Can Stress Cause Hair Loss?

December 13, 2019

 

 

Throughout our lives, it's common for hair to change in texture and thickness. But knowing this doesn’t make it any more comfortable when you find your hair getting thinner each day. If your hair is thinning or falling out, you are probably anxious to know the cause. 

 

There are quite a few reasons we lose hair, but stress results in hair loss far more than people realize. Yes, stress and hair loss can be related.

 

Many people are surprised that stress management can be an important part of hair-loss treatment plans. Let's dive into what causes hair loss and how stress plays a role, and what you can do to fix it.

 

Normal Hair Loss

 

Hair isn't meant to stay on the scalp indefinitely. Everyone loses about 100 hairs per day out of the 100,000 strands on our heads. This hair loss is due to things like normal wear and tear, and genetics.

 

Normal wear and tear include lifespan and styling. The average lifespan of a hair is 4.5 years. Then it falls out and is replaced within six months by a new strand. Styling includes shampooing, blow-drying, and brushing. Most of us do this regularly, and these grooming methods can cause a few extra hairs to fall out.

 

Genetics include age, gender, and hormones. After the age of 30, both men and women start losing hair, but men tend to do it faster. By age 30, one in four men is balding, and by age 60, two in three men are balding or bald.

 

Pattern baldness is associated with the hormone testosterone and is why more men experience it. If women have more testosterone in their system as they age, they tend to lose or fail to re-grow more hair. Hair thinning in both women and men is genetic and can be inherited from either parent.

 

Stress & Hair Loss

 

When we are stressed, we often do not take care of ourselves and fall into harmful patterns. These can include skipping meals or eating more processed foods that have little nutritional value. These can create vitamin imbalances, iron deficiency, inadequate protein intake, and contain too few calories. All of it can contribute to hair shedding.

 

Stress also impacts digestion and the body’s absorption of vital nutrients. Because hair is a non-essential tissue, it is the first thing to suffer if your body is lacking in nutrients.

Furthermore, stress affects our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. Illnesses often trigger hair loss.

 

There are three types of more severe hair loss, telogen effluvium, trichotillomania, and alopecia areata that can be worsened by stress. 

 

In telogen effluvium, significant stress pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase. Within a few months, affected hairs might fall out suddenly when simply combing or washing your hair.

 

Trichotillomania is an irresistible urge to pull out hair from the scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of the body. It can result in small or large bald patches. Hair pulling can be a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings, such as stress, tension, loneliness, boredom, or frustration.

 

With alopecia areata, the body's immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss. Severe stress can cause and significantly intensify this condition. One of the main reasons is that stress often increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol, and cortisol raises the levels of testosterone.

 

The good news is that stress and hair loss don't have to be permanent. If you get your stress levels under control, your hair might grow back.

 

Lifestyle Changes to Relieve Stress

 

You can't always prevent stress from occurring in your life, but you can minimize the amount of stress you experience. By cutting down on stressful situations in some areas, you have more energy to manage stress in cases that can't be avoided. Also, working toward reversing your stress response at the moment can help you minimize your experience of chronic stress in the long run. 

 

Some habits are highly effective for managing stress and building resilience toward future stress. Meditation, exercise, and other practices can help you withstand stressful situations. Try making them a regular part of your life, even when you aren't feeling overwhelmed. 

 

It is important to note that stress will usually not cause hair loss straight away. Most hair loss you experience will present itself anywhere from 6-12 weeks after a stressful event, due to the nature of the hair growth cycle.

 

If your hair is thinning or you're experiencing baldness, and it seems abnormal, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to determine the cause. Nashville Hair Clinic can help you make a decision based on your specific concerns and goals. Contact us today at 615-257-1496!

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