Stress Related Hair Loss

Everybody loses a number of hairs from their head every single day. However, if you’re losing more than usual, or losing lots of hairs from one particular patch on your scalp, there could be an underlying cause.

The medical term for hair loss is ‘alopecia’. Hair loss is very common in men and women of all ages. It happens to some degree to most people at some point during their lives.

Possible hair loss causes

There are different reasons why you might be losing your hair. These can include:

  • a temporary illness
  • pregnancy
  • underlying health conditions (like an underactive thyroid)
  • medical treatment (for example chemotherapy)
  • or emotional stress

If you’ve lost lots more hair than usual or you’re worried that your hair is thinning, visit your doctor for a consultation.

Dr Simran Deo Medical Editor

Medically reviewed by

Dr Simran Deo

Last reviewed: 16 Apr 2020

Can Stress Cause Hair Loss?

It’s well established that hair loss can be related to emotional stress or anxiety. There’s usually about a 3 month delay between the stressful event or time period and your hair falling out. Unless there’s another underlying medical reason for your hair loss, and may recover once that period passes if there are no other causes for the hair loss.

During this time, more hairs on your head are in what’s known as the ‘resting stage’. This doesn’t mean your hair follicles are dead or that your hair will stop growing permanently. Your usual hair growth and regrowth pattern should return to normal a few months after your stress levels go back down to normal.

Why Can Stress Make Your Hair Fall Out?

When you’re stressed or anxious, your body produces what’s known as the ‘fight or flight response’. This is when your body makes extra hormones to help it deal with any potential threat.

This change in your hormone levels can have an effect on different parts of your body including your scalp where they affect the growth patterns of the hair follicles.

Stress can lead to a number of different conditions that cause hair loss on their own, including:

  • telogen effluvium – when your body tells more hair than usual to stop growing across your scalp
  • alopecia areata – when you lose large amounts of hair in patches on your scalp
  • trichotillomania – when you pick and pull out hairs on your head or around your body without realising you’re doing it

Worrying about hair loss can also be a vicious cycle. It’s easy for people to get anxious about losing their hair, which then in turn raises stress levels, and can cause even more hair to fall out.

The most important thing to try to do is to reduce your stress levels. This will help keep your body and scalp as healthy as possible.

Will My Hair Grow Back?

Hair loss caused by stress is usually only temporary. If you’ve lost hair as a result of stress or anxiety, there’s every chance it will start to grow back once your stress levels are back to normal.

Try working on reducing your stress levels as well as improving your general health and wellbeing. Any hair lost due to stress should grow back on its own in a few months.

How can I work out if my hair loss is due to stress?

Stress can sometimes be difficult to identify, especially if you have a highly-stressful job or home-life. Losing more hair than usual could be a sign that you’re more stressed than usual, even if you aren’t aware of it at the time. Stress can be a major factor in hair loss, especially when your stress is severe or lasts for a long time.

Try to determine the cause of your stress in the first place, and your hair should return to normal and regrow within a few months’ time, if this is the only cause of your hair loss.

If you’re losing hair because you’re stressed or anxious, then the first thing to do is to get your stress levels under control. Try to have patience, your hair should grow back in a few months.

Some tips for dealing with stress:

  • get plenty of sleep (aim for 7-8 hours a day)
  • drink lots of water and try to eat healthily
  • avoid too much sugar or caffeine
  • exercise regularly
  • practice yoga, meditation or mindfulness
  • talk to someone about your problems
  • take some time off and let your body recover if you’ve been through a physical accident or illness

Above all, try not to panic. This is always a lot easier said than done, but hair loss due to stress is only short-term and can be completely reversible.

Talk to your doctor if you’re worried things aren’t returning back to normal after you’ve tried dealing with stress on your own. They’ll be able to give you some more advice and carry out further tests to diagnose your condition.

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