Does stress cause hair loss?

August 9th, 2019

It may be one of the top 5 hair loss myths, but it’s technically true: stress causes hair loss. Don’t start stressing just yet! That may exasperate your hair loss. No, you shouldn’t stress because the hair loss caused by stress isn’t permanent (and it’s also not the same as male pattern baldness AKA androgenetic alopecia)!

Can Stress cause Hair Loss?

If you asked the Mayo Clinic, “Can stress cause hair loss?” they’d say, “Yes,” and provide the three most common forms of stress-induced hair loss: telogen effluvium, trichotillomania, and alopecia areata. As explained by the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, Telogen effluvium hair loss is when you have an experience so stressful that your hairs are shocked into a state of acute or chronic rest. Yikes! Examples of stressful events include childbirth, inadequate protein caused by diet, over or underactive thyroid, major surgery, etc. You don’t have to seek a hair loss remedy for telogen effluvium because most cases just go away so long as the impetus for the hair loss isn’t ongoing. New hair will just replace old hair (and hairs falling out is even a part of this process). Phew!

Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), the Mayo Clinic reports, is when you consciously or unconsciously pull your own hair out, whether it be on your head or anywhere else. Oh, boy! It’s a compulsion that’s used as a means of warding off unwanted feelings such as stress, loneliness, or boredom. The hair loss remedies for trichotillomania can be quite effective (yay!) and include cultivating habits that are alternatives to hair-pulling (like tugging on your ear or doodling); cognitive behavioral therapy, which includes correcting the false beliefs one may have about one’s self that inspire the hair-pulling; or a mindfulness practice that allows you to acknowledge your hair-pulling urges without engaging them.

Lastly, there’s alopecia areata, which is when hair loss is caused by your body’s immune system attacking hair follicles. The precise cause has yet to be determined! The National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s list of Treatments for Alopecia Areata include oral and topical medication that can block the immune system from attacking hair or inspire hair to grow back in milder cases. Unfortunately those hair loss solutions for men and women, despite being approved for other diseases, are not approved for the treatment of alopecia areata. Whomp whomp! If all the sound effects in this article have been stressing you just take a deep breath, and label that thought as an anxiety. As the journal of Psychological Science explains in the paper, “Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling Disrupts Amygdala Activity in Response to Affective Stimuli.” Hooray!

While hair loss caused by stress is unfortunate, it’s a form of hair loss that’s categorically different from androgenetic alopecia, which you would know if you knew “What is DHT and how does it impact hair loss?” DHT is dihydrotestosterone, which is what you get when testosterone is exposed to the enzyme Type II 5-alpha-reductase. If this reaction occurs within the hair follicle’s oil glands, kaboom!, goodbye hair follicles and hello male pattern baldness. And the best way to tell if you’re going to experience androgenetic alopecia isn’t a survey of the amount of stress in your life.

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