Stress-Related Hair Loss Conditions and Their Signs

We all endure some stress every once in a while, whether from work, a relationship, finances or other sources. Severe and long-term stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and seriously affect our health, but did you know stress can also cause hair loss? There are actually a few stress-related conditions that can thin-out your ‘do.

Stress-related hair loss can cause a cycle of frustration: stress causes your hair to fall out, which can make you more stressed and so on. If you notice that you’re losing more hair than normal, take a step back and examine the level of stress you’re under. If that level is pretty high, working to manage it can help put you back on track to a full and healthy head of hair.

There are three major hair loss conditions related to high stress: telogen effluvium, alopecia areata and trichotillomania. Each condition has its own distinct signs. If you recognize any of the symptoms with your own hair, consider speaking to a doctor about treatment options.

Telogen effluvium

The first condition, telogen effluvium, occurs when large amounts of hair follicles prematurely fall out. The condition is caused by high levels of stress, but the effects might not be noticed for a few months.

Approximately 80 percent of your hair follicles are actively growing, while others are in a resting phase and will eventually fall out to be replaced by new hair. In telogen effluvium, a person’s stress can trigger large chunks of hair follicles to enter the resting stage, meaning they will fall out after two to four months.

If you suddenly notice large chunks or handfuls of hair falling out when your wash or brush your hair, you may have telogen effluvium. Remember that the hair loss is delayed, since the hair doesn’t fall out immediately during a stressful time. If your stress is well-managed when you notice the hair loss, there is a good chance that the new hair growth will reverse the damage over time.

Alopecia areata

Stress is believed to be one of the many causes of alopecia areata, a condition that’s marked by wide-spread hair loss. In this condition, the white blood cells of your immune system attack your hair follicles, causing hair to fall out. The hair loss caused by alopecia areata usually forms round bald patches, but severe cases can lead to losing the entire head of hair and even hair on other body parts like the arms.

Hair may begin to re-grow on its own, but some people with alopecia areata never grow hair again. There are some treatments available, but managing your stress is a good first step.


Trichotillomania is a condition that causes someone to have the urge to pull out their own hair. Talk about a literal response to stress!

People with trichotillomania often do not realize they are pulling out their hair or might feel an irresistible urge to do so, followed by feelings of relief and pleasure after pulling. Those with the condition may pull hair from their scalp, eyebrows, arms, legs or other body areas with hair, causing patches of baldness in certain areas.

There are some treatments for trichotillomania, but less severe cases caused by stress can sometimes be cured by finding a way to keep stress at a minimum.

Healthy life, healthy hair

Stress-related conditions that cause hair loss aren’t necessarily permanent and can be reversed if stress is adequately managed. If you suffer from a stress-related hair loss condition, try these tips to manage your stress level and get your hair growing back thick and healthy.

  • Remove stressors: One of the best ways to limit the extreme stress you endure is to identify the factors of your life that stress you out and try to minimize them as much as possible. If you hate your job, consider looking for a new one, for example. Taking control of the stressors in your life can make a huge difference in your happiness.
  • Get lots of sleep: Sleep helps the body recover and heal, mentally and physically. Not getting enough sleep puts even more stress on the body, so aim for seven to eight hours a night.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating healthy foods and drinking lots of water will not only help your body feel better and stronger but will also help your mind. Crash diets and junk food, as well as caffeine and alcohol, can make stress worse and harder to manage.
  • Exercise or meditate: Exercise has been proven to lower stress levels and lead to a happier lifestyle, so try hitting the gym a few times a week to relieve some stress. Yoga and meditation can also help calm you down and release some pent-up tension that might cause hair loss.
  • Consider therapy: If you find that your stress—and potentially your hair loss—is not easily managed on your own, consider speaking to a therapist who can teach you healthy ways to manage your stress level or prescribe treatments for your stress or hair loss conditions.

Remember, not all hair loss is permanent, and neither is stress. If you’ve been going through hard times and notice your hair getting thinner or patchier by the day, try to remain calm or the condition could get worse. Work to alleviate your stress so your hair can grow back full and healthy and you can live a happier, healthier life.

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