Can hair loss be caused by stress?

A sensation of emotional or bodily tension is referred to as stress. Any event or thought that makes you annoyed, furious, or nervous can trigger it. Your body's response to a challenge or demand is called stress.

Stress can affect your body in many ways. One of the most visible consequences can be seen in your hair loss. Stress and anxiety play a role in hair loss. 

On an average adult, he/she have about 100,000 hair follicles. Each follicle is going under the growing cycle comprising three phases; growing phase, resting phase and shedding phase. The hair growth cycle is run by stem cells that reside in the hair follicles. In the growing phase, stem cells divide to become new cells and these cells regenerate hairs. But in the resting phase and shedding phase, stem cells are inactive. Thus, the generation of new hairs cannot happen at this phase. 

In a normal hair growth cycle, 80%-90% of the hair follicles are in a growing phase. This phase is called anagen. The next phase of the cycle is called the resting phase. 5% of the hair follicles are in the resting phase. It is also known as catagen. The third phase is the shedding phase or telogen. 5% of the hair follicles are in the shedding phase. 

But in a stress-induced hair fall, up to 50% of the hair follicles are in the shedding phase. That means hair follicles are prematurely entered into the shedding phase of the cycle. 

Three types of hair loss can be associated with stress. They are; 

    1) Telogen effluvium

    In telogen effluvium, more hair follicles enter into the resting phase. Regeneration of new hair follicles doesn't happen in the resting phase. So, hair follicles will come out very easily and hair fall will increase. 

    The most common symptom of telogen effluvium is an increase in hair shedding. When someone washes or brushes their hair, they may find that more hair is falling out than usual. More hair may also be found in the floor or on their pillow.

    Except in cases of chronic telogen effluvium, which can persist up to a year, it normally lasts around 6 months. There is no specific treatment for hair regrowth, but lifestyle and nutritional adjustments can help.

    2) Trichotillomania

    Trichotillomania is a psychological condition to pull out your hair strands from your scalp when you are stressed or tensed. Pulling out the hair can be a means of dealing with stress and negative feelings. 

    Some people purposefully pull their hair out to relieve tension or anxiety, such as to gain relief from an overwhelming urge to pull hair. Some people may develop complex hair-pulling rituals, such as searching for the perfect hair or biting pulled hairs. When people are bored, reading, or watching television, they may pluck their hair without even realizing it.

    Trichotillomania is a chronic (long-term) disorder. Symptoms can change in severity over time if not treated. Menstrual hormone shifts, for example, can exacerbate symptoms in women. Symptoms might come and go for weeks, months, or years in some people if they are not addressed. Hair pulling rarely stops within a few years of beginning.

    3) Alopecia areata

    In alopecia areata, the body's immune system attacks the hair follicles causing hair fall. Alopecia areata is a condition in which hair falls out in small patches that might be difficult to see. However, these patches may link and become visible. When the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss, the disease develops.

    Although there is no known cure for alopecia areata, there are therapies that you can attempt to help slow down future hair loss or speed up hair growth.

    Because the situation is difficult to forecast, you may have to go through a lot of trial and error until you find anything that works for you. Even with medication, hair loss can worsen for some people.

    How to prevent hair fall caused by stress?

    Stress and hair loss cannot be permanent. You can reverse the growth of your hair once you can control your stress. Some of the efficient ways to control stress are; 

    1) Regular exercise

    2) Mediation/Yoga 

    3) Healthy diet 

    4) Spend time with family and friends

    5) Take supplements including; Ferritin, Vitamin D, Zinc and Vitamin B12. 

    6) Counselling or therapy