Why Stress Causes Hair Loss

Why Stress Causes Hair Loss

Hair loss is a normal part of life. Have you ever wondered why stress causes hair loss?

Our hair follicles go through natural cycles of rest and re-growth, which keeps our hair healthy. You may even notice these cycles. With longer hair, it’s pretty noticeable when you shower or brush your hair. During some weeks there’s just more. However, the growth phase quickly follows, so your hair shouldn’t really appear thinner. You definitely shouldn’t see any balding spots. If your hair is noticeably thinner, then you may be experiencing stress-related hair loss.

Why Stress Causes Hair Loss

You’ve probably heard the phrase “stress is a killer,” and there is an element of truth to those words. Stress negatively affects so many of your body’s systems all at the same time, and it is frequently cited as a factor in many life-threatening conditions. Hair loss is no exception. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are actually three diagnosable conditions that directly connect hair loss to elevated stress levels.

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Telogen Effluvium:

Telogen effluvium is caused by elevated stress levels. In many cases, the cause can be traced back to a traumatic life event, sudden physical change, or hormonal fluctuations. Unfortunately, most patients won’t realize they have this condition until about three months after the event.

During this period, the heightened stress causes a much larger percentage of your hair follicles to enter the resting phase. Once that phase comes to an end, the patient experiences sudden and dramatic hair loss. Fortunately, the condition is completely reversible.


Trichotillomania is a psychological condition characterized by an irresistible urge to pull out hairs. Patients may remove hairs from their eyelashes, eyebrows, their scalp, or any other place on their body. Psychologists theorize that this is a way that they deal with stress or anxiety, a way to re-focus their attention away from negative feelings.

The condition is considered treatable, but only with the help of a licensed psychologist. There may be permanent damage to some of the hair follicles if the person has been removing their hair for an extended period of time. In these cases, targeted hair restoration can help recovering patients rebuild their self-esteem.

Alopecia Areata:

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition wherein your own immune system attacks your hair follicles causing hair loss. Causes for the condition vary, but experts suggest that stress may be a contributing factor in many cases. For people affected by alopecia areata, the condition expresses itself in the form of small bald patches. These typically re-grow within twelve months or so. However, the condition may reoccur throughout your life. During flare-ups, your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid, and you may want to wear a hairpiece if you’re feeling uncomfortable with your appearance.

When It Isn’t Stress that Causes Hair Loss

There is always a chance that stress may play a role in your hair loss, but genetics are another common factor. You should, of course, have your physician rule out other medical causes first. Unfortunately, if your doctor determines that it is most likely genetic, then the results are probably permanent. However, that doesn’t mean your hair loss has to define you.

With the help of a board-certified plastic surgeon, you can actually regrow your own hair out of transplanted follicles. It will take a little time before you can brush and cut your hair as you did before, but the wait is worth it when it means retaining an important piece of your identity. Hair transplants have come a long way in the past few decades, and you will be surprised how easy and effective the procedure is in the 21st century.


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