How does stress affect hair loss?
Stress is the reaction of your body to any feeling of emotional or physical tension. When this feeling lasts for a longer span of time, it may have a negative impact on your body. It can become part of your system, without you realising it; this is dangerous and the situation demands medical help. The hair loss could happen due to a variety of stressful situations including pregnancy, illness, injury and medication among other things.
The hormones cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine released due to stress, are part of the body’s spontaneous reaction to deal with precarious situations. One experiences sweating, an increase in blood pressure, headaches and chest pain among other things. In the long run, if the problem is chronic, one can also experience hair loss due to stress.
Stress also weakens our immune system, and makes us more vulnerable to illnesses. For example, when we have bouts of flu or diarrhoea, we tend to lose hair as our body is in shock, and takes time to reorganise its defences against toxins.
Types of Stress Related Hair Loss
Hair loss is sometimes associated with stress, but this is not an irreversible situation. If you can control your stress, there is a high possibility that your hair might grow back. There are essentially 3 types of stress related to hair loss.
- Telogen Effluvium (TE): Due to this condition quite a few hair follicles enter the resting or telogen phase, due to stress. At any given point of time about 5-10% of hair is in the resting phase, but during TE the number increases considerably. At times the hair loss exceeds more than 100 strands, on a daily basis. This is because of an irregular shift of the number of hairs towards the telogen phase; this does not usually begin till at least about three months from the triggering event. Though the people suffering from TE don’t lose all their scalp hair, they might lose the hair in patches due to stress, particularly towards the centre.
- Trichotillomania: This is a disorder that produces irresistible and repetitive urges to pull out hair from the eyebrows, scalp and other parts of the body. When hair is pulled, it could leave bald patches. This might force the person to resort to extraordinary measures to cover it up, resulting in additional hair loss due to stress. The hair pulling may happen intentionally to relieve stress, or it could be done inadvertently to distract oneself from more stressful matters. According to research, Trichotillomania can be genetic, and could start during the preteens.
- Alopecia Areata: Bald patches or hair thinning across the entire scalp, is because of alopecia due to stress. The hair loss due to stress generally happens in patches across the scalp, and can be of a couple of centimetres or lesser. This disorder forces the body’s immune system to attack its own hair follicles, as it mistakes them for foreign substances.
There is no known cure for this condition and the hair may grow and fall repeatedly; this might lead to depression. The condition is highly unpredictable, and while some may recovery fully, others may experience further hair loss due to stress. It is mostly believed to affect people with a genetic condition of other autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis. However, females are more likely to develop alopecia due to stress than males.
How Do I Know if My Hair is Falling Out Due to Stress.
While it is normal for any person to lose close to 100 strands per day, anything that exceeds that number could be a cause for concern. If you end up with a fistful of hair when you run your hand through your scalp, or find your bed full with a number of extra strands then a visit to a hair specialist is suggested. And there is no reason to panic, at least not as yet, and if you are asking - I have experienced extreme hair loss due to stress, will it grow back ? - the answer will definitely be a resounding - yes.
The increase in the stress factors in modern society have resulted in an exponential increase in the number of individuals experiencing hair fall due to stress. The stress forces the increased production of the hormone called cortisol, and the hair shifts from the growth to the resting phase. This could cause you to experience a lot of hair loss due to stress, and lose a lot of your cover around the temples. The person might even probably develop a bald spot due to stress.
How to Control Hair Fall Due to Stress
Hair loss can definitely be associated with emotional stress or disturbances. There is usually at least a 3-month time lapse from the onset of the period of stress to the hair loss due to stress. Unless there are other ailments, it is usually followed by a phase of recovery. If not other measures may have to be explored.
- At times of stress the drug Minoxidil can be applied to the scalp to prolong the growth phase of your hair. The results however, will take almost a year to show. Similarly, Anthralin is a drug that is used to irritate the skin to induce hair growth if one experiences hair thinning due to stress. Apart from that Corticosteroid creams also mitigate inflammation around the follicles, to combat hair loss due to stress and increase hair growth.
- The testosterone enhancing oral medicine, Finasteride is used to revive hair growth and has helped people suffering from hair thinning due to stress. Research indicates that a lot of people have experienced increased hair growth after taking the medicine. Some women have however been severely troubled by its side effects.
- Topical immunotherapy is an uncommon technique whereby an allergic rash is generated in the skin, to produce a new growth of hair in 6 months. But this method demands sustained treatment for good results.
- Steroids can also be injected into the system to induce hair growth in bald spots, and reduce hair loss due to stress.
- Oral medication is also an option, and cortisone tablets are on occasions used to treat alopecia. However, the possible side effects warrant, that they be taken under medical supervision. Similarly oral immunosuppressants can also lead to high blood pressure and a host of other adverse effects.
- Light therapy uses oral medicines and UV light to treat the problem. Photons are absorbed by the feeble cells to trigger hair growth.
There are also other less radical methods like the following:
- One can take up meditation, learn deep breathing techniques and yoga. They have a soothing effect on the mind and greatly reduce hair loss due to stress and anxiety. The advantage of these systems is that they have a holistic approach to treatment. They will relax the body and bring it to a state of calm, and at the same time they will pacify and settle the mind.
- One of the most effective ways of dealing with stress is to exercise regularly. The exercise will help bring the much-needed discipline into your life apart from flushing out the impurities from the body. You do not need to start with those heavy duty exercises, but try and ease into it, with those light jogs around the park.
- Most doctors recommend multivitamins to correct the hormonal imbalances in the body which trigger hair loss due to stress. On occasions a stronger dose might be suggested, depending on the severity of the problem of hair loss due to stress.
- It is very important to treat your hair with the necessary care and provide the necessary nourishment. Apart from a healthy diet, care has to be taken to wash and dry it in a gentle manner. While styling your hair, take the required precautions to ensure that there is no rough handling, which could damage your hair and aggravate the problem.
High levels of stress can have serious repercussions on your entire well-being, as it affects your emotional as well as physical health. It impacts your capacity to think clearly and forces you to look at things in a negative perspective, resulting hair loss due to stress. So stress management is extremely important to ensure your sanity and safety. The catch is to find your customised solution to these problems, as there is no single given remedy for these issues. That is to say what is stressful for Joe, may not be stressful for Jack.
- The first step is to identify your bugbear, the sources for your stressors in life, and make appropriate arrangements to deal with them. Don’t blame other people for your problems or ignore those problems by procrastinating. Take control of your life by removing those bad habits, and the people who induce those negative thoughts in you. That is the first way of reducing hair loss due to stress
- It is very important to express your feelings instead of bottling them inside you. The frustration that results from pent up emotions could be mentally aggravating. It is also advisable to make those compromises, so that one does not get into disturbing arguments that worsen into mental conflicts. At the same time be assertive, and do not be afraid to speak your mind.
- Try and develop a solution-oriented mindset, look for those point-of-views that will prove that you are looking for the answers, and not an excuse to complicate the issue. Develop the capacity to analyse things from a long term perspective; do not make the decisions based on short term gains as they could only aggravate your hair loss due to stress.
- Don’t be a control freak; learn to make those adjustments and let go of things that are not in your control. Don’t give matters more importance than they deserve; they could only lead to more frustration and hair loss due to stress. And don’t take more on your plate than you can manage; this might turn out to the biggest stressor.
At Traya Health, we recognise that stress is one of the biggest hair loss factors. That is why our treatment techniques are designed to address the problems in a holistic manner. Once you are settled in the mind, you can visit us for a consultation. Our experts will analyse your issues in detail, to suggest the best hair rejuvenation procedures for you.
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Heena is our Hair Expert on board. She has a Masters in English Literature and is total nerd about medical journals and research.