Understanding the Relationship Between Stress and Hair Loss

Stress can have different consequences for different people. While some may suffer from migraines and high blood pressure, others may experience significant hair loss.

So, if you’ve been wondering why there’s less hair on your head or why your hair is thinning all of a sudden, there’s a high chance that stress is to blame for this fiasco. Even science agrees with the notion that stress and hair loss are interconnected.

Now, let’s discuss this connection in more detail below!

The Link Between Stress and Hair Loss

Before we start discussing the different types of stress-triggered hair loss, let’s understand the hair cycle first.

Our scalp has around 100,000 hair follicles (pores through which hair grows in three stages: growth, resting, and shedding).

It’s important to note that every hair follicle stands at a different stage of the hair cycle. So, if you’re losing around 30-150 hair strands per day, this is the reason, and it’s completely normal.

What’s concerning if you’re losing more hair than that. This can happen because of stress, where the body responds to a stressor by transferring more than usual strands from the growth stage to the resting stage.

At any given time, 90% of your hair is in the growth stage, and only about 10% is in the resting stage. In times of stress, over 20% of the follicles may get pushed to the resting stage simultaneously. In the worst-case scenario, 50% of follicles could be moved to the resting stage.

Once they plunge into the resting phase, the hair follicles don’t show any prominent changes until after a few months. It is after when the resting stage ends, and they enter the shedding stage that the real problem begins.

This results in massive hair shedding, and you may notice larger amounts of hair falling out than usual. The shedding stage lasts for as long as it takes for the affected hair to be eliminated from the scalp, which typically means several months.

This is known as telogen effluvium, which is the most common type of stress-related cause of hair loss. However, the good news is that it’s temporary and can be reversible if the stressor ceases to persist.

Other Stress-Related Reasons for Hair Loss

Trichotillomania

Unlike telogen effluvium, trichotillomania isn’t a naturally occurring type of hair loss caused by stress. In this condition, individuals pull out their own hair regardless of where it is on the body.

It is a side-effect of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), prompting the person to use their hands, a pair of tweezers, or any tool that can be used to pull out hair.

Alopecia Areata

In alopecia areata, the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles during the growth stage, forcing them to enter the transition stage between growth and rest. Since the stem cells aren’t destroyed in this process, the hair follicles continue to grow hair.

However, the attacks from the immune system disrupt their normal functioning, which causes hair loss. In contrast to telogen effluvium, where you can see rapid shedding of the hair, alopecia areata highlights hair loss as bald patches.

These can either be on your hair or anywhere else on the body. Environmental triggers, stressful life events, and genetic factors are some causes of alopecia areata.

Will Your Hair Ever Grow Back?

With telogen effluvium, the good part is that hair loss is temporary. However, it can take up to 6 months for the shedding to stop entirely and then additional months or even years for your hair to reach pre-effluvium density.

In alopecia areata, if you only have mild patches of hair loss, your hair will automatically grow back within a few months.

However, if your case is more severe and bald patches are larger, the exact duration of regrowth cannot be determined, and you may need to resort to medical treatments.

Is All Hair Loss Due to Stress?

Stress may not always be the one to blame if you’re going through hair loss. Other potential causes include the following:

  • Cancer treatments
  • Hair care treatments that may damage your roots
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Scalp psoriasis
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • Friction
  • Nutrient deficiencies, like Vitamin D and iron
  • Hereditary hair loss
  • Age
  • Tight hairstyles
  • Scalp infection
  • Medication
  • Thyroid disease
  • Poison

Wrapping Up

While hair lost due to stress usually grows back, the regrowth may be extra slow or may not occur at all.

Adopting stress management techniques to reduce your stress levels can be an excellent preventive measure in this case. Proper stress management reduces strain and prevents hair loss triggered by stress.

Taking good care of your scalp is another great solution. The healthier your scalp, the harder it is for stress signals to affect your hair follicle’s functionality, thereby preserving your hair.

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