Learn How Sudden and Extreme Stress Can Result in Hair Loss

If you have been noticing a greater amount hair in your sink or shower lately, there is a chance that stress is the reason for this hair loss. While everyone has a certain level of stress in their life, sudden stress can result in hair loss along with a thinning condition that is known as Telogen Effluvium. Let’s examine how stress can impact the hair on the scalp and lead to visible hair loss.

Hair Loss From Stress – When It Begins to Appear

Can stress cause hair loss

First, it is important to know that hair loss on the scalp from sudden or extreme stress does not appear overnight. The sudden diffuse hair loss will not start to appear until anywhere from two to three weeks or two to three months after the beginning of the Telogen Effluvium process. The hair loss on the scalp is noticeable by the thinning of the scalp hair and also by the shedding of hair while combing or shampooing the hair.

The loss of hair on the scalp from a high-stress event can be related to an event such as surgery, childbirth, an intense injury or illness, and a sudden extreme level of stress in your personal or professional life. Telogen Effluvium can result in diffuse hair loss that does not create a scar. The scalp hair follicles enter the resting phase of the hair growth cycle but there is not a growth of new hairs to replace them (which typically happens).

In other words, the body normally keeps the cycle of hair growth in balance between the shedding of old hair and the growth of new hair. However, sudden stress can cause a disruption in this cycle to the point that the hair growth cycle is no longer in balance.

Sudden Stress and Hair Loss – Study Results Revealed

The impact of stress on the growth of hair is related to cortisol which is a major stress hormone. The presence of significant stress can raise the levels of cortisol in the body and force a large number of the hair follicles to enter the resting phase.

A group of Harvard University researchers published a 2021 study in the journal, Nature. The study identified “the biological mechanism by which chronic stress impairs hair follicle stem cells” in mice. In addition, The Harvard Gazette said the study also confirmed that cortisol “puts hair follicle stem cells into an extended resting phase, without regenerating the follicle or the hair.”

Basically, the stem cells that live in the hair follicle, during the hair growth period, can divide to become new cells that regenerate hair. These cells become inactive during the resting phase. If a person is experiencing a period of extreme stress, hair can become stuck in the resting phase and have excessive shedding without the growth of new hair.

The study did find some evidence that looked promising by showing that the removal of the stress hormone helped to restore the regeneration of hair growth that had been stunted while the mice were experiencing stress.

Telogen Effluvium – Are There Treatment Options?

If you are experiencing this condition, you will be happy to know that once the cause of the stress producing event is no longer active or present in your life, the pattern of shedding will either start to slow down or even completely end after a period of six to eight months.

In addition, there is normally not a need for treatment for Telogen Effluvium. The hairs that are lost on the scalp due to the condition will eventually be replaced by new hair that grows beneath where they were located. Many trauma-based hair loss conditions are not permanent so you should only need to follow-up with your doctor if the hair loss continues for an ongoing period of time.

There is also the idea that effective stress relief practices and learning healthy coping mechanisms can also help prevent the issue of hair loss related to stress. Some of the most popular ideas for reliving stress include meditation, breathing exercises, a regular routine to wind down at night, and even spending time doing an activity or hobby that is enjoyable. The power of positive thinking is also helpful and this includes writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal or working with a therapist to work past your negative feelings or worries. A regular exercise routine is also an effective way to hold off sudden or long-term stress.

No matter the cause of the stress, there are ways to combat it and there is also hope when it comes to hair loss related to stress. If you feel that your hair loss might be the result of extreme stress, schedule a consultation appointment with a doctor who is board-certified and experienced in treating hair loss conditions. The doctor can examine your scalp to determine the cause and extent of the hair loss as well as any treatment options.