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Can Depression Cause Hair Loss? This is What We Know

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Can depression cause hair loss? This is what you need to know.

Unfortunately, depression is exceedingly common and is known as the most common illness worldwide. Around 280 million people worldwide have depression. The World Health Organization reports that roughly 5% of the adult population and 5.7% of the elder population suffer from depression.

This illness can cause a depressed mood, irritability, loss of interest in activities, feelings of low self-worth, exhaustion, and physical pain. But can it also cause other physical symptoms like hair loss?

Our hair is inarguably linked to our identity, especially for women. In a 2005 study, researchers found 40% of women who experienced hair loss had marital problems as a result, and 63% reported career-related problems because of hair loss. Severe hair loss is known to cause "intense emotional suffering"

So, it's undeniable there is a link between psychological distress and hair loss. But which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Can depression cause hair loss? Or can hair loss cause depression? 

The link between depression and hair loss

At this time, we don’t know for sure if depression can directly cause hair loss. But there is some reason to believe the two may be connected. 

A 2012 cross-sectional study interviewed 157 women with no hair-related disorders and found some interesting results. 

Of the 157 women, 54%reported hair loss, and 29% reported symptoms of depression. Researchers found that complaints of hair loss were highly associated with depressive symptoms. 

Women in their 20s or 30s were found to be most likely to experience depression and hair loss concurrently.

So, there may be a link between depression and hair loss. But it begs the question -- “why”?

Stress and hair loss 

One thing we know for certain is chronic stress can directly cause hair loss. And often, depression occurs alongside chronic anxiety and stress

Studies have shown that chronic stress can cause hair loss and hair thinning. This type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium, wherein large amounts of follicles go into a ‘resting’ phase after shedding. 

Do you have high levels of chronic stress alongside depressive symptoms? 

You might experience chronic stress as a result of depression for many reasons. Chronic depression might cause tension in relationships, difficulties at work or school, difficulty with money or time management, or distressing challenges handling day-to-day responsibilities. 

This type of depression-related stress can certainly contribute to a state of chronic stress. If you deal with depression and feel like your hair is changing as a result, it may be possible it’s stress-related.

Other potential causes 

Antidepressants may also cause hair loss. 

It’s known that certain antidepressant medications may contribute to thinning hair. However, hair loss is not among the most commonly reported side effects.  

In an 8 year-long study, fluvoxamine (Luvox), was found to have the highest risk of hair loss when compared with Wellbutrin. 

Prozac and Paxil were found to have the lowest risk of hair loss side effects.

That being said, hair loss is a potential side effect, albeit rare, for most antidepressant treatments

Article summary 

There is no solid evidence that depression directly causes hair loss. However, because of concurrent stress, anxiety, or common treatments, hair loss may be prevalent among those with depression. So, depression may have an indirect effect on hair thinning and hair loss. 

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