It’s a well-known fact that stress and mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can contribute to hair loss. But which really came first, the chicken or the egg?
While depression, anxiety, and stress can impact your hair growth, the same goes for hair loss’ impact on your mental health. Hair loss can lead to a decrease in self-esteem, feelings of attractiveness or successfulness, and even post-traumatic stress disorder, as the process of losing one’s hair can be a traumatic event for many people.
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For women in particular, says one study published in The British Medical Journal, hair is closely tied to identity, femininity, and sexuality. “About 40% of women with alopecia have had marital problems as a consequence,” the authors write, “and about 63% claim to have had career-related problems.” These women are also more prone to anxiety and depression than women who don’t experience hair loss.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help manage hair loss and its psychological effects. Here are just a few of them:
See a doctor to find the cause.
Strains on mental health, like stress, are known to cause hair loss sometimes, but it is also important to rule out any physical health issues that might be contributing to overshedding. Conditions related to the thyroid gland, deficiency in some nutrients, certain sexually transmitted infections, and psoriasis of the scalp can all lead to hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Those are only a few reasons as to why a healthy hair growth cycle may be impeded. Hair loss can oftentimes be multifactorial as well. It is recommended to make an appointment and have that conversation with your doctor to discuss what may be going on in your body, as it may go beyond hair loss related to genetics or the normal aging process.
Consult a good stylist.
A number of hair stylists are specially trained to find solutions for clients who are looking to mask signs of hair loss. A stylist can cut or style your hair in a way that covers receding hairlines or thinning areas on the scalp, as well as recommend products that might give the appearance of a fuller head of hair. Tinted powders, volume-boosting shampoos and gels, or even a natural hairpiece or wig can all give you control over your hair.
Talk to someone.
If hair loss is affecting your feelings of self-esteem or self-worth, or is causing disruptions in your significant relationships, you may want to consider talking to a therapist about it. The right therapist will provide a non-judgmental ear and help guide you through the feelings that hair loss may be bringing up for you. If stress or anxiety appears to be the cause of hair loss, a therapist is prepared to help you tackle that as well. While few therapists specialize specifically in hair loss-related concerns, there are many who are experienced in treating body-image issues, anxiety, and issues of self-esteem.
Remember, it could grow back.
Telogen effluvium, or hair loss caused by shock or stress, is usually a temporary condition, writes the Cleveland Clinic. Certain medications, chemotherapy or radiation, pregnancy, and weight loss can also cause temporary hair loss. It is suggested to make an appointment with your doctor to help determine if this could be a factor in your hair’s health. Remind yourself that many of these are momentary states, and your body may recover the ability to produce hair the way that it used to.
Stop hair loss in its tracks.
If you’ve noticed that you’re shedding more hair than you normally do, there are a number of ways to help keep it from getting worse. In addition to making sure you’re getting the right nutrients and managing your stress levels, try not to wear your hair in tight styles that might pull on the scalp and damage the follicles. Limit the number of chemicals you put in your hair — hair dyes, bleach, and heat styling tools should be used in moderation. Keep your scalp healthy by reducing the number of times per week that you use shampoo, which can strip the hair of healthy oils. Instead, massage the scalp with coconut oil, as a 2015 study suggests coconut oil may stimulate hair growth. And finally, consider taking a natural hair supplement containing ingredients that support a healthy hair growth cycle from within.