The link between physical and mental health is one that’s often been discussed by the medical community over the years. The overwhelming consensus is that mental health can impact your physical well being, and vice versa (1).
But is there a link between depression and less well-studied physical manifestations, such as hair loss?
This article will explore the possibility that depression can cause hair loss and, if so, why that might be. I’ll then outline the most common signs and symptoms of depression, as well as the steps you can take to treat both the mental and physical aspects of the condition.
Can Depression Cause Hair Loss?
There are a lot of unexpected physical changes that accompany depression, but is hair loss one of them? It’s definitely possible.
Hair loss is a catch-all term that covers an array of conditions with symptoms such as thinning, hairline recession, and balding. The most common type of hair loss is Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) – a genetic condition – but many other forms exist (2).
Interestingly, the many forms of hair loss often share one thing – inflammation.
As the hair follicle is affected – whether by a genetic predisposition, an injury, or an autoimmune attack – it becomes inflamed. When left untreated, this eventually develops into miniaturization which is a process that causes lack of blood flow and poor hair growth.
But of those many types of hair loss, is depression one of them?
Depression itself is not a cause of hair fall, but it may trigger a condition known as Telogen Effluvium (TE).
This occurs when the hair growth cycle is ended prematurely, and the hair enters the final phase of growth – telogen.
The result is a sudden outflow of hair that can lead to thinning, recession at the forehead and temples, and even bald patches.
In many cases, the sudden loss of hair can push the sufferer into a deeper depression which means the vicious cycle will continue (3).
Antidepressants and Hair Loss
Another way in which depression may trigger hair loss is via antidepressants.
Antidepressants are prescription medications that work to bring the brain’s chemistry back into balance. There are quite a few different types of antidepressants, and these are grouped by which chemicals they affect.
The short list of antidepressant types includes:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
As with any medication, antidepressants can have side effects including hair loss.
Is It Possible to Regrow Lost Hair?
If depression or antidepressants has led to an increase in shedding of telogen hairs, you may be wondering if regrowth is possible.
The good news is, yes, regrowing your hair loss caused by depression or medication is entirely possible.
Telogen effluvium – the most common type of hair loss associated with depression – is a temporary condition. It will often occur until the underlying cause – such as stress, illness, or even depression – has been properly treated.
You should remember, though, that the hair will not regrow overnight.
It can take a few months from when you begin seeking treatment for depression before you see a positive change in your hair. But it’s important to stay consistent, both for the sake of your mental health and your hairline.
How to Tell If You’re Depressed
The only way to be diagnosed with depression is by visiting with a psychiatrist.
However, before you decide to take the next steps you may be wondering whether you’re even a ‘candidate’ for depression.
The fact is, depression affects millions of people worldwide (4). It does not discriminate based on age, gender, or race and it can have debilitating effects if not properly treated.
But first, what are the signs of depression that you should be aware of?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the most common signs include a persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities (5).
You may notice that it has become difficult for you to concentrate or make decisions, and you may also have difficulty sleeping and/or oversleeping.
Depression can also often be accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, loss of appetite, and decreased energy.
Thoughts of death or suicide are also common and, if you experience these thoughts, you should reach out for help immediately.
If the above list of symptoms reminds you of yourself, then it’s time to take the next steps.
Seeking Out Help
It can be difficult to ask for help, but remember that you don’t have to live with depression.
The first step is to reach out to your physician. They can work with you to find a mental health provider that meets your needs, and they may also be able to prescribe a medication for the short term.
How to Treat Depression-Induced Hair Loss
Here are just a few steps you can take to stop hair loss, and perhaps even promote healthy hair growth.
Treat Your Condition
The number one way to put an end to depression-induced thinning and balding is by treating your condition with the help of a medical professional.
Depression is a serious medical condition, and it’s not one that will just go away on its own. But there are steps you can take to manage it and get back to living the life you deserve.
The first step is to reach out to a medical professional.
Your primary care physician is the most obvious choice, but you can also make an appointment with a psychiatrist or a licensed mental health counselor.
If you’re in crisis, don’t be afraid to seek out the help of an emergency care physician.
The second step is to follow your treatment plan accordingly.
The hardest part is asking for help, but the second hardest is actually putting in the work to get better. This will mean speaking with a therapist, taking care of your physical and emotional health, and taking your medication as prescribed.
And if antidepressants seem to be the cause of your sudden hair loss, speak with your doctor.
You should never stop taking an antidepressant suddenly, and especially without the attention of your doctor. But if the side effects of the drug are too much to handle, talk with your doctor about finding another type of antidepressant that’s right for you.
Eat a Healthy Diet
One of the symptoms of depression is a loss of appetite and, as a result, sudden weight loss. As such, you should be sure that you’re eating a clean, well-rounded diet to make up for any deficiencies.
While nutritional deficiencies aren’t common in first- and second-world countries, they do happen. And this is especially true if you’re currently eating a limited diet, or one laden with overly-processed foods.
Vegetables, fruits, and lean meats are an excellent addition to your current diet. You can also make it easier to get in your nutrients by making smoothies, or by juicing your fruits and vegetables.
You should also speak with your doctor about nutrient supplements.
Begin an Exercise Regimen
It can be hard – really hard – to get started with an exercise regimen when you’re suffering from depression. But exercise and its many benefits can provide you with long-term mental and physical health.
Physical activity has been shown to be an effective treatment of major depressive disorders (8). The activity can be anywhere from low to moderate intensity, and this includes aerobics, resistance exercises, or a combination (9).
By adding exercise to your regular self-care routine, you can reduce the severity of depressive episodes. This is especially true when combined with other therapies, including medications and professional intervention.
The hardest part is getting started, but just begin with five minutes. Over time, you can then increase to ten, fifteen, and forty-five.
You Are Not Alone
In the throes of a depressive episode, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But the truth is that you’re not alone, and there are ways to treat and manage your condition.
There is evidence to suggest that depression can trigger hair loss. However, there is also reason to believe that treating the underlying mental condition can then result in healthy regrowth of your previously lost hair.
Remember that the key is to take care of yourself physically and mentally. This will require hard work, but with the help of your doctors and loved ones, you can take back control of your life.