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What is the Relationship Between Stress and Alopecia?

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  • Written By: Alex Said
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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The term alopecia refers to the loss of hair or the lack of hair on areas of the body that normally have hair. Stress is one of the primary inducers of alopecia. A healthy adult will lose between 30 to 200 hairs a day. This number can dramatically be increased by stress. Although stress is not the only factor of this condition, it is a primary factor. Any form of stress, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental, can result in this condition. The condition can be seen in all demographics and affects about 1% of the population.

Alopecia comes in many forms. Some of the main forms include Alopecia areata, Alopecia totalis, Alopecia universalis, and Alopecia barbae. Areata refers to a condition wherein patches of hair are lost throughout the entire body. Totalis refers to complete loss of hair on the scalp, while Universalis refers to complete loss of hair throughout the body. Alopecia barbae refers to loss of facial area, usually around the beard area for a man.

How stress triggers can result in this condition varies from person to person. Stress and alopecia are interrelated, and any kind of stressor can result in this medical condition. Examples include a wide range of situations, from the death of a family member to extreme physical training. Physical stresses caused by illness also may contribute.

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The reason for the loss of hair is basically the body’s defense mechanism. The body will shut down processes which it deems not important at the moment to deal with other important factors it is currently facing. In the case of stress and alopecia, the body shuts down hair production so it can deal with the stress trigger.

Stress and alopecia work in a cycle. The stress is the inducer of the alopecia. When the condition occurs, a person will then stress about the condition, and the new stress will cause the condition to worsen. The cycle then continues — the more a person stresses about the condition, the worse it becomes.

The condition can't be cured, but treatments are available that may result in some hair regrowth. Because of the connection between stress and alopecia, stress reduction medications and behavior therapies might help some with the condition. A physician should be consulted for proper treatments in this area. Medications to promote hair growth have shown to be helpful for some people. Some options include finasteride, which is specifically targeted at hair loss in men; ointments such as anthralin that are applied to the affected area daily; and cortisone injections, which typically are administered monthly.

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Discuss this Article

Laotionne
Post 3

I have read about herbal hair loss remedies that treat the causes of hair loss. In many cases, these herbs and herbal supplements are those that have a calming effect on the body. The idea being that these herbs will reduce stress and eliminate the resulting hair loss.

Animandel
Post 2

When the body experiences stress, this can cause the immune system to react unpredictably. When this happens the immune system sometimes attacks body tissue.

Biopsies have shown indications of the immune system attacking hair follicles, and thus leading to hair loss. Of course, there are many natural and more common causes of hair loss, too.

Sporkasia
Post 1

There is a famous story about a Major League Baseball player in the United States who was chasing a particularly significant baseball record. According to reporters who spoke to the ballplayer, the stress he felt continued to build as he found himself closer and closer to reaching and breaking this long held mark.

At one point the player was said to be literally combing clumps of hair from his head, clumps that had all but fallen out. The player broke the record before he lost all of his hair, but the stress related hair loss remained as a reminder of what he had gone through, and a reminder of the stress he had experienced while chasing the record.

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