The Independent Pharmacy

Can Depression Cause Your Hair Loss

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 6 Oct 2023

Is there a connection between depression and hair loss? Research shows depression can make hair thinning worse and make other hair loss conditions harder to deal with. Ongoing stress from depression messes up healthy hormone changes that happen as hair grows. This may make hair fall out faster.

For those already facing the challenges of depression, experiencing hair loss can add to their distress, making it even more important to approach their situation with understanding and support. More studies are still needed, but it seems the emotional impact and body changes from depression feed into each other, making symptoms worse all around.

As people work through psychological disorders and feel bad about changes to their looks, taking a holistic approach to treatment helps the most.

Let's explore the link between depression and hair loss in more detail.

Depression and Hair Loss: What Is the Link?

Hair growth happens in cycles for each follicle. There is an active growing phase, then a resting and shedding phase before it starts over. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, can shorten the hair growth phase, leading to faster hair loss. More hair then rests and falls out sooner. Studies show people with long-term depression often have high cortisol. In people with long-term depression, hair follicles may be signalled to start a new growth cycle too soon, even before the hair has fully grown. This can cause thin-looking hair or balding patches.

Emotional stress can cause a type of hair loss known as 'telogen effluvium,' where more hair than normal enters the shedding phase. People might notice way more hair falling out suddenly in the shower or brush. This temporary increased loss usually happens a couple of months after a stressful life event. However ongoing anxiety, traumatic experiences, or changes in diet and medicines can prolong it. Losing hair can be particularly hard on individuals already dealing with body image or self-esteem issues, deeply affecting their confidence and mood. It's crucial to acknowledge and address these feelings with empathy. Their distress about hair then fuels feelings of sadness, guilt, or shame. This unhealthy cycle makes both the psychological effects and hair loss last longer.

Is My Hair Loss Due to Depression?

People with depression-related hair loss might first notice more hairs than usual coming out. Over time, the hair can look thinner overall or have visibly bald patches. These symptoms occur because more follicles than normal enter the resting and shedding phase at the same time. Excessive hair fall is often noticeable about 3-6 months after a stressful period.

Specific symptoms of hair loss linked to depression include:

  • Noticeable thinning of hair volume, especially at the crown of the head
  • Gradual widening of the part line and receding hairline
  • Small bald patches that keep getting bigger
  • Seeing way more hair strands in the sink, shower drain, hairbrush, pillowcases etc.
  • Reduction of ponytail circumference

This type of hair loss can happen to both men and women. But women seem to be affected more. Researchers think it’s because female hormones directly influence the hair growth cycle. Major shifts then have an outsized impact.

Antidepressants and Hair Loss

Ironically, some medicines used to treat depression may also contribute to hair loss issues. Certain antidepressants impact hormone levels that signal the follicles to cycle into the rest and shedding phase. Specific medications linked to temporary hair thinning or loss include:

  • Paroxetine
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline

The increased hair shedding tends to happen around 3-6 months after starting these antidepressants. Stopping the medication may help minimise long-term effects. But users should never quit suddenly without their doctor’s guidance.

The sexual side effects of some antidepressants, which can indirectly impact hair loss, might also lead to concerns about masculinity or attractiveness. It's important to understand these worries compassionately, as they can worsen the feelings of depression. Dealing with both sexual issues and accelerated hair thinning is very distressing. But there are alternative depression treatments available in pill or therapy form without these effects.

Other Possible Causes of Hair Loss

While depression may contribute to thinning hair and hair loss conditions, many other factors can also be the cause. Common medical reasons for excessive shedding include:

If depressive symptoms show up around the same time as increased hair shedding, it can be hard to tell the exact trigger. Seeing a doctor to analyse potential causes based on health history and a timeline of symptoms is important. Blood work and scalp exams can also check for any nutritional shortfalls, infections, or characteristic patterns of permanent hair loss.

Getting to the root cause then guides appropriate treatment plans.

Can Hair Loss from Depression Grow Back?

The potential for hair to grow back depends on the severity and type of hair loss. Catching and properly treating depression-related shedding early on improves chances.

With telogen effluvium, a form of hair loss caused by stress-induced shock to the hair growth phases, most people regain normal fullness within 6-9 months. Stopping the triggering antidepressant or alleviating nutrient shortages through diet can help hair rebound as well.

If poor nutrition, medical disorders, or very high stress continue without relief, recovery takes longer. Scarring from excessive depilation also causes permanent thinning.

Consistency in using medications and gentle hair care supports the regrowth process. As mood and well-being improve, inflammation reduces and supports healthier follicles. Progress requires diligently managing both the psychological and physiological components together.

Treating Hair Loss Linked to Depression

Medications for Hair Loss

Special medications applied right on the scalp or taken as pills can help with genetic or depression-related hair loss. Using them early on and steadily over time works best.

Topical minoxidil solution (known as Regaine) improves blood flow and nutrients getting to hair follicles. This helps shrink those mini hairs and strengthens them to grow full size. The over-the-counter liquid comes in a women’s 5% formula as well.

The pill finasteride, also known as Propecia, works by reducing a hormone called DHT, which can cause hair to become thin and weak. Less DHT helps hair retain its width and go through normal growth cycles again.

Hair Care Practices

Being extra gentle in washing, brushing, and styling keeps fragile hair anchored to the scalp instead of increasing shedding. Things like brush type, shampoo ingredients that add volume, and protecting hair from too much heat when blow-drying or using hot tools make a difference in managing thickness.

Caffeine shampoos like Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo and Alpecin Double Effect can temporarily stimulate hair follicles that are in the resting or shedding phase, especially after stress. Less hair comes out with daily massaging when washed. Over several months, this can improve fullness.

Lifestyle Adjustments and Therapeutic Options

Taking steps to reduce high stress levels complements medical treatment for hair recovery. Practices like counselling, mindfulness techniques, regular exercise, spending time with supportive people, and eating a nutritious diet help stabilise moods. When depressive symptoms ease up from lifestyle changes like these, the body and thinning hair get the best chance to rebound. Reducing stress allows the hair follicles to go through their normal growth cycles again. Ongoing self-care and medical therapies give distressed hair the one-two punch needed to regain thickness.

When Should You See a Doctor?

If increased hair loss follows an intensely stressful event or accompanies depressed moods, see your doctor or a hair restoration specialist. They can pinpoint the type of loss through exams and lab work. This guides appropriate therapies customised to your situation.

In general, visit a professional if you notice:

  • Sudden shedding of clumps of hair instead of the normal 50-100 strands a day
  • Thinning hair, a wider part line, or bald patches over several months
  • Hair loss together with other unexplained symptoms
  • No improvement after trying over-the-counter treatments for 6 months

Early intervention improves the likelihood of regrowing hair or stopping permanent thinning. Doctors may adjust doses of antidepressant medications contributing to the loss. They may also prescribe medications to encourage new growth. Therapeutic approaches bring relief as well.

Where Can You Get Help?

If you notice sudden heavy shedding or small bald patches after a stressful period, don’t wait to take action. A hair loss specialist can evaluate your symptoms and order blood tests related to nutritional deficiencies, hormone changes, or inflammatory issues that commonly aggravate hair loss conditions. They may suggest dietary improvements, medications, supplements, or hair care routines to help get thinning under control right away.

Ongoing follow-up appointments ensure treatment effectiveness. Track your moods, diet, sleep and stress levels as well between visits. This helps identify triggers setting back improvement.

Remember, you're not alone in your journey with hair loss. There's a community and professionals who understand what you're going through and are ready to support you. Consider joining a support community to exchange guidance. For help managing both hair changes and emotional health, see a mental health professional. Counselling and/or medication can help minimise depressive episodes and anxiety. Getting proactive empowers you to feel better internally and externally.

Take the Next Step

Taking positive steps to manage hair loss and depression symptoms is crucial for recovery. Working closely with healthcare professionals customise effective treatments based on your situation. Hair specialists suggest medications, supplements, and routines to encourage regrowth. Mental health providers help minimise contributory stressors through counselling and/or antidepressants.

The Independent Pharmacy offers invaluable personalised guidance for those dealing with distressing health conditions like depression-related hair thinning. Our team helps tailor holistic treatment plans to improve self-confidence from the inside out. Please visit the website and fill in your self-assessment, or get in touch to learn about how we can help you.

Adopting a comprehensive approach combats the impacts on both physical and mental well-being. While the road is challenging, consistency in caring for body and mind prevents relapse over time. Additional resources like online communities provide further advice and hope during the healing journey. Prioritising self-care is the first step towards feeling healthy and whole again.

FAQs

Which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?

Not getting enough vitamins D, B-12, and iron commonly relates to excessive shedding. Getting blood nutrient levels tested and addressing any shortfalls can help hair regrow thicker.

Why is my hair falling out so much?

Sudden heavy hair loss follows major physiological stressors about 3-6 months later. These shocks include childbirth, surgery, traumatic events, or quick weight loss from diet changes. The hair growth cycles reset abnormally. If mood changes accompany the shedding, depression may also play a role.

Is hair loss due to stress reversible?

Yes, telogen effluvium hair loss from temporary stress is often reversible. As stress hormone levels improve over time, the hair follicles initiate growing phases normally again. Supportive self-care speeds up recovery.

What illnesses cause hair loss in females?

Both physical and mental health conditions lead to thinning hair or loss in women. The top medical reasons are hormone shifts, nutrient deficiencies, autoimmune disorders, severe stress, hypertension, and hypothyroidism. Skin disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and medications like antidepressants also contribute.

Sources:

Women and hair loss: coping tips - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Hair loss - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Overview - Antidepressants - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Counselling - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Mindfulness - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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