Is Stress Related to Hair Fall?
This is a question asked by many, although the causes of hair fall are still unclear. It is believed that pattern hair loss, which affects half of the male population and a quarter of the female population, occurs due to a combination of genetics and hormonal changes, particularly those related to the male hormone dihydrotestosterone or DHT.
This is the most common cause of hair loss and is characterized by a gradual receding of the hairline from the front and sides in men, and a slow thinning of the hair all over the scalp in women.
However, some people experience hair loss in different ways. They may see a sudden spike in hair fall in the form of large clumps of hair falling out in the shower or getting caught in their hairbrush. This is not the same as pattern hair loss, and there are theories that this kind of hair fall may be related to stress.
Anxiety and Stress
It is important to be clear on the kind of stress that causes hair loss. Many people believe that anxiety can be a cause, but this is not necessarily true.
Anxiety is a state of mind that causes emotional stress over the long term. This, on its own, cannot cause hair loss. However, emotional stress may lead to physiological stress, which is the real culprit here.
Physiological stress refers to the body’s reaction to an event or circumstance that triggers a sudden drastic change in physiology, which can create a chain reaction that ultimately leads to hair loss.
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Three Kinds of Hair Loss Related to Stress
- Telogen Effluvium
This phenomenon is a disruption of the growth cycle of the hair. A hair follicles growth cycle can be divided into four parts namely:
- Anagen, the growth phase, which lasts anywhere from two to six years.
- Catagen, which lasts a few days and is characterized by a slight shrinking of the hair follicle.
- Telogen, the dormant phase.
- Exogen, which is the phase in which the hair falls out.
Normally, only about 50 to 100 hairs fall out each day. However, significant physiological stress can trigger telogen effluvium, which pushes a large number of hair follicles into the resting phase. As a result, this large number of hairs will fall out after a few months.
This condition is characterized by a tempting feeling of satisfaction to pull out hair from one’s scalp, eyebrows and/or eyelashes, often without realizing it. It is possibly a way of dealing with unresolved thoughts or feelings such as extreme sadness, stress, anxiety, boredom and failure.
- Alopecia Areata
This occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the follicles of the hair on various parts of the body. Hair loss caused by stress is often not permanent. However, it is important to note that if the stress remains, then so will the hair fall. It may be the body’s way of trying to bring something to your attention.
Other Causes of Hair Loss and Stress
- Physiological stress can be caused by various factors. A strict low-calorie diet that causes you to lose a lot of weight in a very short period is often responsible for wreaking havoc with the body’s physiological functions, especially the balance of hormones. This could lead to a spike in DHT levels, which will cause sudden hair loss. This holds for any kind of “fad diet” or shortcut to losing weight.
- Severe illness or major surgery can also cause hair loss. This is because the body’s immune system automatically goes into survival mode to counter the damage caused by illness or surgery, and if the change is radical enough, it can manifest in various ways including hair fall.
- Stress-related hair fall in women could also occur after childbirth or after ceasing to take oral contraceptives. This is directly related to the hormonal changes caused by the two phenomena.
- Generally speaking, though, environmental stress can trigger a physiological change if it is significant. Often, when an event causes trauma, as in a bad breakup or a death in the family, the body becomes flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone that triggers the fight-or-flight response.
In some instances, this reaction pushes a large number of hairs on the head or the body into the telogen phase, which is the resting phase that lasts a few months. Hence, it confuses the phase because the hair fall occurs only three or four months after the traumatic experience.
In most cases, the hair grows back normally after a few months. Incidentally, anxiety disorders have the same effect of flooding the body with cortisol, so the only way to get rid of anxiety related to hair loss is to overcome the anxiety.
To conclude, it is best to widen your gaze when searching for the right hair loss treatment because the solution is often deeper than the hair loss itself, as in the case of anxiety disorders. And for some, the healthiest solution is acceptance. Studies have shown that the psychological impact of baldness is not particularly crippling in most cases.