Physical Symptoms

How Anxiety Affects Your Hair

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

How Anxiety Affects Your Hair

Anxiety isn't just nervousness. It isn't just sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, and shaking hands. Anxiety is a disorder with numerous physical symptoms that can affect nearly every part of your body. The stress from anxiety can damage your organs, hurt your heart health, and even affect your hair.

Most people don't think anxiety affects hair because it doesn't affect everyone. No one is really sure why some people have hair related symptoms and others don't. But anxiety really can have an effect on hair, and when it does it can be very distressing for those with hair symptoms.

Hair Problems With Anxiety

It should be noted that hair loss isn't a "common" anxiety problem. It tends to affect only certain people, and it's not clear who is affected and why. It's also never the only symptom.

But hair loss is a very real problem, and the source of that hair loss is stress. Anxiety and stress are very similar conditions, and anxiety itself is essentially long term stress. Studies have shown that stress can cause and contribute to several hair loss conditions, including:

  • Alopecia Areata - This is the most distressing type of hair loss. It occurs when large clumps of hair fall out for no apparent reason, generally very suddenly. These large clumps of hair almost always come back, but if you continue to suffer from anxiety they may continue to fall out in clumps and in some cases it may be permanent (especially if it takes over the entire scalp).
  • Telogen Effluvium This is a similar condition that may cause hair to fall out. The difference between the two is that one expels the hair, while the other puts hair in a resting phase that causes more to fall out. Hair may fall out in clumps, or more hair than normal falls out naturally, or hair may weaken. All of these could be due to stress/anxiety.

There is another condition that you may need to watch for as well, called trichotillomania. Trichotillomania is not automatic hair loss. Rather, it's a habitual pulling out of hairs that some people do without realizing it as a response to stress. Have someone around you watch you when you're stressed to make sure you're not pulling out your hairs, and those that do it often have no idea they're creating their own hair loss.

Anxiety Causing White Hairs

Some people believe that anxiety can cause an increase in white or gray hair. They believe that anxiety shocks the system and turns their hair gray, as though they've aged rapidly.

This is not entirely true, but it does have some basis in fact. Anxiety cannot turn hair gray, but alopecia areata tends to target dark hairs, so those that already have gray hairs may be more likely to find only their dark hairs coming out, and thus it will appear that their hair has turned gray.

Hair Loss and Anxiety

Furthermore, it's important to note that not all hair loss is caused by anxiety, but when you have anxiety it's easy to worry more about your hair. Many people with anxiety pay too much attention to things that occur naturally, believing that they must all be caused by anxiety. It's even possible to convince yourself you're suffering from hair loss when in fact there is no hair loss at all.

So keep that in mind as well. Even though anxiety affects hair, many people that worry about their hair may misinterpret issues that happen naturally.

Cure Anxiety to Stop Hair Loss

Hair loss that's caused by anxiety only has one cure - stopping the anxiety. While not all hair will grow back even if you take away your anxiety, many conditions will. Hair growth is a very long process, so your hair may not come back for months, but you can improve that timeframe by doing something about your anxiety now.

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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