A link exists between hair loss and depression. People with hair loss have a higher risk of depression and vice versa. This means that the link is bidirectional, as it goes both ways.
Aside from depression, hair loss may produce other psychological symptoms. Although both males and females have symptoms, some evidence suggests that females may experience them more often.
Treatment may involve talk therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.
This article discusses the psychological effects of hair loss and the link to depression, as well as treatment and where to get help. It also examines the association between antidepressants and hair loss, along with other causes of hair loss.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Because hair is an important part of body image, hair loss — or hair thinning — can have a substantial negative effect on the psyche, reports
Some mild to moderate psychological effects of hair loss include:
- decreased confidence
- social withdrawal
- decreased work and sexual performance
If hair loss happens at an early age, it can cause an individual to feel less attractive, virile, and likable — all of which may lead to low self-esteem.
The severity of the symptoms correlates with the severity of the hair loss.
There is a bidirectional link between hair loss and depression. This was the conclusion of a
The authors found that individuals with major depressive disorder have a 90% higher risk of developing hair loss. Additionally, those with hair loss have a 34% higher risk of developing major depressive disorder.
According to research from 2020, both males and females have symptoms of depression stemming from hair loss, but females may experience more of them. One likely reason is that some females equate hair loss with reduced femininity.
A limited number of studies have investigated antidepressant-induced hair loss.
Research from 2018 compared the risk of hair loss between various antidepressants from several classes. These included SSRI medications, selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and bupropion (Wellbutrin). Bupropion is a newer class of antidepressants. Of these, bupropion had the highest risk of hair loss, and the SSRI medication paroxetine (Seroxat) had the lowest risk.
Some other causes of hair loss include:
- Heredity: Androgenic hair loss — also called male pattern hair loss — is a hereditary condition that can affect males or females. It stems from inheriting genes that cause hair follicles to reduce in size and stop growing.
- Age: Aging causes hair growth to slow. This can result in thinning hair and a loss of hair color.
- Alopecia areata: This is a type of immune disorder that attacks the hair follicles. It can affect hair on the scalp as well as other parts of the body.
- Childbirth, illness, and stress: A person may notice more hair loss after giving birth, when recovering from an illness, or following a period of stress, such as when going through a divorce.
- Cancer treatment: Chemotherapy and radiation treatment of the head and neck can cause a person to lose most or all their hair.
- Hair care: Chemicals in products that perm, color, and relax the hair can cause damage that leads to hair loss.
- Scalp infection: This can produce a bald spot.
- Hairstyles that pull hair: A hairstyle that involves the constant pulling back of the hair can lead to hair loss.
- Hormone imbalance: A common condition that causes this is polycystic ovary syndrome, which is the formation of cysts on a female’s ovary. Some types of birth control may also produce a hormone imbalance that produces hair thinning.
Treatment for depression due to hair loss is not dissimilar to the treatment of depression due to other causes.
One type of treatment may involve talk therapy. This may come from interacting in a support group or from one-to-one conversations with a licensed therapist or trusted advisor. Benefits may include:
- disrupting negative thinking
- increasing the ability to cope with stress
- improving troubled relationships
When talk therapy does not relieve depression, an antidepressant may be necessary. Since some antidepressants increase the risk of hair loss, a person may wish to ask their doctor to prescribe one with a lower risk.
Lifestyle changes may also boost mood, such as:
- getting regular exercise
- spending time with others
- setting realistic goals
If a person has symptoms of depression for longer than 2 weeks, they should see a doctor. These may
- feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- feelings of emptiness, sadness, or anxiousness
- feelings of irritability, restlessness, or frustration
- having no interest in any hobbies or activities
- depleted energy and feeling tired
- troubles sleeping or waking up in the morning
- trouble making decisions, memory, and concentration
- changes in eating habits or unexplained weight loss
- pain, aches, cramps, or other problems with no clear cause
- thoughts of death or suicide
When someone has thoughts of suicide, they should get immediate medical attention.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
The following resources can help a person experiencing depression:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): This is a resource for support groups and online discussion groups. The organization also offers a helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), which is available Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): This organization offers education and support to help a person find treatment. The ADAA provides a directory to enable someone to locate a therapist in their area.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The mental health resources from the CDC are a valuable source of information.
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: This is a free helpline that is available 24/7.
There is a link between hair loss and depression. The psychological effects of hair loss can include depression, as well as anxiety, and social withdrawal. Additionally, depression can increase the risk of hair loss, so the link is bidirectional.
If a person is undergoing treatment for depression, it is important to be aware that some antidepressants can cause hair loss. If an individual notices this effect after starting an antidepressant, they can ask their doctor to change their medication.
Treatment can help, so when an individual experiences depression symptoms for 2 weeks, they should talk with a doctor.