Can stress cause hair loss?
Experiencing hair loss can cause a huge amount of stress and anxiety, but does stress actually cause hair loss?
When we talk about stress and hair loss, it’s important to separate whether we mean that stress is the main cause, an aggravating factor, or whether stress is a secondary problem in response to hair loss.
This blog takes a look at the evidence, the conditions that stress might cause, and how stress-related hair loss can be treated.
If you’re worrying about hair loss, book a consultation at our Manchester trichology clinic for expert diagnosis and advice.
What is stress?
Stress is another word for pressure, and stress can be both physiological and emotional. Physiological stress is the term for stress on the body, and includes chronic illness and pain, high fever, surgery and haemorrhages. Emotional stress is typically what we think of when we say that we “are stressed”, and is the psychological state of feeling upset and pressured.
Scientific evidence for stress and hair loss
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that stress can cause hair loss, but what does the research tell us? Despite stress-related hair loss seemingly being a common phenomenon, there are only a handful of scientific studies that have investigated how stress causes hair loss.
Here are a few of findings from studies that have investigated stress and hair loss:
One study suggested that women who experience stressful life events are 11 times more likely to experience hair loss (source: here).
This study discusses how stress may inhibit hair growth as a result of changes in hormones (source: here).
Another study discusses that there is a strong link between physiological stress and some types of hair loss, but that there hasn’t been much research into emotional stress and hair loss (source: here).
A study of 178 patients with alopecia areata found thar 6.7% of cases could be linked directly to emotional stress, but overall did not find strong evidence that alopecia areata is triggered by emotional stress (source: here).
This study found that patients with androgenetic alopecia had higher levels of stress hormones than a control group (source: here).
So, the research is mixed, but there’s no doubt that whether stress directly causes hair loss or not, being stressed certainly won’t help how you feel about your hair loss.
Stress-related hair conditions
Some hair loss conditions are commonly linked to stress in the body, these are:
Trichotillosis (also called trichotillomania) – this condition is the psychological impulse to pull out your hair, and is a related condition to obsessive compulsive disorder. In some patients trichotillosis is directly related to emotional stress, and is used as a coping mechanism.
Telogen effluvium – this is a type of widespread hair loss where something disrupts the normal hair growth cycle, physiological or emotional stress is the most common cause of telogen effluvium.
Alopecia areata – while there is limited evidence for stress triggering alopecia areata, some patients find that patches appearing or spreading coincides with stressful life events.
Androgenetic alopecia – this is the technical name for male and female pattern hair loss, which is a genetic condition where a type of testosterone results in hair gradually getting finer and finer. The evidence for stress accelerating pattern hair loss is weak, however there is plenty of evidence that pattern hair loss causes stress.
Is stress causing your hair loss?
To determine whether your hair loss could be caused by stress, you should first visit your GP or a registered trichologist. Hair loss can be caused by many different factors, so it is important not to assume or self-diagnose. However, before your appointment with a GP or trichologist it is helpful to consider what you think might be causing your hair problem.
Common sources of stress are:
Illness and injuries
Family issues, including relationship issues, bereavement and illness
Financial worries and job changes
Emotional issues, such as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem
Pregnancy and parenthood
Exams and work deadlines
To book a consultation at our trichology clinic, click here.
What are the symptoms of stress?
Aside from hair loss, here are some other symptoms of stress that you should look out for:
Feeling more irritable and impatient
Feeling overwhelmed and finding it difficult to make decisions
Constant worrying and fretting
Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
Changes in your appetite
Relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol
How can stress-related hair loss be treated?
For all our patients, managing stress is an important part of treatment. Whether stress is thought to be actually contributing to your hair loss or not, making sure that you feel positive and good about yourself will significantly improve how you cope with your hair loss.
Here are some ways that you can help manage your stress:
Get enough sleep and practice good sleep hygiene
Have a healthy balanced diet without being too restrictive with your food
Drink plenty of water
Keep in touch with family and friends
Avoid unhealthy habits such as relying on alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
Take breaks from screens
Try yoga and meditation and other mindfulness practices
Make sure you aren’t working long hours, and set aside time to relax on your own
Try therapies such as talking therapy, hypnotherapy and aromatherapy
Speak to your GP or other healthcare professional
If you’re worried about your hair, book a consultation appointment with the Kate Holden Clinic for professional examination, diagnosis, and treatment.
Visit the Kate Holden Clinic hair treatment centre in Manchester to see a registered trichologist.