Can Anxiety Cause Hair Loss?

Can Anxiety Cause Hair Loss?

May 30, 2023, 4:16:44 PM Life and Styles

By Geoffrey Booth, PhD., Medical Director, LifeSync Malibu

Most of us are very sensitive about the appearance of our hair, as silly as that may be. When we start to notice that our hair is thinning, it can really cause some strife. While there are many reasons why we might experience hair loss, one of those reasons could be due to anxiety.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting about 40 million adults every year. Consider these different types of anxiety disorder and their related symptoms: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder. Features excessive fear and worry. Symptoms include insomnia, shortness of breath, startled easily, irritability, heart palpitations, headaches, sweating, dizziness, and stomach distress.

  • Social anxiety. Features an intense fear of being judged, embarrassed, or rejected by others, especially in public. Symptoms include blushing easily, muscle tension, nausea, rapid heartbeat, hyperventilating, and lightheadedness.

  • Panic disorder. Features panic attacks that often come out of nowhere. Symptoms include chest pain, trembling, shortness of breath, hyperventilating, nausea, shaking, sense of doom, and racing heart. Panic disorder features frequent panic attacks.

  • Phobia. Features extreme fear triggered by a specific thing or situation. Symptoms include sweating, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and racing heart. Avoidant behaviors occur as to not encounter this object of fear.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Features alternating cycles of obsessive fears and compulsive behavioral responses to the fear. OCD can become so intrusive in daily life that it causes severe impairment.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. Features a prolonged response to a trauma that lasts more than one month. Symptoms include irritability, flashbacks, insomnia, detachment, nightmares, avoidance behaviors, and substance abuse.

Types of Anxiety-Related Hair Loss

So, what is the connection between anxiety and hair loss? There are actually three types of anxiety-related hair loss conditions. These include:

  • Telogen effluvium. When we experience a period of significant and/or prolonged stress, it can cause the hair follicles into “telogen,” or the rest phase. In a couple of months, you experience a higher than usual hair loss, due to the large number of hairs that had gone into the telogen phase during the stressful event.


  • Alopecia areata. Severe stress is one of the causes of this condition, in which the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles. This leads to significant hair loss.

  • Trichotillomania. This is an anxiety disorder that features a constant urge to pull out hair from the scalp, the eyebrows, and other parts of the body.

There is also ongoing research into the effect of anxiety on hair at the cellular level. Mouse studies have revealed the role of the stress hormone corticosterone (equivalent to human cortisol) on the hair follicle stem cells, causing hair loss.

8 Techniques to Reduce Anxiety

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and resulting hair loss, there are some relaxation techniques that can help reduce symptoms.

Consider these helpful tips for managing anxiety:

  1. Soothing Music. When you begin to feel stress levels surging, stop and put on some calming music. Music has a powerful effect on mood.
  2. Adopt a Pet. Pet ownership offers a wide array of mental health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety.
  3. Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness trains the mind to redirect stressful and distracting thoughts toward what is being experienced in the present moment.
  4. Daily Walks. The simple act of taking a daily walk can produce significant mental health benefits, including reducing stress. Physical activity produces serotonin and dopamine, which mitigates stress.
  5. Guided Meditation. A variety of apps offer guided meditation scripts, which use mental imagery and suggestion to induce a state of peaceful calm.
  6. Get a Massage. Therapeutic massage reduces muscle tension and releases toxins, leading to a deeply relaxed state.
  7. Express Yourself. Take up an artistic hobby to reduce stress. Try painting, redecorating a room, making jewelry or crafts, or drawing.
  8. Practice Yoga. Yoga combines specific poses and focused breathing to achieve a relaxed state of being.

Use Deep Breathing Exercises to Relax

Breathing techniques are surprisingly effective at reducing stress and can be practiced anywhere and any time. Practice focused breathwork to reduce heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Try out these deep breathing techniques to manage symptoms of anxiety:

4-7-8 breathing:

  1. Inhale through the nose to the count of four
  2. Hold the breath to a count of seven
  3. Exhale slowly and completely to the count of eight
  4. Repeat five times

Morning breathing:

  1. From a standing position, bend at the waist with knees relaxed and arms dangling at your sides
  2. As you inhale, slowly return to an upright position
  3. Hold the breath for three seconds
  4. Exhale while slowly returning to the bent position
  5. Repeat three times

Alternate nostril breathing:

  1. Use your index finger to apply pressure against the left nostril, closing off airflow
  2. Inhale through the right nostril
  3. Remove the index finger from the left nostril and press against the right nostril
  4. Inhale through the left nostril
  5. Repeat the pattern ten times

Finger breathing:

  1. Sit comfortably
  2. Place your left hand on your lap, palm up
  3. As you breathe in, using your right hand index or middle finger, trace up the left thumb
  4. As you exhale, using the same finger, trace down the left thumb
  5. Continue to trace each finger up and down with a breath until calm

Straw breathing:

  1. Purse your lips into a tight “O” shape
  2. Inhale through the pursed lips
  3. Pause for a second or two
  4. Exhale through the pursed lips
  5. Repeat this 3-5 times

When to Get Treatment for Anxiety Disorder

When relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises do not seem to help your anxiety, you may have an anxiety disorder. There are various levels of care for the treatment of anxiety, including outpatient and residential settings.

Anxiety disorder treatment centers on evidence-based psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. Through therapy, you learn how to respond differently to triggers. In some cases, medication is prescribed to help reduce anxiety symptoms. Fortunately, anxiety is highly treatable, so do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health provider for help. 

About the Author

Geoffrey A. Booth, M.D. is the Medical Director of LifeSync Malibu, an exclusive rehabilitation program located in the heart of Malibu. Dr. Booth has treated thousands of addicts over the years and now has dedicated most of his clinical time to providing medical care and detoxification to clients who suffer from substance abuse. He is committed to helping them establish the foundations for long-term sobriety. While not working, Dr. Booth has a rich personal life filled with activities surrounded by friends and family. 

Published by Geoffrey Booth

Reply heres...

Login / Sign up for adding comments.

Similar Articles