Hair Loss and Stress... And How to Deal With It

Lady looking stressed pulling at her hairModel used for illustrative purposes only.

There is a definite link between hair loss and stress.

Stress can make any hair disorder worse, and in some cases, can even be the trigger that sets it off.

This page explains which types of hair loss have the strongest connection with stress, how the stress mechanism works, and also suggests what you can do about it.

The Most Common Type of Hair Loss

Androgenetic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss affecting both men and women.

Stress can’t cause androgenetic alopecia, but it can make it worse.

First things first though: this type of hair loss is caused by the skull expansion process. Skull expansion progressively strains the capillary blood supply to hair follicles in the affected area of the scalp. This restricts the nutrient supply in the blood and so the hair follicles then start growing smaller and weaker. Hair loss then follows.

In the stress response, blood is diverted away from the extremities, including the skin. Your skin will often turn pale as a result, and this can include the scalp. And, as just explained, if the hair follicles don’t receive enough nutrients from the blood supply, hair growth can start to suffer.

So it’s easy to see how this type of hair loss and stress can be connected.

But, the stress response is only temporary, which means that any negative effects it has, won’t last that long. So, for that reason, stress can’t contribute to the hair loss process to any great extent.

However, there’s more to the stress response than simply diverting blood away from your extremities. The effect that stress hormones have, and how long it lasts, can vary from person to person.

Processing Stress Hormones

Lady worried about hair loss looking in the mirrorModel used for illustrative purposes only.

How efficiently you process stress hormones may have a part to play in the development of stress-related hair loss.

When stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) are released by your adrenal glands, they enter your bloodstream and start to take effect (the "fight or flight" response).

Eventually though, your body will clear these hormones from your system.

But, how long this takes can vary from one person to the next depending upon a number of factors.

And one of these factors is blood type. For example, people with blood type O clear stress hormones faster than those with blood type A; people with blood types B and AB lie in-between.

I believe that if studies were conducted to search for a possible correlation between stress-related hair loss conditions (such as alopecia areata below) and blood type, the results could be very interesting.

Conditions Where Stress Can Trigger Hair Loss

In some disorders, hair loss and stress can be much more closely related - stress might actually be the trigger that sets it off.

Such disorders include alopecia areata and acute telogen effluvium:

Alopecia areata

Bald spot caused by alopecia areata

Alopecia areata causes bald spots and patches to appear very rapidly. Someone with a history of areata can experience episodes of this disease that seem to coincide with stress. Areata can remain dormant for years. But, when extreme stress is experienced, it can quickly develop.

Alopecia areata might also be linked to other diseases and conditions (e.g., pregnancy) due to the high stress levels they can create.

Note: Alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis are both related to alopecia areata, and can also be connected to stress.

Learn more about alopecia areata, totalis and universalis?

Acute telogen effluvium

Acute telogen effluvium

Sudden, heavy thinning throughout the scalp can occur following a sudden shock event (e.g., bereavement, a major accident, illness or surgery, etc). Any of these things could cause this condition.

There is a delay (of approximately 3 months) before the hair loss starts because it takes time for hair to start shedding once the follicles are forced out of their growing phase and into their resting phase. And this can make it difficult to link the hair loss and stress event together.

Learn more about telogen effluvium?

Another Hair Loss and Stress-Related Condition

Some disorders are not fully understood. So, whether stress could be the actual trigger is unclear. These include:


This condition has loads of symptoms and, quite possibly, loads of potential causes too. Fibromyalgia is still something of a puzzle yet to be fully understood, but there does seem to be a strong link with stress.

Learn more about Fibromyalgia?

How to Deal With Stress

People suffering hair loss and stressModels used for illustrative purposes only.

More and more men and women are living today's fast paced "24-7" lifestyle.

The whole world, it seems, is getting faster!

And with this hectic way of life comes an increase in stress. Physical, chemical, and mental stress can all upset a body trying to maintain balance.

Here are just a few examples…

Chemical stress

  • Environmental pollutants (city smog, exhaust fumes).

  • Cigarette smoke.

  • Deodorants, perfumes.

  • Household cleaning products.

  • A junk food diet.

Physical stress

  • Not enough sleep - Do you get 8 hours every night?

  • Occupation - Some jobs are much more physically demanding than others.

  • Strenuous sport and exercise…

Physical exercise is obviously healthy to some extent. But, if you over exert yourself, or do vigorous exercise nearly every day, your body will be placed under a lot of stress (and be at greater risk of injury too).

Mental and emotional stress

  • Work pressure - Deadlines and responsibilities at work.

  • Home life - Stressful relationships (perhaps the mother-in-law?)

  • A combination - If juggling work and family commitments is a constant struggle, problems can fester in the mind and prolong your stress response.

Basically, too much of any type of stress is unnatural. And, this can spell bad news for your hair: both male and female hair loss numbers are rising, and the day-to-day accumulation of stress in our lives is partly to blame.

However, the fact that you now know there can sometimes be a strong connection between hair loss and stress should mean that you can become aware of this the next time you experience stress.

So, if you suffer hair loss and care about your hair, simply by being aware like this, might be enough to help you "rise above it all" and reduce, or even eliminate, any stress response you have.

Remember, some people take longer to clear stress hormones from their system. So, anything you can do to reduce your stress levels is probably a good idea.

Of course, there are many other ways to deal with stress:

In my second ebook "Hair Tomorrow Too" the different types of stress are fully explained, along with what steps you can take to deal with stress efficiently.

Note: Always consult with a doctor to identify which type of hair loss you have and how best to treat it.

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