If you suddenly see a lot of hair loss during a shower or while brushing your hair, it is time to pause and ponder. Chances are high that your stress levels are soaring! Hair loss from stress is rampant in today’s time, and sadly, the link between the two is often ignored.
Doctors today confirm that addressing hair loss in most cases includes stress management. An interesting fact is that stress-related hair loss happens six to twelve weeks after the occurrence of a stressful event. The pattern of the hair growth cycle is such that it takes a certain time for the resultant stress to manifest itself through hair loss.
Here is what can lead to stress-related hair loss -
- Chronic illness
- Relationship or financial issues
- Recurrent jet lag
Doctors and hair-specialists associate three types of hair loss with stress. These are -
When stress level reaches an optimum level, it can put a great many numbers of hair follicles to a resting stage. Eventually, in a matter of months, the hairs that got affected might start falling all of a sudden. This is Telogen effluvium, which can happen even when brushing the hair or during the shower. It is not concentrated in one place and is widespread on the scalp and often results in extensive hair loss on a daily basis.
Under stress, we fail to look after ourselves and either skip meals or binge on food and drinks – both affect the body negatively. Stress can also affect digestion and the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients.
Hair, being a non-essential tissue, often ends up being the first victim of nutrient deficiency in the body. If vitamin, iron, or protein is deficient, or if the meals taken are less in calories, Telogen effluvium can be a common consequence.
Moreover, stress affects the immune system, and in many cases, makes it more prone to illnesses, such as - flu, fevers, and stomach upset – all these, in turn, lead to hair loss.
Trichotillomania is another fall out of stress and happens when there is an overwhelming impulse to pull hair out from the scalp or other parts of the body. This type of pulling of hair occurs when one tries to tackle stress, nervousness, lonesomeness, boredom, or irritation.
This hair-pulling disorder can lead to small or large bald patches on the scalp and is generally very disturbing for those who are afflicted by it.
Though there are a large number of causes behind alopecia areata – an autoimmune disorder- acute stress is known to be the most critical one. In 90% of cases, it is linked to stress, death, sickness, or some form of accident. In this condition, the immune system of our body hits the hair follicles, which in turn results in hair loss.
When affected by this condition, bald spots, generally circular, start appearing randomly on the scalp. Usually, the size of baldness is small, i.e., that of a coin, but the spots can also be bigger.
That said, stress is also known to aggravate the effects of androgenic alopecia significantly - or hair thinning. Androgenic alopecia is genetic and is caused when hair follicles are sensitive to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) - a particular type of testosterone. Follicle sensitivity increases during puberty. However, stress is also known to raise the stress hormone (cortisol) secretion, which in turn increases testosterone levels, contributing to androgenic alopecia.
Relax! Stress and hair loss is not a permanent reality and can be addressed by taking certain measures towards controlling stress. Here are some effective ways to cope -
- Regular yoga / meditation / work out / Pilates
- Swimming / jogging / walking
- Mindfulness / cognitive behavioural therapy
- Always be with people with a positive frame of mind — isolating can be detrimental
- If stress is unmanageable look for a therapist
- Take care of your diet, do not skip meals, eat at regular interval
- Be careful about the products you are using for your hair
- Seek other treatments, like acupuncture / herbal medicines.
Stress never eased anyone’s problem, only increased it. Stay calm; life is ephemeral!
Medically reviewed by Rishabh Verma, RP