Covid-19, Hair Loss & Clinical Stress
One of the most surprising side effects of Covid-19 in long-term survivors of the disease has been the unexpected emergence in both men and women of hair loss and hair shedding. While unexpected in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it is understandable from a clinical perspective in that it has been long known that stress, both physical and emotional, can cause a condition known as telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium is a condition noted for temporary hair loss in men and women, regardless of hair type, which is induced by stress. Normally appearing within a typical period of four to 12 weeks after a stress shock to the system, hair loss was reported in an online survey of Covid-19 survivors as being among the top 25 side effects experienced, indicating just how severely the disease stresses a person, both physically and emotionally.
Clinical Stress & Hair Loss
It is well documented that physical and emotional stress can cause severe reactions in both our minds and our bodies, affecting our concentration, memory, and nutritional habits. Of course, everyone experiences stress in their lives, but carried to the extreme – whether it be Covid-19, childbirth, or long-term anxiety – the body’s natural response can trigger a clinical threshold reaction that interrupts the natural hair growth cycle.
It is important to understand that there is a difference between clinical stress and simply being “stressed out” by a person’s environment and daily concerns. The body’s response to stress is physical, including high blood pressure (hypertension) and increased heart rate. But first and foremost, the body’s response to stress is neurochemical, affecting a person’s ability to focus and concentrate. Prolonged stress has been shown to also cause serious health issues, including anxiety and clinical depression. It has also been shown to cause thinning hair and profuse hair shedding.
Stress-Related Hair Loss
Stress-related hair loss can manifest itself in various ways, including:
1. Telogen effluvium
Telogen effluvium is what we are typically talking about when we refer to “stress related hair loss.” High stress levels, whether physical or emotional, cause the hair follicles to go into a premature “resting” stage of hair growth. In the three-month period following a significant stress event, such as recovering from a Covid-19 infection, another major illness, or physical or emotional trauma, hair follicles in this resting stage may suddenly begin to fall out or shed.
Trichotillomania is an obsessive-compulsive disorder in which those suffering from the disease compulsively pull out their own hair. Trichotillomania causes high levels of anxiety in those suffering from it as they cannot stop plucking or pulling out their hair — whether it is from the scalp, the eyebrows, or some other part of their body. While this hair pulling can be initially a way of coping with stress and other emotions, it soon starts feeding that stress and added layers of depression and hopelessness.
3. Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is sometimes called “spot baldness” since it presents as spots of bald areas on a person’s scalp and face. Various factors are believed to cause alopecia areata, but as a clinical cause of hair loss in men and women, it is caused by the body’s immune system attacking its own hair follicles.
What Can You Do About Stress-Related Hair Loss?
In most cases of stress-related hair loss, a person will notice diffuse hair loss. When the stress is relieved, the hair may grow back. At present, we do not yet know what the effects of the coronavirus are on long-term survivors of the disease.
Meanwhile, if you are experiencing hair loss or excessive hair thinning, we encourage you to contact a hair loss specialist at InVisions of Connecticut to discuss hair loss treatment solutions and hair replacement options for men and women.
For information or to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation – either by means of a virtual consultation from the comfort and safety of your own home, or an in person one-on-one consultation with one of our caring, professional hair loss specialists – contact us today and get actionable answers to all your hair loss questions.