Good hair gives us a good feeling – everyone knows that. And yet, few people consider the relationship between mental health and hair. Many mental health conditions coincide with thinning or unhealthy hair, including stress, anxiety, eating disorders, and depression.
Many mental health conditions can create a cycle of damage to self-esteem that may seem difficult to escape. So can depression cause hair loss? If so, what can be done to help ease symptoms of depression and help slow or prevent hair loss?
Clinical stress can cause hair loss in one of three ways. These are telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, and trichotillomania. Clinical stress can also lead to depression. But can depression cause hair loss directly?Depression is known to cause people to stop giving themselves the self-care they deserve. This can include neglecting their normal haircare regime, such as washing and brushing their hair. This in turn can be damaging to your hair — it needs regular nourishment and care to stop it from becoming dry and brittle, which can cause strands to break off or fall out.
Some anti-depressant medications, such as Prozac and Zoloft, can cause thinning hair as a side effect . The active ingredient in Zoloft is sertraline, which may also cause hair loss.
Thinning hair also frequently has a negative effect on mood. People with thinning hair may experience damage to their self-esteem; feel less physically attractive or less sexually desirable; or feel confronted by the body’s aging process, over which they may feel they have little control. All this can contribute to low mood, anxiety, and worry.
However, for low mood to cross the clinical threshold into depression, a number of criteria need to be met. Sufferers must have experienced low mood consistently for a period of at least two weeks. They may feel tired and fed-up, be pessimistic about the future, and in some cases experience thoughts of death or suicide.
Studies have found a correlation between hair loss and depression, particularly in women under 50 . Hair loss can give people suffering from clinical depression a ‘focus’ for their negative feelings. People suffering from depression are in emotional pain but frequently feel powerless to change the way they feel. They may even deny these feelings or feel guilty about them; as if, especially when hair loss is the cause, they ‘shouldn’t’ feel bad.
Telogen effluvium sometimes occurs in people with depression as well as those experiencing clinical stress. Telogen effluvium is hair loss as a result of emotional shock. If you’ve recently experienced a physical or emotional trauma that’s caused or contributed to your feelings of depression, this can also be a cause of hair loss.
Depression can also cause weight loss, which in turn can lead to hair loss. When you don’t eat enough, your body stops sending nutrients and energy to your hair follicles so it can focus on vital bodily functions like breathing. This can cause hair growth to slow and eventually stop.
It’s often difficult to differentiate between hair loss caused by depression and other types of hair loss, such as pattern baldness. The best way to discover this is to consider whether you were losing hair before you began experiencing low mood.
Hair loss is very common after childbirth . Pregnancy often leads to substantial hair growth, and when your hormones settle after you’ve had a baby you may find that you shed a lot more hair than normal.
However, if you’re experiencing hair loss alongside signs of postnatal depression, it’s important that you don’t brush your symptoms under the rug. Talk to a medical professional about how you’re feeling so you can quickly get on the road to mental health recovery.
The only way to improve low mood caused by hair loss is to confront it head-on. Any loss or change can be traumatic, and acknowledging this is the first step to psychological recovery.
There isn’t always an obvious reason that you’re feeling low — and this is valid, too. No matter why you’re feeling depressed, the best response is to acknowledge it and take the appropriate steps to recovery.
If you’re suffering from depression (or suspect you might be), the best thing to do is talk to your doctor or a professional counsellor about your feelings. They will be able to suggest ways for you to overcome your low mood, either through medication or talking therapy. They can also refer you to the right professional to support you through your depression.
You can also try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a skills-based therapy that can develop psychological coping mechanisms and improve self-esteem.
As for hair loss, this too can be treated proactively. Whether hair loss is caused by depression or contributing to it, a specialist hair clinic in combination with emotional or psychological support can quickly put your head in a better place.
If you’re affected by hair loss and low mood, contact the Wimpole Clinic to set up a consultation. We will diagnose your hair loss, and talk through your options with you.
Depression is a serious mental health condition which requires treatment. For information and support, visit https://www.mind.org.uk/.
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