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The link between stress and hair loss


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If you suspect your client is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related hair loss, you should refer them to a trichologist or psychologist.


In a recent article on hji.co.uk, psychotherapist Andy Griffith says that his practice has never been busier with clients struggling with the daily impact of PTSD. He continues: “PTSD very often has a delayed fuse and it can be months or even years before the physical manifestations of trauma kick in. The cumulative effects can lead to symptoms like hair loss. This happens because PTSD has you trapped in ‘fight or flight’ mode and as a result of this the body is flooded with stress hormones. For some people, this can lead to hair loss months or even years after the traumatic event(s).”


Wil Fleeson, a qualified trichologist who treats hair loss and scalp health conditions, adds: “Most commonly, the hair loss response to PTSD that we see is the condition Telogen Effluvium (TE). This is when the natural growing and shedding phases of a hair follicle are knocked out of their natural rhythm, which in turn create a percentage of follicles within a growing phase being prematurely triggered into the shedding phase.


“The normal percentage of our hair follicles that would be in a shedding phase would be between 5% and 10%, and with PTSD this can convey to as many as 30% of our hair follicles being triggered into a premature shedding phase with an onset of TE. It is thought that the stress hormone cortisol is one of the triggers for TE and this reaction would be seen as a side effect to PTSD.”


Fleeson believes that the most effective approach for hair loss triggered by PTSD is a holistic one. “For example,” he says, “working in conjunction with a mental health specialist who can assist in unpicking the trigger for the hair loss, while a treatment pathway is developed to alleviate and improve the hair loss. This recommended treatment can only be developed after a formal diagnosis from a qualified trichologist or dermatologist.”


He notes that the way to tell between a hair that has been shed from the scalp or a hair that has broken off through damage is whether the hair has a little bump that you can feel on one end of the length of hair. This little bump is known as a telogen bulb, and it is that part of the hair that is connected to the dermal papilla which is in the base of the hair follicle.


“When the hair is being naturally released from the follicle the telogen bulb hardens when it naturally disconnects from the dermal papilla, and sometimes this little bump on the hair can have a white coloured appearance to it. If the hair was a broken hair through damage it would have a shattered, splintered appearance at one end of the hair length. This is where the hair would has snapped and broken away, leaving the part of the hair looking like it had split,” concludes Fleeson. (Source: https://www.hji.co.uk/hair-loss/can-ptsd-make-hair-fall-out-hair-loss/)

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