Tired of seeing your hair everywhere - on the pillow, in your hairbrush, and the bathroom drain? Are you experiencing a sudden increase in your hair fall and you cannot seem to understand the reasons behind it?

If you take a moment to think about all the possible reasons for your hair falling, stop and see if stress is the reason. And now find answers to these questions - is there a rise in your stress levels lately? Are you going through a traumatic phase or recovering from one?

If your answers are yes, then stress is most likely the cause of your hair fall; so much so that it is resulting in a condition called telogen effluvium.

Read on to understand more about telogen effluvium and how is stress linked to it. 

Introduction to Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a form of temporary hair loss that usually happens after stress, a shock, or a traumatic event. In simple words, telogen effluvium is defined as increased hair shedding. Your hair loss occurs from the top of your scalp. It is a temporary condition and usually, your hair grows back once the causative factor, i.e., stress is eliminated or managed well.

Telogen effluvium results in significant hair thinning which is noticeable and commonly occurs in women. Your hair does not start to fall immediately when periods of chronic stress begin; it is a result of stress over a long period of time and can start anywhere after weeks or months of continued stress. This condition is reversible and the earlier the cause is addressed, the better it is.

To understand how stress results in large amounts of sudden hair loss, let’s take a closer look at your hair cycle. 

Phases of Your Hair Cycle 

Hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis (the deeper, thicker layer of your skin). In humans, hair follicles undergo repetitive growth and resting phases. 

Your hair cycle has typically three phases:

  • Anagen or Growth Phase: Your hair grows continuously for a fixed duration during the anagen phase. At the end of anagen, the hair fiber is retained for a period of time before it sheds and is replaced.

  • Catagen or Transitional Phase: The catagen phase marks the end of the active growth of a hair. This phase is short and lasts for only about 2-3 weeks.
    During this phase, your hair transitions into club hair. A club hair is formed when your hair follicle cuts off from its blood supply and from the cells that produce new hair. After about 2 weeks, that particular hair follicle enters the telogen phase.

  • Telogen or Resting Phase: The last phase of your hair cycle is the telogen or resting phase where your hair remains in the follicle until it is pushed out by the growth of a new anagen hair. This phase lasts for about 100 days for hairs on the scalp and much longer for hairs on the eyebrow, eyelash, arms, and legs.

When your body is subjected to extreme stress, as much as 50 percent of your hair is forced to enter the telogen phase and begin to fall, causing a noticeable loss of hair, resulting in telogen effluvium.

More Points on Stress and Telogen Effluvium

Now that it is established that stress is the main trigger for telogen effluvium, it is time to look deeper and see how you react or behave during high-stress levels. 

Most often, the first thing you would do is stop eating meals regularly or eat too much junk or processed foods as a result of reduced hunger or irritability, and mood swings. While it seems convenient at that time, doing this has little nutritional benefits for your body, especially for your hair.

Know that stress impacts your digestion and alters your body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients. Since your hair is a mostly dead and non-essential tissue, it is the first thing that is affected due to a lack of essential nutrients. A lack of essential nutrients can result in nutritional deficiencies and further aggravate your hair loss.

At the same time, stress also affects your immune system, making you vulnerable to illnesses. Various illnesses like the flu, high fever, and stomach disorders are also known to trigger hair loss.

Final Outlook

Besides stress, poor diet, weight loss, pregnancy, and certain medications can also cause telogen effluvium. The treatment usually depends on the trigger. If stress is the main trigger, various stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are often a part of the treatment. You can expect the regrowth of hair to happen in 3 to 6 months after the cause has been taken care of.

Telogen effluvium is temporary and making lifestyle and dietary changes can reverse it. Learn how to manage your stress better and consult your dermatologist as soon you see the first signs of sudden and increased hair loss.


1. Grover C, Khurana A. Telogen effluvium. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2013;79:591-603

2. Malkud S. Telogen Effluvium: A Review. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9(9): WE01-WE3. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/15219.6492

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