Stress and Hair Loss: The Reason Your Hair Falls Out in Clumps

hair loss problem

You have approximately 100,000 hair follicles on top of your head. Each one is in a constant cycle of growth (anagen) and rest (telogen). The period in between is called catagen.

Most of the time, 90% of all the hair follicles on your head are in the anagen phase, which lasts from two to eight years. After that, your hair follicles will move to catagen, which lasts two to three weeks. During this time, the hair follicle shrinks. Then, during the telogen phase, the hair rests. This stage lasts two to four months.

This cycle is the reason why your hair sheds. You lose about 50 to 100 hair strands every day, more if you shower. It usually does not affect the appearance of your crowning glory.

However, when your hair starts to fall in clumps, then you have a problem.

Different Causes of Hair Loss

Hair loss occurs for several reasons. Styling your hair in a tight ponytail can pull out your strands and cause hair loss. Using heat tools can also damage your hair, which will lead to hair loss.

Tying your hair loosely or wearing it down whenever possible will prevent your strands from being pulled off of your scalp. Applying hair repair products on damaged strands will bring your locks back to normal.

Excessive brushing and combing your hair may also be removing more strands than usual. You do not need to brush your hair throughout the day. Unless your hair is tangled, brushing once in the morning and again at night is all your hair needs. If your hair is already damaged, you should avoid backcombing and teasing, too.

Your diet may also be contributing to the problem. If you are not getting enough vitamins and minerals every day, particularly vitamin B, more hair strands will fall off your head.

Sometimes, hair loss happens because of genetics. If one or both of your parents have thin locks, you probably will have the same experience in the future.

Your Mental Health Affects Your Hair Health

woman with long hair

Sometimes, something triggers your hair follicles to transition to the rest phase immediately at once. When it happens, your hair will shed like crazy. It is called telogen effluvium, and it occurs when a person undergoes significant or prolonged stress.

A single bad day at work will probably not cause you to lose hair, but if it has been going on for a while, eventually, you might see more hair strands on your shower drain than usual.

A major life change such as a divorce, death of a loved one, or unemployment may be a source of significant emotional stress that can cause hair loss.

What Stress Does to Hair

Stress, according to studies, disrupts the natural cycle of the hair. When a person experiences stress, the hair follicles are prematurely taken out of the anagen phase. It transitions to the catagen and then telogen phase immediately and at the same time. That is when hair falls off.

Scientists already witnessed it happen to mice. When exposed to loud noises, the hair follicles of mice prematurely moved to the catagen phase.

No one knows why it happens, but the hormones produced whenever a person is under duress may be the culprit. In one study, scientists found that the rhesus macaque monkeys with more cortisol are more likely to experience hair loss.

It is safe to assume that the same happens to humans. When you are experiencing a stressful situation, your body produces cortisol, which is responsible for your fight-or-flight response. If your cortisol is always at high levels, it disrupts the natural functions of your body. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure shoots up, your skin develops acne, and your hair might fall out.

Signs of Stress-Related Hair Loss

If it is telogen effluvium, your hair will abruptly enter the resting stage. Therefore, hair loss will happen all of a sudden.

Your hair would also fall in a diffused way. You may realize that your hair is thinner when you put it up on a ponytail, for example. If your hair is falling in patches, it probably is caused by something else.

Moreover, it is temporary. Once you got through the stressful situation or you have found a way to manage stress effectively, then your hair will go back to normal. It will be slow — hair grows about half an inch a month — but you will have a head full of hair eventually.

If your hair falls all at once, you should see a doctor to rule out any medical issues. If it is stress-related, the best way to deal with it is to relax because, eventually, your hair will grow back.


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