Can stress cause hair loss?

Answers from Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

Yes, stress and hair loss can be related.

Three types of hair loss that can be associated with high stress levels include:

  • Telogen effluvium. In telogen effluvium (TEL-o-jun uh-FLOO-vee-um), significant stress pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase. Within a few months, affected hairs might fall out suddenly when simply combing or washing your hair.
  • Trichotillomania. Trichotillomania (trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh) is an irresistible urge to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body. Hair pulling can be a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings, such as stress, tension, loneliness, boredom or frustration.
  • Alopecia areata. A variety of factors are thought to cause alopecia areata (al-o-PEE-she-uh ar-e-A-tuh), possibly including severe stress. With alopecia areata, the body's immune system attacks the hair follicles — causing hair loss.

Stress and hair loss don't have to be permanent. If you get your stress under control, your hair might grow back.

If you notice sudden or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing your hair, talk to your doctor. Sudden hair loss can signal an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. If needed, your doctor might also suggest treatment options for your hair loss.

Jan. 14, 2014 See more Expert Answers