Is mental health related to hair loss?

Published: 10 de May de 2022
| Last Updated on 15 de April de 2024 by Easy Hair Hub
Dr. Oguz Kayiran
Medical Reviewer

If you've been struggling with your mental health and have found more strands of hair than usual when combing your hair, showering, or just around the house, you may be wondering if one could be related to the other.

While some hair loss is completely normal (adults lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day according to the American Dermatological Association), your mental health can also alter your rate of shedding, inhibit new hair growth, or cause excessive hair breakage

HAIR LOSS INDUCED BY STRESS AND ANXIETY

By stress, we are not just talking about emotional stress, but also physical stress, such as going through a traumatic event, a viral infection involving a high fever, or drastic weight loss.

Telogen effluvium (TE)

Severe stress can sometimes cause what is called telogen effluvium, or excessive hair loss. Adult hair follicles are constantly cycling between the growth, resting, and molting phases. Most of the hair is in a state of growth, then gradually goes to rest, and finally falls out. Telogen effluvium occurs when more hair strands than normal go into the resting (or telogen) phase, resulting in exaggerated shedding, and that shedding itself can often cause even more stress for the sufferer.

Telogen effluvium causes diffuse, non-scarring hair loss. That means you may notice hair thinning, thinning around the hairline, mid-scalp, and crown without clearly delineated bald patches or patches.

The good news is that, for the most part, telogen effluvium is reversible once the stressful situation passes or once the stress is under control, although it may take some time and patience to restore your hair's density.

Alopecia areata (AA)

Both stress and stress-induced anxiety have also been found to be linked to alopecia areata (AA) along with other risk factors such as genetic predisposition. When suffering from AA, your immune system attacks the hair follicles causing hair loss in the form of outlined patches or bald spots. This could progress to affect the entire scalp (Alopecia Totalis or AT) or, in even more extreme cases, it could spread to the whole body (Alopecia Universalis or AU).

Although there is no known cure for AA, there are some medications that can be prescribed to treat AA to some degree, such as corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory drugs, and even without any treatment or medication, people with only a few patches often experience a sudden and complete recovery

Other types of stress-induced hair loss

Although rare, stress can cause hair loss in other ways, such as by increasing corticosterone levels, which can inhibit hair growth, or by creating the urge to pull your hair out (trichotillomania). In cases of severe trichotillomania, hair follicles can be damaged by the repeated pulling action and affect the rate, pattern, and quality of hair growth.

HAIR LOSS INDUCED BY DEPRESSION

Sometimes stress, anxiety, and depression can go hand in hand, and in those cases, people suffering from depression may be experiencing the type of hair loss mentioned above (telogen effluvium).

Depression can also influence appetite, leading to nutritional deficiencies that could affect both hair growth and structure. If you suspect that may be the case, your healthcare provider should be able to run some tests and determine any deficiencies. Vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and iron are among the most common nutrient deficiencies linked to increased hair loss or decreased hair growth.

HAIR LOSS INDUCED BY ANTIDEPRESSANTS

Anyone who takes antidepressants will tell you that while they can be incredibly beneficial for treating depression and other disorders like OCD, anxiety, and panic attacks, they come with a long list of side effects.

One of these side effects is excessive shedding in the form of telogen effluvium (as explained above). Although rare, some case studies and articles have found a link between antidepressant use and excessive shedding. This drug-induced hair loss usually appears within the first 3 months of use and tends to be reversible once the drug is discontinued.

HOW TO TREAT HAIR LOSS INDUCED BY STRESS, ANXIETY OR DEPRESSION?

Start by contacting your health care provider for help managing your mental health and ruling out other causes of hair loss. Your provider may also refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist, discuss medications, or recommend general habits to improve your mental health.

On top of that, you may want to look at ways to improve your overall psychological well-being. According to mental health professionals, a healthy lifestyle can help minimize the development of mental health disorders. These changes need not be drastic; Simple things like a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, spending time outside, or getting enough sleep can have big effects on your physical and mental health.

HOW TO TREAT HAIR LOSS INDUCED BY ANTIDEPRESSANTS?

While it is never advisable to stop or change the use of any prescription without consulting your healthcare provider, you can contact them to discuss your options in terms of dosage or alternative medications to the specific medication you are taking.

Your healthcare provider may switch you to a different medication for a few months to see if the side effect goes away or to rule out any other cause of hair loss. They can also prescribe FDA-approved topical hair loss medications (if not contraindicated with your other prescription medications).

*If you are struggling with depression, talk to your primary care doctor. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-(800)-273-TALK (8255) or via Live Online Chat) for a 24/7 helpline. If you believe your situation may be life-threatening, get immediate help by calling 911.

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