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Can Stress Really Cause Hair Loss?

We’ve all heard the claim before, but maybe not everyone’s convinced of its validity. After all, there are plenty of things in our world, like “catching a cold,” that aren’t necessarily rooted in science or are misunderstood by the general populace.


The short answer to the question is “Yes, but not always.” You see, traumas such as severe stress (among a long list of other things) cause something known as telogen effluvium. Of course, this isn’t to say that all hair loss cases are directly correlated to this – but it’s usually the most common culprit!


It would also be accurate to say that stress causes various other bio-chemical problems within us, which in turn influence the healthiness of our organs and natural byproducts – in this case, our hair! This is but one aspect we’ll be taking a look at in our article, so be sure to dive in with us to get closer to a reasonable answer.



Alopecia Areata (AA)

Stress has been linked with an autoimmune illness known as alopecia areata, which (in very simplified terms) is when one’s white blood cells start attacking the hair follicles on your head

Alopecia Areata carries the obvious symptoms, namely clumps of hair coming out frequently – less obvious symptoms come in the form of oval and circular bald spots. Some people suffering from this type of alopecia may also lose body hair, but this varies.


This type of hair loss can be abrupt or gradual – this aspect, coupled with the very broad symptoms, make it hard to discriminate from other sub-categorizations of hair loss conditions. The only major symptom that’s a clue is the presence of the aforementioned bald spots, which are usually the size of a coin.


Telogen effluvium (TE)

As mentioned at the start, telogen effluvium is the most common type of hair loss. TE hair loss is correlated with the three growth cycle phases of hair development - the growth phase, the transition phase, and the resting phase (which actually includes shedding).

Telogen effluvium mainly concerns the resting phase, as your body will naturally maintain that phase during major stressful events as an evolutionary protective measure. Keep in mind that the stress itself would have to be ongoing or significant enough to cause bodily changes, whether it’s physical or mental.


Sudden onsets of large-scale hair loss (covering most of the scalp instead of small spots) are a sure sign of TE-influenced hair loss.



Indirect Influence

Since body hair is a byproduct that’s heavily influenced by our metabolic health, it is only natural to conclude that unhealthy habits and lifestyle choices can result in indirect hair loss.

In other words, while you may think that you’re calm and mentally healthy, you still may be exposing your body to various unhealthy factors that can indirectly start a chain reaction of improper nutritional and metabolic functioning.


A balanced, nutritious, and varied diet can end up paying off in the long run – and not just for your hair (obviously)! When coupled with exercise and meditation, mental and bodily stress can be reduced to a satisfactory point.


Trichotillomania

It would be difficult to talk about stress and hair-related issues without mentioning trichotillomania, a compulsive disorder characterized by the need to pull out one’s own hair. Now, it goes without saying that most people that are unsure of the reasoning behind their hair loss aren’t suffering from this condition. After all, it’s a fairly obvious problem – not rocket science!

While fair, we’ve included this entry to clarify that this strong and desperate urge, while somewhat characteristically analogous to various obsessive-compulsive disorders, can have its beginnings rooted in stress.


We hope this article has been a somewhat enlightening deep-dive into the various ways mental and bodily stress can directly or indirectly influence the health of your hair! Keep in mind that these reasons don’t necessarily correlate with male pattern baldness, which itself is more-so a hormonal issue.



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