Can depression cause hair loss?

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How does depression cause hair loss?

Depression can cause hair loss, but so can antidepressants used to treat depression. It is a bit like, if the depression does not get you, the antidepressant will. Indeed, stress of any kind can lead to hair loss. And, stress and depression feed on each other, each exacerbating the other. Let us find out the reasons, diagnosis, and treatment.

Depression can cause hair fall out primarily due to the stress and anxiety that may cause and accompany it. When you’re stressed or anxious, your body produces what’s known as the ‘fight or flight response’ wherein the secretion of hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) is increased to deal with whatever it thinks of as being a potential threat. This change in your hormone levels can have overall effects on tissues of your body, including an adverse effect on the growth patterns of the hair follicles on your scalp (Draper, n.d.).

Besides, a wide range of studies has shown that the stress caused by things like untreated depression, social isolation, long-term unemployment, anxiety attacks, etc., can speed up the aging process by shortening the length of each DNA strand, and thus leading to chronic diseases and also hair loss (Bergland, 2014).

Photo of scalp showing hair loss
Hair loss

How do antidepressants cause hair loss? (Gardner, 2018)

Drugs such as antidepressants cause hair loss by interfering with the normal cycle of scalp hair growth. The severity of drug-induced hair loss depends on the type of drug and dosage, as well as your sensitivity to that drug.

The hair grows during the anagen phase, which lasts for 2-6 years. The hair rests during the telogen phase, which lasts about 3 months. Then, the hair falls out and is replaced by new hair.

Medications can lead to two types of hair loss: telogen effluvium and anagen effluvium.

Telogen effluvium is the most common form of drug-induced hair loss. It usually appears within 2 to 4 months after taking the drug. In this, the hair follicles go into the telogen phase and fall out too early. People with telogen effluvium usually shed around 30% to 70% more than the normal 100 to 150 hairs a day.

Anagen effluvium is hair loss that occurs during the anagen phase of the hair cycle when the hairs are actively growing. It prevents the matrix cells, which produce new hairs, from dividing normally. This type of hair loss usually occurs within a few days to weeks after taking the medication.

Diagnosis: How can you tell if depression is the cause of hair loss?

Hair loss is very common in men and women of all ages. You have to rule out the following causes of hair loss to establish the diagnosis that the hair loss is primarily due to depression (Lewin, 2018):

  • Genes: Balding runs in families. Hereditary hair loss is the most common cause of hair loss.
  • Stress: Going through a highly stressful time, such as losing a loved one, moving to a new place or being in an accident, can cause loss of one-half to three-quarters of scalp hair.
  • Poor diet: Hair requires key nutrients including protein, iron, B-vitamins, and zinc to grow. A shortage of these nutrients may affect the quality and quantity of a person’s hair.
  • Overstyling: Daily washing and styling routine that is not gentle on your hair can contribute to hair fall out. This is understandable because constantly tugging, heating and roughing up those delicate strands can do some major damage over time.
  • Hormonal: Falling estrogen levels during pregnancy and menopause can lead to thinning out of hair. Also, when there is an increase or decrease in the levels of thyroid hormones, it can lead to hair fall out or hair loss.
  • Medications: Treatment with antidepressants or chemotherapy (given in the treatment of cancer) can cause hair loss. Temporary or permanent hair fall out can be caused by several medications, including those given for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Any drugs that affect the body’s hormone balance can cause it, which include the contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy, steroids and acne medications (Wikipedia contributors, 2019).

How do you stop hair loss in depression?

If your hair is thinning and you are being treated for depression, then check with your doctor if any of the antidepressants you are taking could be causing it. You will need to undergo a general checkup, including an examination of the scalp to determine if there is any other underlying cause for the hair loss. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis of hair loss. If depression is found to be the cause of hair loss, then the following things help (Komaroff, n.d.):

  • Exercise to lower your stress levels.
  • Counseling and psychotherapy to treat not only the depression but also to reduce the stress and anxiety that accompany depression.
  • Ask your doctor to substitute the antidepressant you are taking, with another one to which you may be less sensitive and hence less likely to cause hair loss.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet: In particular, foods high in protein, iron, and vitamin C; hair is made almost entirely of protein and consuming enough is important for hair growth (Wilson, 2019).
  • Get enough sleep and rest to lessen stress and anxiety.
  • Mindfulness meditation can reduce stress.
  • Try an over-the-counter
  • topical ointment, such as topical minoxidil (Rogaine).

How long does hair loss from depression last?

Normally, people have around 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on their head. The number of strands of hair normally lost in a day on average is 100. To maintain a normal volume, hair must be replaced at the same rate at which it is lost (Wikipedia contributors, 2019).

There is usually about a 3-month delay between the stressful period or event like depression and hair loss. In depression or stress, the hair loss will only last for as long as you’re going through that particular period of depression or stress or anxiety. Your usual hair growth and regrowth pattern should return to normal a few months after your stress levels go back down to normal (Draper, n.d.).

References

Bergland, C., 2014. Emotional Distress Can Speed Up Cellular Aging. [Online]
Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201404/emotional-distress-can-speed-cellular-aging
[Accessed 7 Sep 2019].

Draper, L., n.d. What is stress related hair loss?. [Online]
Available at: https://onlinedoctor.superdrug.com/stress-related-hair-loss.html
[Accessed 7 Sep 2019].

Gardner, S. S., 2018. Medications That Can Cause Hair Loss. [Online]
Available at: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/drug-induced-hair-loss-2#1
[Accessed 7 Sep 2019].

Komaroff, A. L., n.d. Can depression cause hair loss?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.sharecare.com/health/hair-loss/can-depression-cause-hair-loss
[Accessed 6 Sep 2019].

Lewin, J., 2018. Is telogen effluvium reversible?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321590.php
[Accessed 7 Sep 2019].

Wikipedia contributors, 2019. Hair loss. [Online]
Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_loss
[Accessed 7 Sep 2019].

Wilson, D. R., 2019. Hair Growth Speed Following Different Types of Hair Loss. [Online]
Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-for-hair-to-grow-back#summary
[Accessed 7 Sep 2019].

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Can depression cause hair loss?
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Can depression cause hair loss?
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Can depression cause hair loss? Yes, it can. Stress of any kind can lead to hair loss. Let us see the reasons, diagnosis, and treatment.
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DepressionPedia.org
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