Stress and Hair Loss: Are they related?

Just like our body, hair too goes through a growth and change phase. When we are kids, we have full and thick hair, over time there is a lot of change. Main changes are in the rate of growth and texture.

And then, unfortunately, comes the time we have to say goodbye to them. That is when androgenic alopecia starts for every man (and women in their 40s).

If you feel your hair are thinning and/or falling out, you are definitely worried about it. The thing is, hair loss causes are related to each other, either directly or indirectly.

Is hair loss caused by genetics, stress or some other factor/s? The answer is “yes they all are responsible”. Here are some common types of hair loss, with details about each type.

Primary Hair Loss Causes

As surprising as it will sound, our hair are not meant to stay on our head for long. Hair has their own natural lifespan after which they fall out. A person loses 80-100 hair a day, which is normal. The fallen strands are soon replaced by new ones. Here are the factors that can be considered hair loss causes.

Lifespan: The average lifespan of hair is 4-5 years. When they fall out, new hair come in 4-6 months. It’s a quick process so you don’t feel there are missing hair in your head.

Excess Styling: Products like hair sprays, mattes, gels, heating and curling irons, hair dyes are all the sources of chemical exposure. These chemicals damage hair down to their core and make them weak. These weak hair are more prone to damage and falling off.

Aging: Consider an ideal situation where your hair did not fall in your late teens. After the age of 30, the peak time/phase of our youth declines, and so does our health over the years. The first thing to get affected by aging is our hair. The follicles slowly go dormant and hair begin to fall.

Secondary Hair Loss Causes

Genetics: Hair loss because of heredity is not exactly what we think it is. This hair loss is not because of excessive hair falling, rather the fact that fallen hair is not replaced. This results in receding hairline, thinning and bald patches.

Hair loss causes that influence the hereditary effects are

Gender: Genetic hair loss affects men more than women. Actually, it only affects men, women don’t go bald. They have hair thinning in their late 40s, when close to or during the menopause phase.

Age: Over the age of 30, 2 in every 5 men are bald/balding. As you age increases, more follicles start going dormant. Thus resulting in hair shedding.

Hormone Imbalance: Androgenic alopecia happens because of the male hormone testosterone. When in excess, an enzyme 5 alpha-reductase converts it into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Men/women with more DHT have hair loss issues. But since men have a lot more testosterone than women, they are most likely to go bald. Women only have hair thinning.

Hair Loss and Stress

This may seem unreal but stress actually makes your hair fall out. There are numerous hair loss causes and stress is one of them. This is considered to be an environmental factor that can be controlled.

Excess and continuous forms of stress like physical/mental/emotional or incidents like injury, surgery, illness make hair fall. Scientists are still not sure how it makes hair shed but the effects are proven to be very real.

Here are the types of hair problems associated with stress and hair loss.

Telogen Effluvium: This is considered the least severe of the 3 major types of stress-related hair fall. It is when your follicles go dormant and hair stop growing in that part of the scalp. After 2-3 months your hair falls out. But don’t worry, they grow back after 6-9 months.

Alopecia Areata: This is an auto-immune reaction of unknown origin. This is when our body’s own immune system attacks and destroys hair follicles. Hair loss follows quickly, and depending on the severity of the attack, can lose hair in a few days or a week. Hair loss happens in bald patch pattern.

But it is not restricted to your head; any part of the body can be affected. In some cases, the condition subsides and hair grows back on their own. In other cases treatment is required to suppress the immune system attacks.

Trichotillomania: This is perhaps the most severe compared to the other two problems. It is a psychological disorder where a person pulls his/her hair out because of severe stress/anxiety.

Patients reported “having a feeling of satisfaction” once they are done pulling hair out. You don’t need to be a scientist to analyze the level of stress a person is going through that they start pulling out hair.

Continuously ripping out hair not only ruptures the skin, but also the follicle bed. Eventually, the follicles stop growing back permanently. There are therapies to help the patient stop this habit. After which there are medications that help regrow hair.

Other Hair Loss Factors

There are many branches if you write down all possible reasons as to why hair falls. These include and definitely are not limited only to

  1. Pregnancy and post childbirth phase
  2. The nervousness that induces hair pulling habits
  3. Cancer medicines and chemotherapy
  4. Hair related illness or infections
  5. Hormonal changes/imbalance increased DHT levels

How to Relieve Stress?

Change of Lifestyle to Reduce Stress

It is impossible to avoid stress for the rest of your life. But you can take a few steps to reduce the intensity that bothers you to an uneasy extent. Take a look at what is bothering you and what can you do about it. These techniques can help you reduce stress in your life whenever possible.

Try and be more social, indulge in activities that make you happy. Start exercising; science says 30 minutes daily workout is enough to lift your mood. Exert stress by letting it out in physical activities.

Eliminate Causes of Stress

Take some time out and make a list of whatever causes you stress. Is it your job? Family issues? Difficulty communicating/conveying your point of view? Whether the cause of stress is legit or are you just overthinking and blowing stuff out of proportion?

Make a list of what bothers you and how. Then write down all the steps that can be taken for fixing that problem. Writing things down is known to help with clarity of mind and make rational thinking easier.

Once you have penned down the problems and their potential solutions, start working on them. Remove stress factors one by one. This is easier said than done. But once you start regaining control over things, it gets better in the end.

Seek Help

Two things we get wrong all the time. One is that we have to face everything alone with no one there to help us. The second is the stigma around not discussing mental health issues with someone. Out of fear that you might get labeled as crazy/attention seeker/a troubled person etc.

Like physical sickness, there is emotional sickness too. The best way to stop it is to talk about it, let it out of your head. Talk to a family member, a close friend or get professional help. Bottling up your feelings will only make things worse.

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