“ Stress can cause intense hair loss called telogen effluvium . This drop is usually striking, but it is recoverable once the stressful episode passes. The hair follicle is detached, but the ‘follicular root’ (hair factory) will once again produce another follicle ”, Sergio Vañó Galván and Patricia Fernández Martín, dermatologist and clinical psychologist at the Ramón y Cajal University Hospital , in Madrid , explain to CuídatePlus .
Are some types of alopecia caused by stress? Stress is not the primary cause of alopecia, but it does act as a trigger nonetheless . For example, in alopecia areata -alopecia of autoimmune origin-, the outbreaks are usually related to stressful episodes.
Can other psychological disorders precipitate the appearance of alopecia?
In general, any state of psychological stress can trigger telogen effluvium, but not other types of alopecia such as androgenic alopecia. In contrast, in the case of alopecia areata, psychological disorders can trigger flare-ups.
“Aspects related to stress (stressful life events, psychosocial problems in the workplace, family or social) are not the cause of alopecia areata, but may be linked to the onset of the disease and subsequent development”, state the specialists from the Dermatology and Psychiatry services.
The course, prognosis, and severity of alopecia areata are also associated with psychopathology (personality traits, psychiatric disorders, and poor sleep quality), which may affect the quality of life of these patients. Therefore, a psychological approach that helps them remove the guilt of feeling responsible for the origin of their disease is important,but try to reduce the emotional impact of the diagnosis and to live with said pathology and to cope with the treatment and adherence to it.
Treatments for stress-related hair loss
According to the experts consulted, “the treatment of telogen effluvium is to solve the cause that produces it. In patients with no identifiable cause, it can be treated with topical or oral minoxidil and with other therapies, such as melatonin or platelet-rich plasma ”.
Is reducing stress key to slowing hair loss?
It depends on the type of alopecia. There are more than 100 different types (hormonal, genetic, autoimmune causes, etc.). In some cases, such as lopecia areata, lowering the stress level can help the alopecia improve.
Vaño and Fernández point out that “joint collaboration between the dermatologist and the psychologist / psychiatrist is essential in the therapeutic approach of some patients with alopecia areata; especially in cases where the emotional impact is greater or in the case of a patient with a previous mental disorder or as a consequence of the disease, and for those who reduce stress, stabilize mood, control anxiety and improve emotional management they can be key to improving the quality of life. Similarly, it is necessary to increase resilience mechanisms in the face of the challenges posed by this disease ”.
As for psychological treatment, the most effective is cognitive-behavioral.
What about gray hair?
Another question posed by the general population is whether stress can accelerate the appearance of gray hair. Is that so? “It is a question that still cannot be answered definitively, although studies have recently been published that do link the appearance of gray hair with the fact of having been subjected to periods of stress,” say the experts from the Ramón y Cajal Hospital.