When stress is cited as a reason for hair loss we don’t mean the “day to day” stress that we all experience dealing with work, family, and such. What we are referring to is intense psychological stress such as:
- Death of a loved one
- A frightening medical diagnosis
- Break up of a relationship
- Loss of a job
- New onset of generalized anxiety
- Clinical depression
All of these can lead to thinning of the hair. The good news is that it usually reverses itself after the stress has been relieved.
As hair transplant physicians we will usually ask questions during consultation that will help us to determine if your hair loss is genetic in nature or possibly just a temporary state due to stress. If it’s the former we might schedule you for a hair transplant procedure: but if it’s the latter we will not for two reasons:
1.Transplanting hair on a person who may only be suffering from temporary hair loss may actually make it permanent. This is due to the trauma of the procedure itself. It’s not a good idea to work in any area of scalp that contains a high percentage of viable follicles as the trauma from such irresponsible surgery can injure or kill those hair roots. We have had dozens of patients who were clearly suffering from extreme stress at the time of consultation who we turned down for surgery and later recovered their thinning hair on their own. Usually these were men going through divorce-a HUGE source of stress.
2. The second is that during times of extreme stress people are not in a psychologically sound position to make decisions about having elective surgery. When I suspect this during consultation I usually give them their options and insist they take three months to think about it. About half do not come back. I have always assumed they got relief from whatever was bothering them and realized they did not need a hair transplant procedure. On the other hand they may have simply gone to a hair restoration doctor who would tel them what they want to hear and schedule them immediately for a procedure.
Ironically, hair loss itself can be a large stressor which can lead to a terrible feedback loop of hair loss, anxiety, more hair loss, and more anxiety. This happens primarily in young men under the age of 24. To them hair loss goes beyond mere vanity, it attacks their self identity. Nothing makes a young man look more different and more aged than recession of the hairline. And when this strikes, such sufferers will submit to surgery in a heartbeat. It’s up to the hair transplant doctor to recognize this desperate state and not take advantage of it. In some young men it is difficult to tell the difference between the desperate state and a well thought through decision to have surgery.