Depression may negatively impact your health and your hair. If you’re experiencing depression and hair loss, various treatments can help.
Hair loss can happen for various reasons. But if you live with depression and you recently started losing more hair than usual, you might ask yourself: Is hair loss a sign of depression?
According to research and experts, there may be a connection between hair loss and mental health.
There’s minimal research on whether depression causes hair loss. But a 2012 study conducted among adult female outpatients at a public dermatology clinic indicates that hair loss complaints are commonly associated with symptoms of depression.
Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist with a private practice in New York City and spokesperson for Nioxin, says that hair loss isn’t a symptom of depression itself, but rather a secondary symptom associated with depression triggers or treatments.
She notes that there seems to be a greater link between depression and hair loss among folks who are concurrently experiencing high stress levels.
On the other hand, balding can also lead to depressive symptoms.
“While an initial stressor might originally lead to depression and subsequent hair loss, the hair loss itself can cause significant stress on its own, and may lead to a perpetual negative cycle between stress, depression, and hair loss,” she says.
Hair restoration specialist Jae Pak, MD, adds that hair loss can lead to feelings of sadness and a loss of confidence as well, which can exacerbate depressive symptoms.
Hair loss from depression may not last forever, especially if you still have healthy hair follicles.
Dr. Pak says it’s possible for hair to grow back once your depressive symptoms resolve and stress levels reduce. “If hair loss is medication-related, the normal hair growth process will likely resume once the substance is discontinued,” he adds.
But because everyone’s different and many factors play into hair loss, he notes that professionals need to evaluate folks on a case-by-case basis.
According to a 2017 study, some common types of hair loss include:
- scarring alopecia
- nonscarring alopecia
- androgenetic alopecia
- alopecia areata
- tinea capitis
- telogen effluvium (sudden hair loss caused by stress)
- trichotillomania (impulse control disorder)
- trichorrhexis nodosa (physical trauma-induced hair loss or hair product overuse)
- anagen effluvium (e.g., chemotherapy-induced hair loss)
Dr. Romanoff lists other common causes of hair loss below:
- hormone changes
- weight loss
- poor nutrition
- medications (e.g., birth control, antidepressants)
Certain antidepressants may lead to hair thinning over others. For example, a
There are many ways to address and cope with balding, hair shedding, and hair thinning.
“The best way to prevent depression and stress-related hair loss is to prioritize your mental health,” says Dr. Pak. He recommends seeing a therapist to learn coping skills that can help you better manage your stress or depression.
Instead of fixating on your hair loss during a depressive episode, which might make your symptoms worse, Dr. Romanoff suggests:
- working on managing your mood
- building a strong support network
- getting treatment from a psychologist or psychiatrist
- improving your sleep quality
- eating a nutritious, balanced diet
- creating opportunities to find joy and have positive experiences
- figuring out how to feel better about your physical appearance
You can also consider trying these coping strategies:
- using botanicals, supplements, and massage oils (e.g., lavender or biotin)
- seeking advanced medical therapies (e.g., hair transplants)
- trying different hair growth products
- experimenting with wearing hats or wigs
- consulting a hair restoration specialist
- seeing a doctor to identify the cause of your hair loss
Most importantly, Dr. Pak recommends trying not to worry, because worrying is proven to negatively impact your overall health.
“The biggest takeaway here is that the mind-body connection is real,” he says. “Mental and emotional distress can wreak havoc on all bodily systems, including the hair follicles.”
Ultimately, if this happens to you, Dr. Romanoff encourages you to remember that hair loss typically isn’t life threatening, and you can still live a full life. “The impact of hair loss is dependent on the meaning you ascribe to it.”
Hair loss can stem from many sources, and depression may be one of them. Although experts believe there may be a connection, there’s minimal research to support this claim.
There are plenty of support resources, professionals, and products available that can help you find relief. If your depression or hair loss gets worse, consider speaking with a therapist or medical professional who can help you overcome your symptoms.