Scientists have been investigating the negative effects of stress on physical and emotional health for years. While many myths about stress have been debunked, we have also gained valuable new information about how stress actually affects society. Yet there are still many questions that people have about stress and the role it plays in our daily lives.
One of the most popular questions is whether or not stress really causes hair loss. It is true that people have been seen pulling out their own hair when overcome by anxiety, but nowadays, the problem seems to be even deeper than even that. Chronic stress has been stated to be one of the main reasons for hair loss as well.
Read on to find out whether or not stress really causes hair loss.
Understanding the hair growth cycle
In order to understand whether or not stress plays a large role in making our hair fall out, we need to look closely at how hair grows.
The life cycle of hair is comprised of three main stages. The first stage, anagen, is what 90% of our hair is currently at. It is the active phase during this process. Cells within the follicle root divide during this phase and form a hair. This tiny and brand new hair will continue to grow until it pushes the old hair up through the follicle and out. This old hair is also called club hair. After the new hair has emerged, it will continue to grow at a rate of around half an inch every single month. This phase can last between 2 to 6 years, depending on your hair’s growth rate.
The second stage, catagen, is when the hair stops growing. At this point, the hair transitions into a club hair during the next 2 to 3 weeks. Currently, 3% of your hair is at this phase currently. The root sheath within the follicle will slowly shrink and attach to the base of your hair.
Once the hair can no longer access your blood supply, it will stop growing and enter the last phase, telogen. 8% of our hair is at this stage at any given time. Hairs in this phase hang for around 3 months until it naturally sheds. If your hair has shed naturally during this phase, it will have a while and hard bulb at the root. This is a strong indicator that your hair survived through a normal life.
The connection between stress and hair loss
When you are looking at finding a connection between chronic stress and hair loss, you need to focus on the last phase, telogen. When anyone is forced to face a powerful stressor, such as a life-changing event, the body will trigger a large amount of hair to forcibly enter telogen. Examples of life-changing events include divorce, sickness, or even childbirth.
Because a large portion of hair is forced into telogen, almost all of it will fall out at the same time only a few months later. This phenomenon is known as telogen effluvium. Doctors hypothesize that your body forces your hairs into telogen in order to rest while larger problems are first addressed.
This means that temporary stress will not affect your hair greatly. However, chronic stress over periods of a year or more has a high possibility of causing devastating hair loss.
The good news is that once stress is eliminated, usually your hair will return to its original rhythm and go back to a healthy growth process. Eventually, the hair that you lost during the stressful event will return. Keep in mind that it can take a very long time to recover the hair you lost. For most people, it will take around 9 months.
Common stressors connected to hair loss
Some physiological stressors induce a higher possibility for hair loss compared to others. In physiological stressors that often accompany hair loss, examples include rapid weight change, caloric deficiency, hormone changes during pregnancy or after childbirth, or inconsistency in oral contraceptives. Other examples also include high fevers, significant surgeries, or devastating infections.
Emotional stress can add more to the effects of these physiological stressors. This will lead to even greater shedding.
However, it is important to note that hair shedding can be caused by a variety of reasons excluding stress. For example, hair shedding can also be caused by certain medications that you are taking or even thyroid disease. Nutritional deficiencies can also be the cause, including a lack of vitamin D. Too much vitamin A can be harmful as well.
At older ages, our hair growth rates will slow down considerably. This is similar to most of our body processes. This means that periods of stress later on in life will be much harder to recover from when it comes to growing back your hair.
Stop stress related hair loss now!
Hair loss is devastating for most people, especially when you do not know the reason behind it. While chronic stress can be a reason behind excessive hair loss, temporary stress is usually not the main cause. No matter what the reason is, it is important to pinpoint the exact reason behind your hair loss to the best of your abilities. If you cannot seem to find the reason on your own, consider asking your physician for his opinion as well. If hair loss is caused by your chronic stress, make sure that you deal with your stressors promptly.
What are some of your experiences with stress and hair loss? How have you dealt with your hair loss problems in the past? Share your story below by posting a comment, and feel free to share your thoughts as well.