Hair loss or hair thinning can be a very worrying symptom to experience, especially if we’re uncertain of the cause. Hair loss can be a symptom of a few different conditions, so if you are concerned, please contact your doctor. This being said, hair loss has been associated with anxiety and increased stress.
As with a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, the triggers lie within our caveman brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. The stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline are released and this puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.
Why Can Anxiety Cause Hair Loss?
Hair loss or hair thinning comes down to the chemical and hormonal balance of our body. Our hair follicles and hair growth depend on a careful balance of these hormones to maintain our thickness and length. When we go into fight, flight or freeze mode our body gets extra bursts of cortisol and adrenaline which upset that careful balance, halting the hair’s ability to grow or damaging the follicles so that they fall out and die.
Our hair can also be adversely affected by different medications, dehydration, sleep deprivation and low blood sugar which can all be knock-on effects of prolonged anxiety and long periods spent in fight, flight or freeze mode.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response and accompanying chemical imbalance, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing and keep moving. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and begin to realign our biochemistry to homeostasis, our natural balanced state.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.