Stress and hair loss—is there really a connection?

“I was pulling my hair out from worry!”

We’ve all heard idioms about stress and hair loss. And while pulling one’s own hair out, a psychological obsessive-compulsive disorder called trichotillomania, can result in baldness, is there an actual connection between stress and hair falling out?

Let’s look at stress that will certainly NOT make your hair fall out.

  • Normal stress, such as being stuck in traffic or being late for work, may cause you to bite your nails, but it will not make your hair fall out.
  • Psychologically distressing events, such as job loss, financial worries, a lawsuit, or divorce can be personally devastating, but they will not affect your hair.

But that’s not the whole story.

At any given time, a normal person sheds about 100 hairs a day. Since the average person with a full head of hair has approximately 100,000 hairs on their head, this is not a noticeable loss. The hairs are replaced at the same rate of loss (except in case of male pattern baldness and other real causes of hair loss). But sometimes a traumatic physiological event can cause a disproportionate number of follicles to go into a “resting” phase. A few months later these hairs are shed, and the result can be a significant amount of hair loss.

Let’s examine events that can make your hair fall out via this “resting phase” scenario.

  • Major surgery, anesthesia
  • Lower estrogen levels after childbirth
  • Going on and off oral contraception
  • An extremely low calorie diet
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Severe illness or infection
  • Thyroid disease
  • Chronic insomnia/sleep deprivation
  • Medication that you have a reaction to

So is there any connection between emotional stress and hair loss?

If you are going through an extremely stressful emotional time, you may be getting very little sleep and you may be losing weight. So while you cannot lose your hair due to a lawsuit or divorce, you can experience hair loss because of the physiological stress and imbalance in your system associated with stressful behaviors.

The good news is that this type of hair loss is temporary. Once the stress factors subside new hair will regrow.

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