Every day the world gets faster, and we race to catch up. Keeping up with our ever-changing and ever-evolving reality can be quite the challenge. That’s why stress and anxiety are becoming common phenomenons. Although our understanding of anxiety and stress has improved over the decades, most people still aren’t aware of how these issues can impact us. Anxiety doesn’t just entail panic attacks and chest pains; it can hamper our everyday lives. The toll anxiety can take on our physical health is quite severe. Hair loss is one of the less talked about but equally acute side effects of anxiety.
Hair loss is a sensitive matter for many people. It isn’t the most straightforward problem to fix, but there is a lot of research around it providing us with medicinal solutions, like Finasteride and Propecia, but it is always better to consult your GP, especially for stress-related issues. Unfortunately, anxiety-induced hair loss isn’t commonly acknowledged, which is why it goes untreated for many. So we’ve put together this guide that will tell you how to identify anxiety-induced hair loss and fix it so that you’re not one of those people.
What is the link between anxiety and hair loss?
A bit of hair loss is standard. In fact, it’s a good thing. It means your hair follicles are recycling and starting anew; your body is healthy. However, too much hair loss is where the problem begins. Adults usually have 100,000 or more hair follicles on their scalp. These follicles are either in the growth phase or the resting phase. When they go from the growth to the resting stage, hair gets shed, and we experience hair loss. The process usually takes place steadily, and you lose about 100 hairs per day. However, when you’re undergoing unusual levels of stress, it serves as a trigger accelerating that transition. As a result, follicles shift to the resting phase rapidly, and you lose hair at an increased rate.
What are the kinds of hair loss caused by stress?
The types of hair loss that can be traced back to anxiety include:
1 Telogen effluvium
Telogen effluvium is the most common type of hair loss due to anxiety and stress. It can happen to individuals of any age. Telogen effluvium is characterised by excessive hair loss. It deals with the resting phase of the follicle’s life cycle. When someone suffers from Telogen effluvium, around 30% of their hair follicles enter the resting phase at a time. This means the number entering the growth phase gets reduced. As a result, you experience shedding of hair without proper growth.
Symptoms: The hair loss is not constant and uniform throughout. You may notice more hair loss in specific patches than across your whole scalp. You might start seeing clumps of hair on your pillow or the shower drain.
Causes: Increased stress levels can offset Telogen effluvium. Often stress is accompanied by a loss of appetite and a drop in weight. These things further exacerbate the problem.
Treatment: Generally, the effects of Telogen effluvium can be reversed. The best treatment is to find a way to reduce your anxiety. For example, you may reach out to a counselling service to manage your emotions better. You can also opt for hair replacement treatment and make changes to your diet.
2. Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is a widely known autoimmune disease that might lead to hair loss. Most people tend to develop the disease before they turn 30. However, it can target anyone regardless of gender or ethnicity. The hair loss you experience during Alopecia Areata is in the form of clumps that are big enough to be compared to a quarter. You might also start losing the hair from other parts of your body. This is when the situation worsens to Alopecia Universalis.
Symptoms: Alopecia Areata symptoms include itchiness in the scalp followed by hair loss. You might notice white hair growing in the affected areas afterwards. You might also see exclamation mark hairs, the sharp hair that grows around bald spots, and cadaver hairs, hair that breaks before it has reached the surface. The symptoms make it easy to diagnose Alopecia Areata. However, doctors sometimes need to schedule a skin biopsy to ensure the diagnosis.
Causes: Usually, genetic causes trigger Alopecia areata. However, extreme stress can also set it off. Since it is an autoimmune disease, the white blood cells in your body attack the hair follicles. This disrupts their growth and hinders hair production. As a result, the hair follicles shrink, and you experience hair loss.
Treatment: Currently, doctors don’t have a concrete cure for Alopecia Areata. Most treatments include injecting anti-inflammatory drugs into the body. These can be in the form of injections or ointments. The medication can’t always keep new bald patches from appearing, but it can help you deal with present ones.
Trichotillomania is most common in young adults and teenagers. It is a disorder where someone feels a strong urge to pull out their hair, and they might be unable to resist it. Trichotillomania is referred to as Trich too.
Symptoms: Trich is characterised by a strong urge to pull your hair out. Many people try to refuse the desire. However, research shows that many can’t manage to resist. The act only makes them more anxious. It induces anxiety, and the person does not feel relief until they pull their hair out. You might even need to chew or bite on the hair you’ve pulled out. People with Trichotillomania might develop bald spots, and their hair may thin out in appearance.
Causes: Tricholtillomania can emerge due to genetic reasons. If your family has a history of Trich, you might have a high chance of developing the disorder. Trich, like other disorders such as OCD, is also triggered by chemical imbalances in the brain. A change in your hormonal levels can also lead to Trichotillomania. All of these changes, in turn, can lead to anxiety and stress, and you may turn to Trichotillomania as a way to cope with the stress.
Treatment: Doctors usually treat Trichotillomania with habit reversal training, a kind of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. In order to truly tackle the problem, you will need to work out your triggers and figure out how to overcome or avoid them. This is something a medical professional can help you with.
Caring for yourself and your hair
Stress and anxiety have become constants in our lives. However, we can’t let them take over. You can take up activities like journaling and yoga to regulate your emotions. Diet and nutrition also play a crucial role in your hair’s health. For example, you might be experiencing a vitamin or mineral deficiency. All these things are manageable, and you should start treatment as soon as possible for your health and future.