Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?
Yes, stress can indeed cause or worsen hair loss, which can fall into three categories: telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, and trichotillomania. The good news is that stress-related hair loss is usually temporary. Still, if it’s bothering you, it’s best to consult a doctor.
Regardless of your age or gender, hair loss can be upsetting and alarming, especially if the cause is unknown. While it’s normal for hair to thin with age, a sudden or patchy loss might indicate an underlying condition, medication reaction, or stress. The purpose of this article is to discuss the causes, symptoms, and potential treatments for stress-induced hair loss.
The Prevalence of Hair Loss in Men
Hair loss is a common concern among men, affecting a significant portion of the population. It is estimated that approximately 50% of men experience some degree of hair loss by the age of 50. This condition can have a profound impact on self-esteem and emotional well-being, making it an important issue to address.
Hair loss can be influenced by a combination of factors. These include:
- Androgenetic alopecia: The most prevalent form of hair loss in men is androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male pattern baldness. This type of hair loss is largely influenced by genetics and hormones.
- Environmental Factors: Environmental causes like exposure to pollutants and toxins can also contribute to hair thinning.
- Lifestyle: lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can worsen the condition.
- Stress: Research has shown that chronic stress can contribute to various health problems, including cardiovascular issues, weakened immune system, and digestive disorders. Interestingly, stress can also manifest itself in physical ways, such as exacerbating hair loss in men.
How Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?
Stress can cause hair loss because it triggers the release of stress hormones in our bodies. When we experience stress, our bodies activate the “fight, flight, or freeze” response to help us deal with the situation.
This response is useful for short-term stress, but if stress becomes chronic, it can result in an excess of stress hormones circulating in our bodies which can have a negative impact on our health, including hair loss.
Types of Stress-Related Hair Loss
Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that is commonly triggered by stress. Our head has hundreds of thousands of hairs, and not all are growing at the same time. Hairs in the telogen phase are resting and will fall out after a few months.
In people with telogen effluvium, more hairs than usual move from the growing anagen phase to the resting telogen phase, resulting in abnormal hair loss. Stressful experiences can cut short the anagen phase and push more hairs into the telogen phase, causing hair loss. It may take several months after a stressful event for the hair loss to begin.
Additionally, telogen effluvium has also been linked to people who have had COVID-19, though COVID-related hair loss is more prevalent in women than men. The link is between COVID and telogen effluvium is not yet entirely understood, however.
Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that can be triggered by stress. It is believed to be related to the immune system and usually causes small coin-sized bald patches across the scalp, face, and body. For some people, these patches may progress to total hair loss.
Stress is thought to be a trigger that can set off the symptoms of alopecia areata, likely due to stress hormones affecting the immune system and causing immune cells to target hair follicles. People who experience patchy hair loss can often recall a stressful event a few weeks before noticing the hair loss.
The condition can be temporary, with hair returning after a few months.
Trichotillomania is a behavioral disorder characterized by the urge to pull out one’s own hair, sometimes resulting in noticeable hair loss. Trichotillomania is a disorder that primarily affects women, and is rarely reported in men.
The exact cause of trichotillomania is unknown, but it is believed to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Stress may exacerbate symptoms for some individuals.
Treatment Options For Stress-Induced Hair Loss
If stress is causing hair loss and regrowth is not occurring naturally, several treatment options are available:
- Minoxidil: Minoxidil is a topical medication that can be applied directly to the scalp to treat hair thinning caused by telogen effluvium.
- Prescription Treatments: For alopecia areata, dermatologists can prescribe steroid creams, lotions, tablets, or injections, as well as dithranol and immunotherapy. Your doctor may prescribe some of these treatments.
- Psychological Therapy: Trichotillomania, on the other hand, is often related to anxiety or OCD and usually requires psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. If you are experiencing hair loss and think it may be due to trichotillomania or other stress-related factors, discuss these concerns with your doctor.
Stress management techniques
Effectively managing stress is essential for minimizing its impact on hair loss. If you believe that stress is the cause of your hair loss, try these tips to manage it:
- Pinpoint the situations that are causing your stress (work, relationships, illness, etc.).
- Take charge of the situation by prioritizing tasks and seeking support from others.
- Exercise regularly to boost your mood.
- Stay connected with loved ones and colleagues.
- Reduce your consumption of cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine.
- Maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet.
A healthy lifestyle can contribute to stronger hair and better stress management. A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients supports hair growth and overall health. Sufficient sleep and rest are also crucial for combating stress.
By prioritizing self-care and healthy habits, individuals can mitigate the effects of stress on hair loss.
Recognizing the relationship between stress and hair loss in men Understanding the connection between stress and hair loss is crucial for effectively addressing the issue. By acknowledging the impact of stress on hair health, individuals can take proactive steps to manage stress and minimize its effects on hair loss.
The importance of addressing stress for overall well-being Managing stress not only benefits hair health but also contributes to overall well-being. By adopting stress management techniques and leading a healthy lifestyle, individuals can improve their quality of life, boost self-confidence, and maintain healthier hair.
Related: The Best Supplements for Hair Loss
1. Can stress-related hair loss be reversed?
Stress-related hair loss can often be reversed. Once the underlying stressors are addressed and managed effectively, hair growth can resume. However, the timeline for regrowth varies from person to person and depends on various factors such as individual physiology, overall health, and the severity of hair loss.
It’s important to be patient and consistent with stress management strategies while giving the hair follicles time to recover.
2. How long does it take for hair to grow back after stress-induced hair loss?
The regrowth timeline for hair after stress-induced hair loss can vary. In most cases, it takes several months for noticeable regrowth to occur. Hair grows at an average rate of about half an inch (1.25 cm) per month, so it may take several months to see significant changes.
Consistency in stress management techniques and adopting a healthy lifestyle can expedite the regrowth process.
3. Are there specific hair care products or treatments that can help with stress-related hair loss?
While specific hair care products can help improve the overall health and appearance of hair, they may not directly target stress-related hair loss. It’s important to focus on managing stress and addressing the underlying causes rather than relying solely on external treatments.
However, certain hair-growth products containing ingredients like biotin, minoxidil, and other hair-strengthening compounds may support hair health during the regrowth process.
4. Can medications or supplements assist in preventing stress-induced hair loss?
Medications and supplements may be prescribed by a healthcare professional to address stress-induced hair loss in some cases. These can include medications to regulate hormonal imbalances or supplements that support hair growth, such as biotin, vitamin D, or iron.
However, it is essential to consult with a medical professional before starting any medication or supplement regimen.
5. Are there other underlying medical conditions that can contribute to hair loss exacerbated by stress?
Yes, there are several underlying medical conditions that can contribute to hair loss, which can be exacerbated by stress. Some examples include thyroid disorders, autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata, scalp infections, and nutritional deficiencies.
It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying medical conditions and determine the most appropriate course of treatment for hair loss related to stress.
Mark McIntyre is the founder of MaleHealthReview.com and acts as it’s chief contributor. He is a fitness trainer and avid mountain biker who also enjoys camping, hiking and fishing. Besides managing Male Health Review, Mark is also a guest columnist for several blogs related to men’s health. More about this author…