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 can cause thinning or unhealthy hair, forming a cycle of damage to self-esteem that may seem difficult to escape. This four-part blog series focuses on four mental health conditions as they impact your hair, and what can be done to help.
Anorexia Nervosa and hair loss
Anorexia nervosa is a common mental health disorder, characterised by restricted eating. Sufferers often lose weight rapidly, becoming malnourished. As the diet becomes increasingly restricted, the body receives fewer nutrients and is unable to maintain hair and fingernails.
Anorexia and hair loss
People suffering from anorexia nervosa may experience a receding hairline, hair loss and thinning, and a loss of vitality, due to vitamin deficiencies caused by their eating disorder. Sufferers in some cases lose their eyelashes and experience receding cuticles and gums as well. In some cases, sufferers experience increased hair growth on their body, as hormone balances are disrupted.
Abi Jones* shared her experience of anorexia nervosa with The Wimpole Clinic:
“I was eight when it started. A girl at school called me a ‘fat b****’ and I went quickly from 10 stone to a dangerously underweight 5.5 in a number of months. When I was at my worst my hairline receded and gums receded too. I also lost my eyelashes and it slowed my pubic development, so I didn’t grow hair elsewhere for a number of years, despite [having started] monthly cycles. It had a huge impact on my hormones and I still struggle with that now.”
Changes to your hair due to an eating disorder are distressing and unwanted, but sufferers are not alone. Ms. Jones says she never felt happy with her appearance, which triggered her eating disorder. When she lost her hair and eyelashes, it fed into her low self-esteem. She says, “I just felt like I was being punished for being fat… I was being punished for hair being horrid, nowhere to put mascara.”
Recovery is possible
With proper psychological treatment, it is possible to recover normal, healthy hair from anorexia nervosa. With treatment and good nutrition, hair can regain strength and vitality, allowing those recovering from eating disorders to benefit from higher self-esteem, and feel better about their appearance.
Ms. Jones, who suffered a receding hairline but has now recovered, comments, “My hair is a huge part of my identity now… I wonder if that’s why? I won’t cut it short. My hair and nails, I really look after them. It’s a really valuable thing to me now.”
If you’re suffering from hair loss due to an eating disorder, a hair loss specialist such as The Wimpole Clinic may be able to help you. Contact us using the form below.
Information and support
Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health condition which requires specialist treatment. For information and support, visit https://www.mind.org.uk/.
Next week: we look at the compulsive hair-pulling disorder, Trichotillomania.
*names have been changed to protect confidentiality