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Stress and Hair: What Causes Hair Loss? continued...

Mirmirani says that hair shedding can also result from certain medications, thyroid disease, and nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin D or too much vitamin A.

Pinpointing the actual cause of the shedding isn't always easy. That's because, Mirmirani says, there's a three- to six-month lag time between the stressful event and the hair loss. In order to determine the cause, you need to look back at what was happening three, six, or even nine months before the hair loss began.

Stress and Hair: The Physiological & Emotional Connection

Emotional stress can also lead to physiological stress. For example, McMichael says, "if you're going through a severe divorce, you might not be eating properly; you might lose weight or not sleep well. You may go off and then back on your oral contraceptives." All of these things cause physiological stress and an imbalance in your system. "The point is," she says, "there are a lot of other things that are physiological going on. You're not losing your hair because you hate your ex-husband."

McMichael says that women have a number of things that happen on a regular basis that they may not recognize as stressors. "You start out your life and you're fine," she says. "You're 20 years old and get married. You get on some oral contraceptives. Well, that causes shedding."

When a woman decides to have a baby, if she is taking oral contraceptives, she'll stop taking them. "Maybe you have a little bit of shedding related to that. And then you get pregnant." Pregnancy causes the body to keep the hair that normally would fall out as part of the regular hair cycle. So a woman may notice her hair feels extra thick and fuller during that time. After giving birth, all the hair that would have fallen out is shed three to six months later.

Also, many women try to lose weight after having a baby. "Someone in the family dies and, because you've heard that stress causes hair loss, you say, 'Oh my God, I'm losing my hair because someone died.' But that's not it," McMichael says. "You're losing hair because you lost 30 pounds."