Stress can cause various issues, from acne migraines to hair loss. It can cause even more long-term problems, like depression, anxiety, insomnia, and digestion issues. We all experience stress in our day-to-day lives, but not many understand the issues because of it. Of course, I don’t want you knowing these things to cause more stress, but knowing can help you prevent and repair.
There are three stages to the hair growth process. The first stage is called the anagen stage, and this is where individual strands of hair push through the skin; this is also known as the growth phase. The second stage is the catagen stage, also known as degeneration. This is where the hair stops growing, and the follicle at the base shrinks. Then, lastly, we have the telogen stage, where hair will fall out, and the process starts over again; this is also known as the resting phase. So, how do we know that stress can cause hair loss? According to the National Institutes of Health, “A team led by Dr. Ya-Chieh Hsu of Harvard University studied the underlying mechanisms that link stress and hair loss” (NIH 2021). They started this experiment by testing the adrenal glands and their role. The adrenal glands are what produce the main stress hormones in our body. They experimented with mice; they removed their adrenal glands, which caused faster than regular hair growth cycles. They added mild stressors to the mice’s life over weeks, which slowed hair growth. They tested mice in different ways, further showing that stress can be a leading cause of hair loss.
There are three different types of stress-related hair loss. The first and most common type is Telogen Effluvium when certain follicles stop growing hair. This can happen during the telogen phase (resting), which can cause shedding. This type of hair loss can happen to anyone at any age. This can happen in specific areas of the scalp or just all over. This type of hair loss is not permanent, and it does not cause damage to the hair follicles forever. Another common type of hair loss that may be triggered by stress is Alopecia areata, which is when your immune system attacks the hair follicles. This typically is shown by patches around the scalp but can cause total hair loss. According to Healthline, this type of hair loss affects over six million people in Just the United States. Lastly, there is Trichotillomania, which is a hair-pulling disorder. This is typically directly caused by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety disorders, or stress. So many people struggle with this and don’t even realize it. Many people pull the hair out of their eyebrows, eyelashes, or even their scalp. This disorder typically runs in circles because the condition itself causes more stress. This disorder can affect anyone, but it typically starts in teens and preteens and can be genetic.
The key to fixing stress-related hair loss issues is to try and manage your stress. It is so hard these days, especially with the state of the world now, but we need to remember how to best react to these situations. Sometimes we may not prevent stressors from occurring, but we can manage them. An excellent place to start and to focus on would be your diet. Eating a balanced diet can help aid your hair growth and make you feel better in general. The main vitamins that can help with hair growth are vitamin C, B, and E. Vitamin C can be found in citrus, bell peppers, strawberries, and so much more. Vitamin C helps build collagen. Vitamin B can help with healthy skin and hair, found in leafy greens, avocados, eggs, and beef. Lastly, Vitamin E has potent antioxidants this can aid in keeping a healthy scalp. You can find Vitamin E in broccoli, shrimp, olive oil, and peanuts. Of course, if adding these things to your diet seems impossible, you can always take them in the form of a pill, but it is best to get it from the source. On top of a healthy diet, it is vital to drink a good amount of water every day.
It is also essential to know how to manage these stressors that come at you. Learning how to manage stress can help prevent hair loss in the future. Exercise is a pervasive way that people manage their stress. This can be as simple as taking your dog for a walk around the block every day, taking a dance class, doing yard work, or even going to the gym. It is also helpful to make time to do things that make you happy, either finding new hobbies or continuing to do the ones you already have. For me, I try to make sure I read for pleasure at least once a day and meet up with a friend or be out in nature at least once a week. But for you, this could be watching your favorite TV show, bowling, going out to eat, or whatever makes your heart happy. Another thing that can be helpful is writing down how you feel and what is making you feel stressed. Writing things down or even talking it out with a friend can help make these stressors feel smaller; when you hold it inside, it is easy for things to feel impossible.
Stress-related hair loss can happen to anyone, as stress is a big part of life. We must notice these issues early on to get to the bottom quickly. It is also essential that we practice these stress management techniques before we even experience stress-related hair loss to prevent it.
“How Stress Causes Hair Loss.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 20 Apr. 2021, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-stress-causes-hair-loss.
Jay, Kitty. “Hair Loss: Cause, Treatment, Prevention, and More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 29 Mar. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/stress-hair-loss#treatment.