by NIKKI POPE, March 01, 2021
The American Psychiatric Association defines depression as a serious condition that affects the way you feel, think, and act. It could lead to intense feelings of sadness, disinterest in activities that were once enjoyed, among many other symptoms. More than just affecting you mentally and emotionally, depression can take a toll on your hair health - and vice versa.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, major depressive disorder is the number 1 cause of disability amongst Americans aged 15 to 44. It affects more than 16.1 million adults and is more prevalent in women than men.
Several factors may trigger depression. First is the biochemical aspect, with varying levels of neurotransmitters and hormones leading to symptoms. Another is genetics, which means this mental condition runs in families. It may also be caused by a person's environment, especially if he/she lives a life of violence, abuse, and neglect. Last is personality, as depression is more likely in people who are easily stressed or have low self-esteem.
Depression’s ability to affect your hair may be attributed to the personality factor of the disease. As mentioned, those who easily stress out are more prone to be depressed. In fact, a study has shown that women with high stress levels are 11 times more likely to lose hair.
Unfortunately, this may lead to a condition called telogen effluvium.
The presence of psychological stress could force the hair to prematurely enter the resting (telogen) phase of the cycle. This results in the temporary ’growth pause’ of approximately 30% of hair.
Since the telogen phase usually lasts for 2 to 4 months, the symptoms take place several months after the trigger event. While the normal rate of hair loss is about 100 to 150 a day, telogen effluvium can increase the rate to 300 strands daily. As a result, your scalp hair may look thinner or sparser than usual.
Although telogen effluvium may last for as long as 6 months, you should take comfort in the fact that it is a temporary condition. Your hair is likely to grow back, especially once the underlying course (depression) is managed accordingly.
Depression and hair loss is a two-way street that affects one another. As depression could bring about hair shedding, falling strands may precipitate or worsen the said condition.
This problem is largely seen in females, as women have always associated their identities with their hairstyles. As one’s hair is her crowning glory, this fact has made the hair care industry one of the most lucrative segments in the US. In fact, hair care sales are perceived to hit $30 billion in 2023 - from a profitable $24 billion in 2016.
Expectedly so, hair loss conditions such as female-pattern baldness and telogen effluvium can bring about undue stress in many affected women.
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According to a study, people with alopecia or hair loss found their conditions ‘distressing’. Some suffer from a feeling of loss, akin to what one feels when she grieves after a bereaved loved one.
With higher anxiety and stress levels, people with hair loss problems report poorer body images and sub-par quality of life. They also suffer from lower self-esteem, which, as mentioned, may trigger depression.
More than just developing a depressive disorder, people with alopecia also have a higher tendency to develop anxiety, social phobia, or paranoia.
Children with nutritional deficiencies and those undergoing cancer treatments are prone to hair loss. According to the same study, these kids were more likely to be depressed, anxious, aggressive, delinquent, if not withdrawn. Similar to adults, female children have a higher tendency to express such emotions. The psychological burden can be so much that in one study, 7 of 12 children with alopecia met the criteria for anxiety disorders.
As mentioned, depression and hair loss are interconnected. With that being said, it’s best to keep any of these 2 conditions at bay, especially if you are prone to suffer from either one. While there is no one foolproof solution, these tips and strategies may help you out:
A good workout can usher the release of feel-good hormones named endorphins. Not only will a workout make you feel better, but it can also make you look better. As for your hair, exercise may help improve blood flow to the scalp - giving your growing locks the oxygen and nutrients they need.
The right diet can do wonders for your depressive state. Protein-rich fares are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid vital for making serotonin. According to experts, low levels of serotonin are a factor behind depression. This is why selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs are prescribed to affected individuals.
Protein is also important for your scalp, as a deficiency in this source can bring about hair loss.
Foods rich in B Vitamins should be included in your diet as well. After all, these substances play a role in synthesizing some neurotransmitters that govern mood.
Like protein, the B Vitamins are beneficial for the hair too. More than just improving your symptoms, B Vitamins may help strengthen and condition your tresses as well.
Depression may affect your sleep, but you must get some shut-eye whenever you can. After all, a lack of sleep can make you more anxious and depressed. In the long run, it could trigger hair loss too! If you find it hard to sleep at night, removing bedroom distractions and avoiding afternoon naps may help you fare better.
Depression can severely affect your life’s structure. While it may be hard, following a set routine can help you get out of your rut.
Depression can make you feel helpless. Setting small goals and meeting them will make you feel good, even if just for a bit.
Depression and hair loss are interconnected. As such, managing each condition may help prevent the worsening of one (or both). Following the tips above will not only boost your mood - it can help you have a healthier head of hair as well!
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March 01, 2021 0 Comments
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