“I’m so stressed out, I’m losing my hair!” said a friend going through trials with her teenage children. Stress really can make one lose their hair and they even have a name for this type of hair loss, called telogen effluvium. This common type of hair loss is often seen by dermatologists.
Telogen refers to the resting state between hair growth periods and effluvium means “outflow.” The three stages of hair growth are: anagen, where 80 to 90 percent of hairs are in the growth stage, catagen is the transitional stage where hair follicles shrink and telogen is the stage before hair loss, where 10 to 15 percent of hair lies.
Stress causes more hair to enter the telogen phase. The hair stops growing, then falls out two to three months later, but will usually grow back in six to nine months. This is why the hair loss is not immediate, but occurs after a stressful event, such as the loss of hair that occurs three to six months after childbirth. The sudden change in hormones creates this post-pregnancy stress; this type of hair loss is also called postpartum alopecia.
Other sources of stress that can cause telogen effluvium hair loss are: surgery, auto accidents, medical problems such as thyroid disease or lupus, physical trauma, dietary deficits, medications and severe emotional stress. Some dermatologists believe that low iron can contribute as well as lack of other substances that are frequently missing in our diets, such as zinc, amino acid L-lysine, or vitamins B6 and B12.
Teflogen effluvium is usually reversible once the precipitating event has passed or is treated, and the hair follicles return to their normal balance between anagen and teflogen. If emotional stress is the cause of the hair loss, then clearly the emotional burden is taking its toll and searching for ways to relieve stress becomes even more important.
Stress reducers such as exercise, listening to calm music and learning new ways to react to stressful situations, as well as eating a good diet, may help. It is also important to determine if any medical reason is contributing to the hair loss.