A soldier returns home from Iraq stressed out from multiple deployments. He can’t seem to readjust to civilian life. He can’t eat or sleep. He is angry all the time. And each night he wakes up screaming with visions of his buddies who died on the battlefield.
His hair is now falling out in clumps.
Any psychologically traumatic event, such as bearing witness to death in combat, can trigger post traumatic stress disorder and its ugly symptoms, which can include stress-related hair loss. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that since the 9/11 attacks nearly 30 percent of 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated at Veterans Affairs Hospitals have PTSD. Another study found that one in eight Lower Manhattan residents are likely to have PTSD after 9/11. It’s safe to say that PTSD has reached epidemic levels.
Abnormal, sudden hair loss can be the unexpected result of stress-inducing experiences such as war, murder, rape and other traumatic events whose symptoms can show up years later as PTSD. Prolonged periods of extreme stress and anxiety have been linked to depression, weight gain, and Type II diabetes.
Three types of hair loss are also associated with high stress levels. The first is alopecia areata in which the body’s white blood cells attack hair follicles, stopping normal hair growth and causing the hair to shed in clumps. The second is telogen effluvium where high stress levels induce the hair follicles to go into a resting state often resulting in thinning hair. The third type of stress-induced hair loss is Trichotilomania. Here, the person diagnosed with the disorder, succumbs to an overpowering urge to pull out his or her own hair by the roots as an obsessive-compulsive way of coping with stress and anxiety.
Any form or degree of stress is not good for the hair follicles. However, potential hair loss can be stopped or reversed with proper medical help. Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor Xr, and Clonazepam, a sedative, are common treatments for PTSD. But is hair loss proves irreversible even after the stress has been brought under control, that’s the time to consider alternative treatments, such as topical treatments or hair transplant surgery. Hair transplant surgery is the only permanent solution to hair loss.
If you have experienced hair loss due to a stress-related disorder it’s a good time to talk with a qualified cosmetic surgeon about your condition and what can be done about it.
Dr. Kyle S. Choe is a board certified facial plastic surgeon located in Virginia Beach. Call him today at The Choe Center for Facial Plastic Surgery at (757) 389-5850 for a personal consultation.