle stress is not entirely hereditary but a learned skill. 6 There is a myriad of stress management techniques available, ranging from nutrition and exercise to meditation and mindfulness practices.

Some patients find that a structured stress-management intervention like the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program is the most helpful. In contrast, others prefer individual stress-reducing activities like yoga and breathing exercises. The key is to identify and better understand your stress triggers. To learn more about the causes of hair loss, visit our hair loss blog for more hair loss articles today.

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The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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