Stress has a lot of terrible and highly unpleasant symptoms and can very often be found at the root of any number of conditions and problems. A commonly held belief about stress is that it can cause hair loss but is this really a fair reputation? If so, just how stressed do you have to be to start getting thinner on top? Are you in danger of losing your beautiful locks if you have an upcoming deadline at work? Is it time to invest in a wig?
Stress hair loss is indeed a real phenomenon and can come about in one of two ways. If you are experience excessive emotional or physical stress then this can cause either telogen effluvium or alopecia areata.
Telogen effluvium is the more common of the two types of stress hair loss and this is good news seeing as it's also the less severe of two. Telogen effluvium causes the hair to stop growing and to lie dormant, falling out 2-3 months later. The good news is that after 6-9 months, it will begin to grow back. If you are in the shower and you find your hair coming out in strands, or if the hair on your head looks thinner and less healthy than normal, it's possible that stress is responsible.
In the telogen effluvium types of stress hair loss, the hairs you lose will be the telogen hairs. You can tell these sorts of hairs which you can tell apart from other hairs because they will have a small bulb of keratin at the end by the root. You won't be in danger of losing all the hair on your head but will instead just notice your hair getting thinner which might result in it being less attractive subjectively.
Telogen effluvium is caused by changes in your hormones effectively shocking the telogen hairs into a dormant state. Diet, pregnancy and medication can all also lead to telogen effluvium and chronic stress may lead to persistent telogen effluvium.
In alopecia areata, the white blood cells will attack the hair follicles which will result in the death of those hairs. Your hair might then fall out in large clumps within three weeks resulting in patches and can be quite noticeable. This will on occasion involve the entire scalp and even cause the loss of body hair. In these cases the hair can also sometimes grow back unaided but in other cases it may be necessary to seek medical treatment.
The most important way to combat, prevent and treat stress hair loss is to try and address the cause of stress and to develop coping mechanisms.
If you find that you are losing large clumps of hair in the shower because of stress in your career or relationship, then this is a clear sign that you are experiencing too much stress from that part of your life. No-one should subject themselves to that amount of chronic stress on a persistent basis, so if you find yourself losing hair then you should consider this as a sign to make some serious lifestyle changes.
If you are someone who is regularly stressed despite no clear or avoidable source of stress, then you should seek some sort of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy. This will teach you coping skills and breathing exercises that can be used to address and minimize your reaction to stress, thereby helping you to better cope and avoid negative symptoms such as stress hair loss.
If you continue to lose large amounts of hair then bear in mind that this could point to other more serious and dangerous health concerns. Consult with your doctor and they may also be able to offer you some form of treatment to help you get your head of hair back to normal.