What is stress alopecia?

Stress alopecia, also known as stress-related hair loss or telogen effluvium, is a kind of hair loss that can be caused by either physical or emotional stress. Other names for stress alopecia include telogen effluvium and stress-related hair loss. It is a common disorder that can affect people of any age or gender, and it can be triggered by a range of circumstances, such as surgery, sickness, emotional trauma, or hormonal changes. It is also a syndrome that can afflict people of both sexes. The abrupt and obvious thinning or loss of hair that is characteristic of stress alopecia typically takes the form of patches or might spread across the entire scalp. It is a transient syndrome that will, in most cases, go away on its own once the underlying cause of the stress has been dealt with.

Types of alopecia caused by stress

There are several types of alopecia that can be caused by stress, including:

  • Telogen effluvium: This is the most typical form of hair loss that can be brought on by stress. It takes place when the body is subjected to a substantial stressor, such as surgery or sickness, which causes a large number of hair follicles to enter the telogen phase of the hair growth cycle. This results in the loss of hair. This causes the hair to fall out all at once, usually between two and three months following the stressful event.
  • Alopecia areata: Alopecia areata, more commonly known as AA, is an autoimmune illness in which the patient’s immune system essentially wages war against the patient’s hair follicles. The follicles might start to contract, which would result in a slower rate of hair development or perhaps a complete cessation of it. The prevalence of AA in the United States ranges between six and seven million persons. The thinning and loss of hair caused by alopecia areata typically appears in patches and can take place anywhere on the scalp.
  • Trichotillomania: Trichotillomania, sometimes referred to as TTM, is a condition in which affected persons feel the compulsion to pull out their own hair. Trichotillomania is also known as TTM. Trichotillomania, more commonly known as hair-pulling disorder, is classified as a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Trichotillomania is also occasionally referred to as trichotillomania (TTM) (DSM-5). Those who suffer from trichotillomania are driven to pull out their hair in clumps not only from their scalps but also from other regions of their bodies, including their eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair, and even the hair “down there.” This compulsive behaviour is a hallmark of the disorder. Trichotillomania is a condition in which some people pull out their hair so compulsively that they don’t even realise they’re doing it, while other people with the illness may pull more purposefully. Even if it only affects a small portion of the general population, the hair-pulling disorder has the potential to lead to irreparable hair loss and thinning if it is not addressed (between 0.5 and 2 percent). Other symptoms of trichotillomania include, in addition to hair loss, tearing or ripping out one’s own hair, biting, chewing, or eating one’s own hair, playing with one’s own pulled-out hair, and having an excessive sensation of relief after pulling out one’s own hair.
  • Androgenetic alopecia: Although stress is not a direct cause of androgenetic alopecia, it can make the problem worse and make it more difficult to treat. Androgenetic alopecia, sometimes referred to as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness, is a genetic disorder that leads to gradual hair loss over the course of one’s lifetime.

Causes of stress alopecia

Stress alopecia can be caused by a variety of physical and emotional stressors. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Surgery: Major surgeries can be a significant stressor on the body, and can cause hair loss in the months following the procedure.
  • Illness: Serious illnesses such as cancer or autoimmune disorders can cause stress alopecia, as can viral or bacterial infections.
  • Emotional trauma: Emotional trauma, such as the death of a loved one or a traumatic event, can trigger stress alopecia.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, menopause, or thyroid disorders can also cause stress-related hair loss.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause hair loss as a side effect.

stress alopecia

Factors that can increase stress alopecia

There are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing stress alopecia, including:

  • Genetics: Some people may be more genetically predisposed to stress-related hair loss.
  • Age: As people age, their hair growth cycle slows down, making them more susceptible to hair loss.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: A lack of essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron or vitamin D, can lead to hair loss.
  • Poor hair care: Using harsh hair products or over-styling hair can cause damage to the hair follicles, which can lead to hair loss.
  • Chronic stress: Chronic stress, such as that caused by a high-pressure job or difficult relationship, can increase a person’s risk of developing stress-related hair loss.

Solutions to stress alopecia

There are several solutions that can help prevent or manage stress-related hair loss, including:

  • Stress management: Managing stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can help prevent stress-related hair loss.
  • Proper nutrition: Eating a balanced diet that is rich in essential vitamins and minerals can help promote healthy hair growth and prevent nutritional deficiencies that can lead to hair loss.
  • Gentle hair care: Using gentle hair products and avoiding over-styling can help prevent damage to the hair follicles and promote healthy hair growth.
  • Scalp massage: Massaging the scalp can improve blood flow to the hair follicles, promoting healthy hair growth.
  • Medical treatment: In some cases, medical treatment may be necessary to manage stress-related hair loss. Medications such as minoxidil or finasteride can help promote hair growth, and corticosteroid injections may be used to treat alopecia areata.
  • Wigs or hairpieces: In cases where hair loss is more severe, wigs or hairpieces can be used to conceal hair loss and boost self-confidence.

Treatment for stress alopecia

The treatment for stress alopecia depends on the underlying cause of the hair loss. In most cases, stress alopecia will resolve on its own once the underlying stressor has been addressed. However, if the hair loss is severe or prolonged, medical treatment may be necessary.

Minoxidil and finasteride are two medications that are commonly used to treat stress-related hair loss. Minoxidil is a topical medication that is applied to the scalp, and can help promote hair growth. Finasteride is an oral medication that works by blocking the production of a hormone that is known to cause hair loss.

Corticosteroid injections may also be used to treat stress-related hair loss, particularly in cases of alopecia areata. These injections work by reducing inflammation in the hair follicles, which can help promote hair growth. In cases where hair loss is more severe or long-lasting, wigs or hairpieces can be used to conceal hair loss and improve self-confidence.


Stress alopecia is a common condition that can affect people of all ages and genders. It is caused by physical or emotional stress, and can lead to noticeable hair loss. While stress-related hair loss is usually temporary and resolves on its own once the underlying stressor has been addressed, medical treatment may be necessary in some cases. Proper stress management, nutrition, and hair care can all help prevent stress-related hair loss and promote healthy hair growth.

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