Stress-induced hair loss is not as uncommon as you might think – but the side effects are equally as unsettling as any other condition. Albeit usually brief, telogen effluvium (TE) usually appears a few months following a highly stressful event, like a death in the family or strenuous divorce. Although hereditary hair loss, called androgenic alopecia, is more common, TE is likely the second most common form of hair loss diagnosed by medical professionals, according to the American Hair Loss Association. Unfortunately, minimal research has been dedicated to the pervasiveness, occurrence and understanding of stress-induced hair loss.
TE isn’t like male pattern baldness. If anything, its appearance mirrors female pattern hair loss (FPHL) – a diffuse, overall thinning rather than clearly defined balding around the hairline. Patients with stress-induced hair loss may notice more dramatic loss around the top of the scalp or a widening part. Essentially, TE causes the number of active follicles to drop during the resting (telogen) phase, increasing lost hairs at greater numbers than usual. In serious cases, TE may spread beyond the scalp and diminish volume in the eyebrows or pubic area.
In cases of a brief traumatic event, TE clears up on its own. For example, mothers may experience TE symptoms after childbirth, more formally named postpartum alopecia, where hormone levels shift drastically and trigger follicles to temporarily shut down. Crash dieting, physical trauma, antidepressants and even vaccinations can elicit TE. However, stress-induced hair loss isn’t always short-lived. Persistent TE is usually associated with ongoing emotional disturbances, high anxiety levels, chronic illness or long-term diet deficiency. This type of hair loss lasts more than 6 months.
In a January 2017 poll conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), levels of stress have drastically increased since the annual Stress in America survey commenced in 2007. The percentage of Americans who reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress the month prior to the survey rose from 71 percent in August 2016 to 80 percent this January. Symptoms include headaches (34 percent), feeling overwhelmed (33 percent), nervousness or anxiousness (33 percent) and depression or sadness (32 percent).
With stress among Americans abruptly mounting, stress-induced hair loss may be on the rise, too. Consider the following ways you can manage your stress levels and keep your hair healthy and full:
- Get regular exercise by walking to work or hitting the gym
- Take a break from your gadgets and other time-consuming technologies
- Read a book outside or in a quiet room
- Spend time with family or friends, even when you’re “too busy”
- Get a massage or spa treatment once a month
- Consider a new hobby, like painting or dancing
To formally diagnose TE, visit your physician to rule out any underlying condition or genetics. If your anxiety is unmanageable on your own, consider seeking help from a therapist or mental health counselor. For more information on hair loss diagnosis and treatment in Florida, contact the Hair Transplant Insitute of Miami at 305-925-0222.