Despite mental health issues affecting one in every four people during their lifetime in the UK, according to the charity MIND, the perceived stigma attached to these conditions, such as depression, anxiety and paranoia, often prevents people from getting professional help.
A study of college students in the US has found that high-levels of self-stigma dramatically reduce the chances of a person in a state of emotional distress seeking out therapy or counselling. And because stress and depression play a key role in causing certain forms of hair loss, the students could be inadvertently increasing their chances of hair thinning, too.
Mental health concerns
The study, by Iowa State University, found that of 370 college students who took part in the online study, only 8.7 per cent clicked the link for mental health concerns and university counselling. Those already low numbers dropped dramatically among students with high self-stigma. Only 2.2 per cent of that group clicked on the link for mental health information.
Daniel Lannin, lead author and clinical intern at the university’s student counselling service, told the university’s news service that the very idea of counselling and therapy was so troubling to some that they wouldn’t seek out more information even when they could do so privately, either online or over the phone.
The findings are a real concern on multiple levels, not least because there is so much evidence that severe stress can lead to hair loss. No student privately battling mental demons should be subject to yet more trauma in the form of hair loss, but as Lannin states, trying to convince them to get help is difficult. “It’s like telling someone who doesn’t like vegetables to eat some broccoli to get over it,” he says.
Hair loss as a result of severe stress and depression is most often seen as Telogen Effluvium which can be triggered either as a result of the condition, or by the medication used in its treatment. It can, however, also result in sudden hair fall leaving behind bald patches caused by the autoimmune condition Alopecia Areata.
Related hair loss conditions
Telogen Effluvium is a general all-over thinning, more often seen in women than men, and is caused when a stressful event causes some of the hair follicles to suddenly stop growing and enter the telogen (resting) phase of the hair growth cycle. These hairs then typically fall out after about three months. It can be quite confusing when it happens because the stressful event is often well and truly in the past – not necessarily forgotten, but people sometimes struggle to make the connection between the traumatic event of three months ago and the hair loss of today.
This condition can also come on after starting a new regime, including taking new prescription medication, including anti-depressants. This is due to the drugs causing an initial shock to the system which, once the body realises it is not under attack, will correct itself and the shedding is likely to come and go naturally during this time, without much cause for concern.
Telogen Effluvium is usually a temporary condition, with full recovery seen after a few months. When it is ongoing, however, the diagnosis shifts to Chronic Telogen Effluvium, also known as Diffuse Thinning.
Both conditions can be treated, and the expert approach to dealing with Diffuse Thinning in particular is to try and help the client address the underlying issues as well as maximising chances of regrowth through bespoke treatment plans based around topical applications of high strength minoxidil.
A Belgravia client named Christine recently wrote to us following her treatment for Diffuse Thinning to say: “I am impressed and inspired by the regrowth that I’ve had in just three months of treatment. I recommend this whole-heartedly. The results are just amazing.”
For those men and women with a genetic predisposition towards hereditary hair loss – Male Pattern Baldness or Female Pattern Hair Loss – it is worth getting a professional assessment should any fluctuations in shedding or instances of thinning hair arise, as cases of Telogen Effluvium or Chronic Telogen Effluvium can trigger or accelerate these hair loss conditions.
In cases of Alopecia Areata, most experts believe that one of several triggers will have caused the rapid shedding, with the finger frequently pointing to a stressful or traumatic event. In most cases the hair will grow back, or people may choose to use a personalised Alopecia Areata treatment course to help speed up the regrowth process.
Stress and depression can lead to lifestyle changes such as poor diet, lack of exercise, late nights and illegal drug use – these, too, can all affect hair health and in extreme cases can lead to or worsen existing hair loss. Whilst anyone concerned about their mental health should always speak to their GP or a specialist about helping them to manage and hopefully overcome their condition, where shedding is also a problem, an empathetic hair loss specialist can help with this side of things. They will not only be able to provide you with a professional diagnosis of your exact hair loss condition, but will be able to devise a way forward including appropriate treatments based on each individual’s specific needs and pattern of shedding.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.