Can Hair Loss Be Caused by Stress?

The medical term for hair loss is alopecia

Alopecia (hair loss) is common among men and women. We regularly hear patients tell us that they believe their hair loss is caused by stress. Some hair loss can be related to stress. Below is a brief description of each one.

Phases of the Hair Growth Cycle

Is stress-related hair loss permanent?

Stress-related hair loss is usually not permanent, and it is possible for your hair to grow back in time. The rate of regrowth is different for each individual. Hair growth occurs in a cycle of 4 phases.

Caucasians most commonly have 100,000 follicles, Asians typically have 75,000 hair follicles, and African Americans have roughly 60,000 follicles.

At any given time, your hair follicles will be in a different phase of this hair growth cycle:

  • Anagen phase: This is when hair is growing. It can last anywhere between 2 and 7 years.
  • Catagen phase: This is a very short phase that takes only a couple of weeks, when the hair follicle begins to shrink.
  • Telogen phase: This is the resting phase and typically lasts about 3 months.
  • Exogen phase: This is the phase when the follicle sheds the hair and starts new growth.

What Attacks Your Hair Follicles?

Types of stress-related hair loss

Telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium happens when a large number of hair follicles leave the growth phase. When this shift happens during the telogen (resting) phase of hair growth, it may cause shedding. Telogen effluvium typically results in diffuse thinning in all areas of the scalp. In some extreme cases, a patient may experience some thinning hair on other parts of the body. This most commonly includes the eyebrows or the genital area. Hair loss caused by telogen effluvium is not permanent and can be reversed. Once the cause is determined and the appropriate treatment is in place, patients can expect hair to grow back within 3 to 6 months.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an auto-immune disease characterized by your immune system attacking your hair follicles. This can be caused by stress, and it may result in patches of hair loss. Hair can be lost in patches on the scalp or even across the entire scalp. In a more severe form of alopecia known as alopecia universalis, no hair grows on the entire body. There is no known cure for alopecia areata. However, there are medications and treatments that may help some patients who are dealing with this type of hair loss.

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is caused by literally pulling your hair out. It is an impulse control disorder that causes patients to constantly have the urge to pull hair out from all over their body. Patients find that the urge to pull the hair out happens without much thought. The hair pulling can also be used as a way to relieve stress or deal with other negative emotions. Pulling hair out from the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes is noticeable. This obviously is the cause of additional stress, making the stress an ongoing issue.

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