If you’ve been under a lot of stress lately, you may have noticed your hair looking a little lacklustre or falling out faster than usual. It’s not just your imagination. Stress can cause all kinds of unexpected physical symptoms, and that includes wear-and-tear on your hair.
If your hair has suddenly changed in one or more of the following ways, consider it a wakeup call.
Here are a few ways stress might be wreaking havoc on your hair.
1. You’re shedding like crazy.
Telogen effluvium is the medical term for hair loss caused by extreme stress. Switching jobs, giving birth, or even a bout of the flu can be enough to trigger this type of hair loss. Of course, everyone gets the occasional shower hairball, so how do you know if you’re losing too much hair? If you feel like you’re shedding twice as much as usual—and it lasts for two weeks or more—stress may be the culprit.
- It takes forever to grow half an inch.
Research has shown that stress makes you more likely to make unhealthy food choices—although if you’ve ever reached for a pint of ice cream after a rough day, you probably didn’t need science to tell you that. But if emotional eating becomes an ongoing habit, it can slow down your hair growth.
3. Your hairline has started creeping higher.
When you’re so frazzled that you barely have time to brush your teeth, you may default to a trusty ponytail. But if your ponytail is too tight, it can start pulling out the tiny hairs along your hairline, which, over time, may damage the follicles.
- You’re (literally) pulling your hair out.
Around 1% of people suffer from trichotillomania, a disorder that causes them to pull out their own hair, often in response to anxiety. This is a relatively rare condition, but if you suspect you might have it, Bordone recommends scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist or psychiatrist.
Whatever the change, don’t ignore it.
If you think stress is affecting your hair, make an appointment with your doctor; you may need to rule out other causes (such as hormonal shifts or anaemia). In the meantime, focus on finding effective methods of stress relief.