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.
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.