Seeking support for your mental health?

Start here

Can Depression Cause Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Steph Coelho

Published 02/26/2022

Updated 05/01/2024

Depression may be a mood disorder, but it can also show up in physical ways. If you’re living with this mental health condition, you might be wondering, among other things, can depression cause hair loss?

Stress and depression can make your low mood dip lower, and, unfairly, it can also affect your body. In this sense, depression can potentially impact the hair growth cycle along with your self-esteem, which can worsen depression symptoms, leading to a vicious cycle.

Hair health management in the context of clinical depression is within reach, though.

The first step in managing depression-related hair loss is to understand that the physical and psychological effects of depression go deeper than sadness alone. 

Read on to learn more about depression and hair loss, including what depression can do to your body and whether depression can make your hair fall out.

There’s a real connection between emotional and physical health. And if you’re living with depression, you’re likely acutely aware that it can take a significant toll on your body. 

Research suggests that people with depression are more likely to experience heart disease, diabetes, stroke, chronic pain or Alzheimer’s disease.

Experts have also identified a link between depression and factors like increased inflammation, changes in heart rate and blood circulation, stress hormone imbalances and issues with metabolism.

But what about your hairline? Can depression cause excess shedding? 

While there’s no evidence that depression directly causes hair loss, studies point to a potential link between depression and excess hair shedding. 

One study of adult female dermatology patients showed that of the 54% who reported hair loss, 29% also experienced at least two key symptoms of depression

While stress and depression aren’t one and the same, the emotional distress of living with a mental health condition can worsen daily stress levels — and vice versa. Stress can play a key role in certain types of hair loss

Let’s break down three causes of hair loss for which stress can be a potential trigger:

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium, also known as hair pulling disorder, is a form of temporary hair shedding. Both chronic stress and acute periods of severe stress, like illness or trauma, can trigger this type of stress-related hair loss that causes more of your hair follicles than usual to enter the resting period of the hair growth cycle. These dormant hairs have a higher chance of falling out during combing or washing. 

Trichotillomania

Depression can come with feelings of frustration or anxiety. Trichotillomania, a compulsive urge to pull hair from the body, can develop in people who don’t have a suitable outlet for their emotions.

online psychiatrist prescriptions

talk to a psychiatry provider. it’s never been easier

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is a condition in which the immune system attacks hair follicles, triggering hair fall. 

Potential stressors that can cause this type of hair loss include:

  • Severe stress

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Illnesses like cancer

  • STIs such as syphilis 

While it’s true that depression and stress can play a role in hair loss, hair thinning may also result from environmental and genetic factors, like in the case of male pattern baldness

Thankfully, treatments are available to help with depression symptoms, promote a healthy hair growth cycle and enhance your well-being.

Antidepressants and Hair Loss

Hair loss is an uncommon side effect of taking antidepressants, but it can happen.

Newer medications for depression, like some SSRIs and bupropion, come with a higher risk of hair loss, according to a large-scale 2018 study of people taking antidepressants. 

Several case studies also suggest a link between sertraline (the generic version of Zoloft) and hair loss. 

If you’re experiencing hair loss with depression, never discontinue medication before speaking with your healthcare provider.

The most effective treatment for depression involves a combination of medication, behavioral therapy and lifestyle changes, including self-care strategies. 

When it comes to hair loss and depression, finding the right combination of treatments can take a while. A good place to start is to consult a healthcare professional, who can help determine whether there’s a non-depression-related underlying condition triggering your hair loss, and recommend a change in medication or dosage adjustment. 

Can depression make your hair fall out? It’s possible, but there are ways to prevent further thinning. 

There are various effective options for treating your hair loss, from research-backed hair loss medications, such as finasteride and minoxidil, to hair-healthy biotin gummies. 

10 Sources

  1. Departments of aOphthalmology and Visual Sciences bPsychology cPsychiatry dPediatrics. “Risk of Hair Loss with Different Antidepressants: A... : International Clinical Psychopharmacology.” LWW, https://journals.lww.com/intclinpsychopharm/Abstract/2018/01000/Risk_of_hair_loss_with_different_antidepressants_.4.aspx.
  2. Elyasi, F. “Hair Loss Associated With Sertraline: Two Case Reports and Review.” Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317029426_Hair_Loss_Associated_with_Sertraline_Two_Case_Reports_and_Review
  3. Etminan, M., et al. “Risk of Hair Loss With Different Antidepressants.” International Clinical Psychopharmacology. https://journals.lww.com/intclinpsychopharm/Abstract/2018/01000/Risk_of_hair_loss_with_different_antidepressants_.4.aspx
  4. Marsh, Paige. “Mental Health and Hair Loss.” Harley Street Hair Clinic, Harley Street Hair Clinic, 25 Apr. 2018, https://www.hshairclinic.co.uk/news/mental-health-and-hair-loss.
  5. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. “Can Stress Make You Lose Your Hair?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 Sept. 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/expert-answers/stress-and-hair-loss/faq-20057820.
  6. “Hair Loss: Who Gets and Causes.” American Academy of Dermatology, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/18-causes.
  7. “Chronic Illness and Mental Health: Recognizing and Treating Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/chronic-illness-mental-health.
  8. Schmitt JV;Ribeiro CF;Souza FH;Siqueira EB;Bebber FR; “Hair Loss Perception and Symptoms of Depression in Female Outpatients Attending a General Dermatology Clinic.” Anais Brasileiros De Dermatologia, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22714757/.
  9. “Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression.
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

Education

Training

Certifications

Publications

Read more