By Paul Taylor
There is a definite link between hair loss and stress. Stress can make any hair disorder worse, and in some cases, 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 suggests what you
can do about it.
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 of all, I firmly believe this type of hair loss is caused by skull expansion (skull bone growth) in a process which progressively strains the capillary blood supply to
hair follicles in the affected area of the scalp. This restricts
the nutrient supply in the blood which then causes the hair follicles to get 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. However, 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 this type of hair loss to any great extent.
But, 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.
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, 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, one of which is blood type - 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.*
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 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.
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.
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.
Some disorders are not fully understood, so whether stress could be the actual trigger is unclear. One such condition is fibromyalgia.
This condition has loads of symptoms and, quite possibly, loads of potential causes as well. Fibromyalgia is still something of a puzzle yet to be fully understood but there does seem to be a strong link with stress.
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:
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).
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. And remember, some people
take longer to clear stress hormones from their system. So anything you
do which you find reduces your stress levels, is definitely worth continuing.
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