Stress is a silent villain, creeping in on our lives without even realizing the toll it’s taking on our bodies.
Without knowing it, stress can wreak havoc on your health. It can produce a range of negative side-effects from unexpected weight loss, sickness, fatigue and even hair loss.
While losing your hair may be stressful in itself, it is far more common than you think. In fact, studies have shown that 12% of women will experience some form of stress and hair loss by the age of 30 years old.
If you’re looking to understand how stress can contribute to hair loss, read on!
Stress and Hair Loss: How Does It Work?
The day-to-day stresses of life are not going to cause your hair to fall out.
Short-term stressful situations may include being stuck in traffic, working overtime or running late to pick up the children. But when stress begins to permeate most aspects of your life for a prolonged period of time, this becomes chronic or intense acute stress.
This is where stress and hair loss go hand-in-hand, bringing health issues to the fore. Chronic stress can disrupt your sleep pattern, your appetite and libido, and increase levels of stress hormone throughout the body.
Stress and hair loss is categorized into three variations, with each form of hair loss known as:
- Telogen Effluvium
- Alopecia Areata
Each of these forms of hair loss carries its own set of characteristics, with chronic or intense acute stress as the underlying cause.
When it comes to stress and hair loss, telogen effluvium is one of the most common forms of hair loss.
Naturally, we tend to shed an average of 100 strands of hair a day. This is simply related to different phases of hair growth.
When your hair is in its resting phase, you aren’t likely to lose much hair during this time. However, when the resting phase is over, hair naturally falls out.
When your body is under tremendous amounts of stress, this can cause hair follicles to be pushed ”out of phase”. During this time an increased amount of hair is pushed into the resting phase.
When this resting phase naturally comes to an end, you will shed an alarming amount of hair, which would obviously cause major concern. This hair shedding is most noticeable when either washing or combing your hair.
This condition is a little rarer, but can also be directly linked to both physical and psychological stress.
With alopecia, the hair tends to fall out in round patches throughout randomized areas of the head. While the sight of alopecia may appear alarming, it is no way contagious and is merely a result of your immune system attacking your hair follicles.
This form of stress and hair loss can strike at any age, often beginning in childhood if it’s an inherited condition (genetic). However, there are other triggers of alopecia, including allergies, illness, and stress.
Typically, many people suffering from alopecia are suffering from another type of illness. However, healthy people suffering from chronic stress can also develop this form of hair loss.
Trichotillomania is known as a nervous tick and is a self-inflicted form of hair loss, caused by chronic stress
Classed as a ”psychological malady”, external stressors cause an urge to pull, pick and sometimes even chew on your own hair.
A sufferer of trichotillomania may not even be aware of their own condition, pulling at their hair as soon as a stressful situation arises. Naturally, this psychological malady can cause terrible damage to your hair.
Types of Stress Related to Hair Loss
There are two main types of stress: psychological and physical stress.
Psychologically stress takes a toll on your emotions and mental state. Physical ailments, such as hair loss, can then manifest themselves due to this stress.
Physical stress is exactly what the name suggests. This means your body is going through some type of physical change which can lead to a reaction such as hair loss.
Physical types of stress which can cause hair loss include:
- An unusually high fever
- Severe or long-term illness, especially serious infections
- Major surgery which can subject your body to a tremendous amount of stress
- Hormonal fluctuations, such as a drop in estrogen levels, brought on by childbirth for many women
- Crash dieting – shedding an excessive amount of weight in an unhealthy time-frame
- Strong anti-biotics which can cause a severe reaction in your body, resulting in hair loss
- Chronic emotional stress which brings on a suppressed immune system, leading to hair loss.
At times, the lines between psychological stress and physical stress can be blurred.
When you are psychologically stressed, your health is impacted by the choices you make related to your lifestyle.
Not eating regularly, avoiding exercise and sleep deprivation can all lead to a physical stress on your body, which can lead to hair loss.
Tips for reversing Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss – Video
Combatting Stress and Hair Loss
Very often hair loss has a way of correcting itself once external stressors in your life are under control.
However, there are ways in which you can improve your lifestyle and diet to promote a healthier immune system and boost hair growth:
- Maintain a healthy diet packed with fresh fruit, vegetables, and protein
- Supplement your diet with vitamins such as B12, iron and folic acid
- Exercise regularly – this promotes a healthy immune system and reduces stress!
- Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or Pilates
- Take time out of your day for yourself and learn to truly unwind
- Try and avoid heat styling your hair too often – let it air dry as often as possible
- Treat your hair gently when washing, drying and combing to avoid damaging new hair follicles
- Massage your scalp regularly to boost blood flow and cell turnover for the production of new hair.
More often than not, telogen effluvium does not require medical treatment. With time, it will resolve itself once a healthy lifestyle balance is restored.
Believe it or not, by the time you have noticed a significant amount of hair loss, new hair follicles have already begun to grow in their place!
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