Hair Loss and Emotional Distress

Q:

Hiya Doc,

I’ve read in a book on hair loss that mentioned, in certain circumstances, hair loss can be caused by emotional or mental stress. I’ve started to lose a bit of hair, but I’m really hoping it’s only temporary, as I don’t think I have genetic hair loss because my two older brothers seem to be doing OK.

How common is it for hair loss to be caused by emotional distress?

Thanks,

A:

Many hair loss patients who come to me for their initial hair loss evaluation associate the beginning of their hair loss to some stressful event in their lives. Many say they notice hair loss when they moved to another city or different country, got divorced or had significant problems at work or in their personal lives. Usually, they are right as these types of evens can accelerate hair loss.

However, hair loss would not happen to these same people if they were not genetically predisposed to balding. In other words, at age 30 and after, we may have the hair loss gene which is supposed to cause balding. At age 30 or after, if we are involved in a stressful situation, an emotional traumatic event, or major surgical procedure, it can accelerate the hair loss process. So the loss expected to be seen in 10 years could come around sooner.

Stress, trauma, or major surgeries may cause hair loss in people who are not supposed to lose hair, but the condition is temporary and the lost hair will grow back after the passing of the stressful condition, or treatment of the medical condition.

In these cases, patients have a condition called telogen effluvium in which, due to stress, a significant number of hair follicles go to sleep. Remember: patients do not lose those follicles permanently and the follicles can produce new hairs in just a few weeks.

My recommendation for you is to see a hair specialist and get your hair miniaturization mapped by microscope; this way the doctor can tell you whether or not you are experiencing an early stage of patterned baldness or that you have lost your hair due to stress.

If your baldness has just begun, medication may help you. If you are experiencing telogen effluvium without being predisposed to pattern baldness, you only need to wait and your hair will grow back in a couple of weeks.