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Fact or Fiction: Can Stress Really Cause Hair Loss?



It’s been a topic of debate for a few decades now, and one which we all have encountered, either through personal experience or through a relatable television program. The question is, “Can stress cause hair loss”, and the answer is, most definitely. The science behind hair loss from stress is a little common sense and a little biology.

Seasoned dermatologists who see patients for possible skin conditions also see them for scalp conditions. While some hair loss is natural, more than one hundred hairs lost in a day is the reason for concern. Since people aren’t going to stop and count every hair they lose in a day or notice when they have lost another hair or two, this isn’t a practical means of measuring problematic hair loss.

Dermatologists recommend looking for clumps of hair on the pillow, in your comb or brush, or in the shower drain. Clumps are more noticeable because they have at least two dozen hairs in a ball together, and this is the point when people turn to a dermatologist to see if the problem is their scalp.

Several scalp conditions can be to blame; anything from excessive oiliness and the presence of wens, small acne-like boils on the scalp, to psoriasis, which can prevent new hair from growing in. When all of the scalp disorders are ruled out and the patient isn’t suffering from thyroid, parathyroid, or pituitary glandular problem (all three affect hair growth), then the dermatologist will ask about a person’s lifestyle and employment.

High-stress jobs, relationships, and responsibilities elevate the level of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a biological “fight or flight” chemical that prepares the body to run or defend, and it also causes hair loss. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands, which also produce adrenaline, something everyone should be familiar with.

Just as some lizards and rodents lose their tails and fur when their adrenal glands are engaged and they are energized to run from a predator, making a slick getaway, so too are humans programmed to respond. The only problem is, we aren’t fleeing from something that will eat us anymore, we are just trying to keep up with all the daily demands and responsibilities.

Still, that doesn’t stop our scalps from shaking hair loose, and because it’s more noticeable from our heads we become concerned. If we noticed any excessive hair loss from our bodies we probably wouldn’t react as strongly. The truth is, our bodies lose just as much hair from stress as our heads do!

To calm down and stop the hair loss from stress, ten minutes a day sitting someplace quiet without any distractions and just focused breathing for those ten minutes is all that is needed to take the body out of the “flight” mode. If more than one thing stresses you out, take more than one ten minute breaks to relax, just not successively.