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Stress and Hair Loss: How Are They Linked?

by Tatiana Alcazar

June 10, 2021

a woman suffers from stress and hair loss
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Did you know stress and hair loss go hand-in-hand?

In fact, the two form a vicious cycle that can quickly spiral out of control.

Unfortunately, we live in a society full of external stressors.

Between relationships, jobs, and children, most women have more than their fair share to deal with.

But the problem is, these stressors eventually can contribute to and even cause substantial hair loss.

Keep reading to learn about stress-induced hair loss and what to do about it!

How Do You Know If Your Losing Hair From Stress?

Shedding of hair is a part of the body's normal cycle. According to American Academy of Dermatology the normal daily hair fall is  80-100. So if you notice that you are shedding hair too much than normal, that is a sign that you are possibly losing hair because of stress.

Different situations may trigger hair loss, such as injury, pregnancy, chronic illness, financial concerns, poor nutrition, surgery, relationship issues, death and overwhelmed. Also, some medications like antidepressants.

Hair loss due to stress usually happens after three months of the stressful events. And it takes time to grow back the hair.

Stress and Hair Loss Types

There are 4 types of stress-related hair loss relationships. Although not only stress plays the role of hair loss. The causes of stress may vary, we can sum the symptoms into these categories.

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a severe psychological response to stress in which the sufferer literally pulls their own hair out. 

For that reason, hair loss is an indirect symptom of stress. 

Moreover, people who suffer from trichotillomania pull hair from any area of their body. 

Therapies and treatments include cognitive therapy, habit reversal training, and acceptance and commitment training.

Telogen Effluvium

Stress and hair loss, therefore, can commonly be seen affecting each other in telogen effluvium. 

So, during telogen effluvium, stress forces hair into a constant resting phase.

At this point, the hair will begin to come out in handfuls, which understandably causes alarm.

Telogen effluvium is actually a sign that new hair is coming. Therefore, the only treatment necessary is understanding what caused it in the first place and avoiding it. From there, you just need to wait for the new hair to come in.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is also a disorder in which a person experiences acute hair loss in various areas of their scalp.

This disorder happens when the immune system attacks hair follicles. And this usually occurs over the course of a few days.

In addition, Alopecia areata is often treated with corticosteroid injections and ointments, and other prescribed drugs that work to suppress the immune system and promote hair growth.

The Nocebo Effect

Finally, one of the biggest links between stress and hair loss rests in our minds. 

The placebo effect in fact often recognized in medicinal studies, is when a person experiences positive side effects from taking a fake drug, simply because believe they will. 

Placebo pills also have cured headaches, mental disorders, and even cancer as well.

The nocebo effect, alternatively, occurs when a person experiences negative side effects based on their belief. 

Therefore, if you keep stressing about losing your hair, you will.

What the placebo and nocebo effects boil down to is the fact that our minds have more power and control over our physical experience than most people understand.

The good news? 

If you can lose hair because of negative thoughts, then you can use positive thoughts to regrow it.

How To Stop Hair Falling Out Due To Stress?

Figuring out what the stressors are is important to know, because you may have to try stress management techniques to know what works for you.

Moreover, hair loss due to stress may be temporary, it's possible to grow back in time with the proper treatments. 

Stress Management

There are several ways on how to manage your stress.

  • Having a regular exercise routine.
  • Having a positive attitude sounds useful in dealing with stress, especially if you surround yourself with positive people.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation. Proper breathing exercise helps lower the stress level.
  • Make healthy and balance eating a habit. 
  • Do the things you enjoy.
  • Proper hair care routine will improve hair regrowth.
  • Seek professional advice from the therapist.

Topical Treatment

You may also try topical creams and oils that may help. Ask your doctor for these treatments before trying it.

  • Topical Minoxidil. It is a US-FDA approved, over-the-counter medicine which is available in different forms (cream, spray, foam). The topical minoxidil will help you regrow your hair, especially in the early stage of hair loss. 
  • Topical corticosteroids. This medication is good especially for those suffering from Alopecia Areata. Topical corticosteroid is a type of steroid and usually applied directly to the skin. It is an anti-inflammatory that may effectively improve the condition. In fact, it is also used to treat skin conditions like eczema, rashes dermatitis, itching and psoriasis.
  • Castor Oil. Massaging castor oil into your scalp to the rest of your hair may promote hair regrowth. It helps the root to become stronger and prevent hair fall. The castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid that fights inflammation and may enhance the health of the hair follicles.

Balance Is Key

Like most problems in life, the correlation between stress and hair loss ultimately comes down to imbalance

Fortunately, we can help you there! Check out our article on planning for a healthy lifestyle or visit our homepage for a link to my free 10-step guide to a healthy lifestyle!

Sources:

  1. Stone, Jim Ph D. "5 Sources of Stress and Anxiety in the Modern World." Psychology Today, 30 Mar. 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/clear-organized-and-motivated/201703/5-sources-stress-and-anxiety-in-the-modern-world
  2.  "Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder.", MAYO CLINIC, 17, Nov. 2016
  3. Newman, Tim. "Is the placebo real?" MedicalNewsToday, 7 Sept. 2017, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306437.php
  4. Aktas, Habibullah et al. "Could Topical Minoxidil Cause Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy?" NCBI, 1 Aug. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5028441/
  5. "Treatments for Alopecia Areata." Alopecia Areata, https://www.naaf.org/alopecia-areata/alopecia-areata-treatments

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About the author 

Tatiana Alcazar  -  A software engineer, former IBMer, co-founder of Naravis Corporation and a mom, with a passion for finding the solution and root cause to everything that comes across, including health. It has been a long journey since founding Naravis and trying to find solutions to my leaky gut syndrome and pursue natural health. Throughout this journey I have learned an enormous amount of information (acquired knowledge) and I feel it's my duty to share my knowledge and my experience with you.

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