There are many symptoms of anxiety that seem to become self-fulfilling. A common example is hair loss. It often seems that those that live in constant fear about losing their hair may actually contribute to it, by giving themselves so much stress and anxiety that their hair may actually fall out.
Anxiety and loss of hair have a complex relationship, and it's probably not what you think. But anxiety can, in some cases it cause hair loss to occur, and in other cases it can make lose hair itself more difficult to control.
The key issue between anxiety and hair loss is stress. Anxiety is, in many ways, long term and persistent stress. While technically these are two separate conditions and long term stress on its own can lead to many of the same symptoms, the reality is that anyone dealing with anxiety is putting themselves under severe mental and physical stress all the time.
Three types of hair loss that can be associated with high stress levels are:
- Alopecia areata: A variety of factors are thought to cause alopecia areata, possibly including severe stress. With alopecia areata, white blood cells attack the hair follicle, stopping hair growth and making hair fall out.
- Telogen effluvium: In this condition, emotional or physical stress pushes large numbers of growing hairs into a resting phase. Within a few months, the affected hairs may fall out suddenly when simply combing or washing your hair.
- Trichotillomania: Trichotillomania (trik-oh-til-oh-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, anxiety, tension, loneliness, fatigue or frustration.
It's highly likely that those with mild hair loss caused by anxiety are suffering from either telogen effluvium, or simply stress weakened hair. But the other two are also a concern and affect a smaller percentage of the anxiety population.
Telogen effluvium occurs when your body tells more hairs to stop growing than usual. Hairs have a grown cycle of two years before stopping and falling out two months later. If your body "tells" more hairs than normal to stop growing, two months later more hairs will fall out.