A high level of stress can lead to different types of hair loss. It can inhibit hair regrowth, cause the immune system to attack hair follicles, or cause an irresistible urge to pull your hair out. The man generally loses between 50 and 100 hairs per day. Hair loss is not always due to stress, but a person can lose significantly more hair under extreme stress.

This article answers the question of whether stress can cause hair loss, what the different types of stress-related hair loss are, and what a person can do to manage stress-related hair loss.

Does stress cause hair loss?

There is a well-established link between stress and hair loss. Hair loss results from multiple factors, including environmental and genetic. While acute stress boosts the immune system, chronic stress suppresses and over-activates the immune system, leading to inflammation. Sustained, chronic stress can cause inflammation in or around the follicle, which can disrupt its mechanisms through endocrine and neuroimmune mediators such as cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormones.

Hair growth takes place in three phases:

Anagen: the active phase where hair grows from the follicles.
Catagen: phase involving the death or shrinkage (apoptosis) of the follicle at the base of the hair strand.
Telogen: resting phase during which the hair follicle is dormant and the hair shaft does not grow. In this phase, the stem cells are quiescent and the hair falls out more easily.

The stem cells present in the hair follicles are at the origin of the hair cycle.

A 2021 study on rats showed that removing the adrenal glands, which produce key stress hormones in rats and humans, led to cycles of rapid hair regrowth. Subjecting the rats to mild stress for weeks resulted in increased levels of stress hormones (corticosterone) and reduced hair growth. The hair follicles were also in a prolonged resting (telogen) phase. In addition, corticosterone also prevents the group of cells (dermal papilla) below the stem cells from secreting a molecule that activates the hair follicle stem cells.

Types of stress-related hair loss

Three types of stress-related hair loss are associated with extreme levels of stress.

Telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium is the excessive loss of resting (telogen) hair. In the scalp of a typical person, 85% of the hair is anagen, while 15% is telogen. Certain stressors cause 70% of anagen hair to go into the telogen phase, which leads to hair loss. Telogen effluvium or excessive hair loss is common in people under extreme stress. The most common stressors are:

excessive weight loss
childbirth
major stressors in life, such as job loss, divorce, death
high fever
to recover from an illness
stopping the birth control pill
Other triggers include:

systemic diseases
major surgeries
medication
nutritional deficiencies
This moult usually occurs 3 months after the stressor. It is usually self-limited and lasts about 6 months. Chronic telogen effluvium lasts longer than 6 months.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata involves the body’s immune system attacking hair follicles in the anagen phase, causing them to enter the catagen phase. Since the stem cells of the follicles are not destroyed, the hair follicles continue to regenerate and continue their cycle. Clinically, the disease manifests as small bald patches on the scalp or around the body and can lead to complete loss of scalp or body hair. Environmental factors play an important role in its development. Some also consider stressful life events to be important triggers for the disease. There is some evidence that genetic factors may also play a role in the development of alopecia areata.

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania, or hair pulling disorder, is repeated hair pulling on any part of the body. This disorder is part of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The person with trichotillomania uses their hands, tweezers, or other devices to pull their hair out. The exact cause of trichotillomania remains unknown, but many people report the onset of a stressful event before the hair-pulling behavior. It may be a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety.

Treatment of stress-related hair loss

Treatment for stress-related hair loss depends on the type of hair loss the person is suffering from.

Trichotillomania

The healthcare team can use several treatment strategies to help manage trichotillomania. In children, conservative methods such as using gloves or socks to cover the hands and cutting their hair short may help. Habit reversal training, based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), helps the person to identify cognitive distortions and the maladaptive behavior associated with them (hair pulling) in order to modify them.

Tips for stress management

A number of stress management techniques can help a person cope with stress, including:

rhythmic breathing genre: cardiac coherence
guided imagery
progressive muscle relaxation

Below are some other stress management tips that can help reduce stress and decrease the likelihood of stress-induced hair loss:

eat nutritious and balanced meals
sleep enough and well
avoiding the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
take time to do enjoyable activities
expressing worries and concerns to other people
try to meditate or spend time in nature
seek professional help if necessary.

Other causes of hair loss

There are many other potential causes of hair loss. Here are a few

hereditary hair loss
cancer treatment
age
harmful hair treatments
some hairstyles
hormonal imbalance due to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
scalp infection
scalp psoriasis
medication
sexually transmitted infection (STI)
thyroid disease
friction
poison
nutrient deficiencies, such as iron and vitamin D.

Here are some frequently asked questions about hair loss.

Will stress-related hair loss grow back?

Stress-related hair loss, called telogen effluvium, tends to be self-limiting and goes away when the trigger is treated or eliminated.

What does hormonal hair loss look like?

Hair may appear thinner or thinner. They can also fall off easily and grow slower than before.

What does stress-induced hair loss look like?

Stress-induced hair loss, or telogen effluvium, is manifested by hair that falls out quickly when combed, washed, or even touched. The hair on the scalp may be thinning, but the scalp looks healthy and has no scales or rashes.

Summary

Hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress. There are several types of stress-related hair loss. Their consequences can range from short-lived, self-limited hair loss to permanent, irreversible hair loss. It is essential to identify the cause of hair loss and seek appropriate treatment. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include lifestyle changes, medications, topical treatments, and immunotherapy. Stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, can also help manage stress and reduce the risk of hair loss.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.