Physical Symptoms

How Stress and Anxiety Can Cause Hair Loss

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

How Stress and Anxiety Can Cause Hair Loss

There are many symptoms of anxiety that seem to become self-fulfilling. A common example is hair loss. It often seems that those that live in constant fear about losing their hair may actually contribute to their own hair loss, by giving themselves so much stress and anxiety that their hair may fall out.

Anxiety and hair loss have a complex relationship, and it's probably not what you think. But anxiety can, in some cases, cause hair loss to occur, and in other cases it can make hair loss itself more difficult to control.

Causes of Anxiety Hair Loss

Hair loss is never the only symptom of anxiety. But it is a distressing one.

The key issue between anxiety and hair loss is stress. Anxiety can create long term and persistent stress. While technically these are two separate conditions and long term stress on its own can lead to many of the same symptoms, the reality is that anyone dealing with anxiety is putting themselves under severe mental and physical stress all the time.

Stress can cause many conditions that lead to hair loss. These include:

  • Alopecia Areata - Sudden loss of large clumps of hair in areas around your scalp or gradual hair loss that builds over time.
  • Telogen Effluvium - This is a condition where more hairs than normal prepare to fall out.
  • Trichotillomania - This is a habitual condition caused by stress and anxiety where the person pulls out hairs - sometimes without realizing it.

It's highly likely that those with mild hair loss caused by anxiety are suffering from either telogen effluvium, or simply stress weakened hair. But the other two are also a concern and affect a smaller percentage of the anxiety population.

Many individuals with anxiety conditions suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Lack of vitamins (particularly if they are prone to not eating during periods of anxiety) will develop problems with growing back hair that naturally falls out daily.

Hairs have a growth cycle of two years before stopping and falling out two months later. If your body "tells" more hairs than normal to stop growing, two months later more hairs will fall out.

All of these may be caused by anxiety. Of course, Hair loss may also be genetic, a symptom of hormonal imbalance or a side effect of certain medications. But anxiety could also be to blame.

Not All Hair Loss is Anxiety Related

It's also important to note that not all hair loss is anxiety related, but the two may occur at a similar period of time. Some people that start to suffer from hair loss are at an age with many other stresses, like kids, work, and finances. Because they happen at the same age they may seem related, but are technically different conditions.

Furthermore, some people start to feel anxiety**_ because_** they're experiencing hair loss. In a way, hair loss is their anxiety trigger, and they experience greater levels of anxiety because they are so worried about losing their hair.

Finally, sometimes those with anxiety simply see more hair loss where it doesn't exist, because of their fears. It's not uncommon for hair to look exactly the same (or have slightly more fall out due to natural aging) but anxiety plays tricks with the mind to make it seem or feel like more fell out than usual.

While anxiety can absolutely cause hair to fall out - in some cases in very large clumps - anxiety is not always the problem. Sometimes the problem is simply that your anxiety causes you to think more and care more about your hair than necessary, giving the impression that the two are related.

Reduce Anxiety and the Hair May Come Back

The good news for anxiety sufferers is that not all anxiety related hair loss is permanent. If stress and anxiety are what caused your hair loss, then reducing that anxiety can help your hair come back when combined with vitamin and mineral supplements to aid in the process.

For more information about anxiety treatment strategies, click here.

Remember - not all hair comes back after it's lost regardless of the cause, and your hair loss may be natural and not caused by anxiety at all. No matter what, you need to make sure that you are addressing your anxiety directly in order to both reduce the likelihood of anxiety related hair loss and reduce the anxiety you experience because of your lost hair.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

Ask Doctor a Question

Question:

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

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

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.

Ask Doctor a Question

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