Sometimes emotional stress can cause hair loss. This is a serious problem for most people and something they wish to reverse. However, people often only begin losing their hair weeks or months after the stressful event has occurred, and the hair loss can continue for several months afterwards.
Luckily, hair will usually grow back on its own once the source of stress has been removed, but there are several things you can do to stop hair loss due to stress.
How Can Stress Cause Hair Loss
There are three stages of hair growth cycle; anagen, catagen (transition), and telogen (resting). During its final stage of resting, hair begins to detach from the hair follicle and fall out under the slightest pressure or pulling. Extreme or prolonged stress can cause hair to prematurely enter the resting stage and break off more easily.
Nevertheless, with relaxation techniques and better nutrition, you can expect hair growth to return to normal after a period of 3-4 months.
Types of Stress Related Hair Loss
There are three main types of stress related hair loss. With each type of stress related hair loss, the exact link between the hair loss and stress is somewhat unclear.
1. Alopecia areata
With alopecia areata, the immune system turns on the hair follicles and causes hair to fall out, sometimes in large chunks. There may be several factors causing this type of hair loss, and stress is suspected to be one of them.
2. Telogen effluvium
With telogen effluvium, stress may send a number of hair follicles into a resting phase, stopping the hair from growing. Several months later, the hair attached to the affected follicles may start to fall out suddenly, in greater volume than normal. This is the most common type of stress related hair loss.
Trichotillomania is very different than the previous two, as it involves a person compulsively pulling out their own hair, whether its from their head, their eyebrows or other areas of their body. A person usually develops this condition as a method of coping with stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness or boredom.
While stress will sometimes cause the hair loss directly, other times, the stress makes an existing condition worse. In some cases, the hair loss will cause the stress, rather than the other way around.
How to Stop Hair Loss Due to Stress
You should know that hair will usually grow back on its own. If hair loss is indeed caused by stress, the major focus of treatment should be on minimizing or eliminating that stress. Once the stress is removed, hair should grow back on its own with no need for drugs or other treatments.
The important thing is to have patience. The growth cycle of hair takes time, and it can be a number of months before you see a significant improvement.
Just do your best to avoid stressing about the situation, as this will only make things worse. Have faith in your ability of your hair follicles to renew the hair, and you’ll be fine.
Reducing Emotional and Physical Stress
Exercise more. Exercise can help you relieve any kind of emotional stress. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins – also known as happy hormones – which help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
- The type of exercise you do is up to you – when it comes to relieving stress, try to find something you enjoy, whether it’s walking, running, swimming, cycling, dancing or rock climbing.
- You can also try to incorporate a yoga or meditation class into your weekly routine, as these have been proven to effectively reduce stress levels.
Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can contribute to both mental and physical stress, especially if the sleep issues persist over a long period of time. It can affect your overall mood, which, in turn, can lead to hair loss due to stress or anxiety.
- Avoid doing anything too stimulating before bed. Don’t watch TV, stay away from your laptop and phone and don’t exercise or eat anything. Read a book or have a hot bath instead.
- Improve your sleep by getting into a regular sleep pattern – that is, waking up and going to bed at the same time every day. You should aim to be getting at least 7 to 8 hours sleep a night.
See a therapist. Emotional stress can become much worse over time if you bottle up your feelings and avoid talking about the source of your stress. Therefore, seeing a therapist to talk through your anxiety issues can be very cathartic, and do wonders to relieve stress.
- If talking to a therapist isn’t something you’re interested in, then at least open up to a trusted friend or family member.
Check your medications. There are a number of medications which can cause hair loss, thereby making stress-related hair loss worse.
The most common of these medications include blood thinners and blood pressure tablets (beta-blockers). Other medications that might have an effect include methotrexate (for rheumatic conditions), lithium (for bi-polar disorder) and some nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.
If you are taking any of these medications and suspect they may be having an adverse effect on your hair, speak to your doctor about lowering your dosage or switching to another type of medication.
Promoting Healthy Hair Growth
Eat healthy. Eating healthy and properly gives your body more energy, enabling it to better cope with stress. Diet also contributes to the strength of hair, making it less likely to fall out.
- Eat enough protein. When your hair doesn’t get enough protein, it shuts down growth. As a result, when existing hair reaches the end of its cycle and naturally falls out (in a process known as catagen) it can seem as if you have less hair than normal.
Avoid low-calorie diets. Low-calorie diets often deprive your body of many of the vitamins, nutrients and healthy fats it needs to function properly and maintain healthy hair growth.
- In addition, rapid weight loss (as the result of following a low-calorie diet) can cause major physical stress to the body, which may trigger hair loss.
- Many high-fat, high-calorie foods are actually very good for you, provided you make the right choices. Things like nuts, avocados and oily fish are all high in monounsaturated fat, but they are also very healthy and should be eaten as part of a balanced diet.
Increase B vitamins and decrease A vitamins. B vitamins are necessary for healthy hair growth, so if you’re not getting enough of them as part of your diet, your hair could be affected. On the other hand, excess vitamin A can trigger hair loss, so you may need to cut back.
- In order to naturally increase your intake of B vitamins, eat more fish and lean meat, starchy vegetables and non-citrus fruits.
Don’t overstyle your hair. Overstyling is one of the biggest issues when it comes to healthy hair. Nowadays women are obsessed with blow-drying, straightening and curling using heated styling tools. These wreak havoc on the condition of hair.
- Try to minimize the use of styling tools.
- You should avoid playing with your hair too much.
- Don’t brush your hair too often either.
- Be careful when using color treatments on the hair, as they can quickly dry, damage and over-process your hair.
Take good care of your hair. Taking good care of your hair will contribute to its overall health, making it stronger and less prone to fall out.
- Start by using a shampoo and conditioner suited to your hair type. Dry hair will need richer, super-moisturizing products, while oily hair will require lighter products designed for regular use.
- Avoid washing your hair too often, as this can strip hair of natural oils, causing it become dry, brittle and prone to breaking. Every two to three days is a good schedule for most hair types.
- Also avoid using hair products with too many chemicals in them. Shampoos containing sulfates or parabens should be avoided and more natural, organic ingredients should be used.
- Keep your hair in good condition by getting it trimmed every six to eight weeks. This eliminates split ends and helps your hair to look and feel great.