There’s a lot of things that stress can lead to. One of those things can actually be hair loss. The temporary hair loss that can come from stress is known as telogen effluvium. Stressful events such as losing a job, severe relationship strife, and significant financial events can lead to telogen effluvium.
First, let’s breakdown the cycle of hair. It’s pretty straightforward – your hair grows, stops, then falls out.
The growth phase (anagen) involves hair on your head, and lasts anywhere from two to six years (leading to lengthy hair). Other hairs have shorter growth time, such as eyelashes lasting for about 30 days.
Following anagen is the stage called catagen, which is a short phase that lasts a few days where the follicle shrinks some.
Next is telogen, which is when the hair just sits, doing nothing.
The final stage (exogen) is where the hair falls out.
This is a constant process, and it’s normal for a person to lose 50 to 100 daily hairs this way. That’s quite a lot of hairs if you think about it. However, when it comes to the number of hairs on the human head (90-150,000), it kind of pales in comparison.
How about when stress enters the picture – the kind of unrelenting stress that can lead to health issues, among other things?
First off, you might want to distinguish between three types of stress-related issues that can lead to hair loss.
We’ve already covered telogen effluvium. However, there are two other ways that stress can lead to unwanted hair loss: trichotillomania and alopecia areata (what the heck is with these big words?).
Trichotillomania only affects a small number of the people (About 1-2%). It’s a compulsion to pull at your hair. The urge can lead to pulling of the hair from any part of the body, but common areas include the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelids. The compulsion to pull hair is basically a means to diminish one’s stress and anxiety levels.
While experts don’t really know the exact cause of alopecia areata, it is a particular type of hair loss where your immune system attacks your hair follicles, leading to hair loss.
According to The Atlantic, if stress comes into the picture, it can disrupt the natural hair-growth process. According to the author of Hair: A Human History, stress can cause a jump from the anagen phase, leap over the telogen phase, and kickstart the exogen stage. And not just the regular numbers here, were talking up to 10 times the hair loss.
It's also been shown in mice (an animal with a closely related hair-growth cycle to us) that stress can inhibit hair growth.
It's also important to note that there's a gap between a stressful even and your potential hair loss – anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months. It can also be caused by hormonal changes. So ti's a good idea to keep an eye on your stress levels, as well as factoring in the time between a highly stressful event and the lead up to potential hair loss.
What's The Point?
Why does any of this matter, anyway? Well, these are ways that can potentially be a cause of your hair loss. Also, it is good to note that hair loss, on a certain level, is natural – that is, when it comes to the natural life cycle of hair, your hair grows, stops growing, then falls out. Don't over react if you run your hands through your hair and some comes out. One one level, it is the natural state of things.
However, if you believe stress is the cause of your hair loss (particularly, one of the three causes already discussed), you most likely want to seek the professional help in the form of a doctor to find out more about it.
While there are proponents on both ends – some say that stress can indeed cause hair loss, while others say it’s not really a factor. In the end, stress, especially high levels of it, is never really a good thing. So, if you feel like a stressful event may lead to hair loss, seek out professional help in a doctor or a psychologist for further information and inquiries about either the hair loss, the stress, or both.
After the Session is an supplemental educational blog dealing with various psychology, counseling, and self-development topics.
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