Stress is a term that's used regularly to describe any kind of emotional struggle. Many people say things like "I'm stressed out" or "this is stressful" on a daily basis, and such common usage can make it easy to forget that stress is actually a medical condition that has a number of physical and emotional repercussions. Can stress cause hair loss? The simple answer is yes, it can. Stress is also likely to exacerbate hair loss derived from other causes, which can make dealing with it problematic, distressing, and frustrating.
How Is Stress Defined?
Stress is a general term that refers to prolonged or significant strain on the body and the mind, but there are three specific forms of stress:
Routine stress. This is associated with everyday pressures and anxieties at work, as well as dealing with family, friends, and other social issues.
Stress from significant lifestyle changes. This is more dramatic emotional or physical strain brought on by factors such as grief, a divorce, giving birth, major surgery, or medication.
Stress from trauma. If a person has experienced severe danger, such as a car accident, they may continue to experience the effects of this after the event.
Stress and Hair Loss
People who suffer from stress may notice clumps of hair falling out when they shampoo, comb, or run their hands through their hair, which can cause hair to become thin and bald patches to emerge. This is known as telogen effluvium. Losing hair can contribute to a person's stress levels. This creates a vicious cycle of continued stress and hair loss, making the symptom more difficult to manage.
Stress can certainly cause hair loss, but the reason for this is not fully understood. The hormones that are released when a person experiences stress often suppress the functions in the body that aren't needed for immediate survival, which may explain slowness in hair regrowth. However, it is still uncertain why hair falls out in the first place.
Can Hair Loss Be Treated?
At this point, there is no known formula to prevent hair loss caused by stress; the symptom usually lessens naturally around six to eight weeks after stress levels begin to decline. Certain herbal remedies and lifestyle changes can stimulate and catalyze hair regrowth in the meantime.
Of course, hair does not grow overnight, which means that waiting for regrowth can be frustrating and upsetting. Avoiding harsh treatments, such as hair dye, heat styling, and tugging on hair while brushing it - as well as using herbal oils for conditioning - are effective ways to boost volume and mask hair loss.
Usually, it's not difficult to identify when you are suffering from excess stress because your general well-being will be compromised. When your emotional anxieties manifest themselves physically, such as through hair loss, this can be inspiration to make healthy changes to your lifestyle or consult a counselor or doctor about other treatment options for stress.
- National Health Service UK. (2012). Women and hair loss: coping tips. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/hairloss/Pages/Womenandhairloss.aspx
- National Institutes of Health. (2013). Hair loss: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003246.htm
- National Institutes of Health. (2014). Stress. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/stress.html
- National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Fact Sheet on Stress. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml