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CAN STRESS CAUSE HAIR LOSS?

Can stress cause hair loss? The answer is yes – but there are some factors involved. When exploring possible causes of hair loss in both men and women, many questions and concerns are raised about such things as diet or lifestyle. Although androgenetic alopecia is one of the more common causes of hair loss in ladies and men, we rarely bring up the topic of lifestyle choices and how one particular element can actually have such an impact on your health that it causes your hair to fall out or thin.

When the cause is not so obvious as pattern baldness, diagnosis becomes much more difficult for someone suffering from hair loss. Hair pulling, also called trichotillomania, is one cause of hair loss but because the sufferer is aware that this is causing the hair loss, it can sometimes be easier to diagnose (even though it’s not necessarily easy to cope with.) Hair loss caused from stress is the topic of today.

Can Stress Cause Hair Loss?

In order to understand how stress causes hair loss, it’s important to first understand the hair growth cycle. The first stage is anagen, known as the active hair growth phase. This new hair continues to grow and pushes the old hair up the follicle and out. The hair grows, normally, at about a half an inch per month. The next phase is the catagen phase. This is when the hair stops growing and enters a two week transitional phase. In this phase, the root sheath in the follicle shrinks and attached to the base of the hair. Once the hair is no longer attached to the blood supply, this is the telogen or resting phase. Hairs usually are in this phase for a while and then fall out normally with day to day life – and then the whole cycle repeats itself. The hairs that fall out are replaced with new hairs.

Telogen is a key phase for stress related hair loss and to answer the question of can stress cause hair loss. Basically, when a traumatic event happens – such as a divorce, a loss of a family member or a critical accident. The levels of stress associated with these traumatic experiences keep some hairs in the resting or telogen phase – causing it to continually fall out without reaching that anagen (growth) phase – resulting in apparent hair loss. Physiological stressors can include diet or rapid weight loss changes, horomonal changes including pregnancy, etc. Obviously, someone cutting you off in LA traffic is not enough stress to cause hair loss – but continual emotional distress over a year-long period can cause hair loss. The good news is once the stressor is identified and eliminated, the hair, although this will always vary from person to person, should go back to its normal growth pattern.