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Are Hair Loss and Depression Related?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 10/28/2021

Ageism is not just reserved for supermodels and athletes. In hyper-competitive areas of business like technology and consulting, hair loss at a young age can lead to many career difficulties including insecurity, and an inability to perform in situations.

While some men will make the transition from a full head of hair to balding look very easy, there is undoubtedly a sense of dread that comes over anyone when they see the first signs of their hairline retreating. 

The retreating hairline, which is the most common symptom of androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, often contributes to a man looking older.

This seemingly small change can cause a dramatic loss in confidence and cause deeper mental health issues. 

Why? Simply put, hair loss makes men look older. Hair loss, more than any other physical change, dramatically signals the end of youth, and desirability. 

It’s like filing an AARP card with none of the wisdom, or decades of financial responsibility to retire on. But it’s not just the fault of the man.

Psychological Effects of Hair Loss

Those who suffer from severe hair loss are more likely to experience negative psychological side effects, such as depression or low self-esteem, than those with no or mild hair loss. 

These psychological side effects can seep into many different aspects of your daily life — from your performance at work, to your confidence in your relationship, to your sense of self-satisfaction and everything in between. 

Insecurity

While some men are able to easily accept the loss of their hair, there are others who fall into a spiral of depression and insecurity due to their changed appearance. 

They often have increased anxiety and despair due to an inability to stop their changing appearance. 

This is especially damaging in western culture, where male stoicism is a badge of honor, and an inability to exert control over one’s life (or physical appearance) is in direct conflict with that ideal.

Research published by the BMJ has shown that hair loss can lead to a general feeling of being ugly and even, in some extreme cases, it can lead to a body dysmorphic disorder where a person has overwhelming anxiety about their looks.

We can pretend to not be influenced by society’s beauty standards, it’s clear that public figures drive how our culture perceives handsomeness, sexuality, success, and overall physical health. 

For men, body standards have changed over the years, and this is reflected in the types of movie stars and celebrities we see. Hair is no different.

Hair loss can have an effect on relationships, as men often feel that the loss of their hair signals the end of their youth, and attractiveness to others. 

The side effects of this can be pretty devastating.

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Depression

Men who suffer from hair loss may eventually develop depression because of it. In fact, an article published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology says that hair loss directly affects symptoms of depression, such as loss of self-confidence, low self-esteem and heightened self-consciousness. 

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded that those who suffer from alopecia are at a higher risk for developing depression and anxiety than those who do not. 

If you think you are suffering from hair loss and aren't feeling like yourself, it is important to assess the symptoms of depression in order to sort out the best mental health and hair loss treatments. 

Talk to your health care provider if you are suffering from any of the following symptoms: 

  • Persistent low mood

  • Feelings of hopelessness 

  • Guilty feelings 

  • Loss of interest in hobbies

  • Feelings of worthlessness 

  • Moodiness 

  • Changes in appetite 

  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain

  • Troubles sleep 

  • Fatigue

  • Trouble focusing 

  • Suicidal thoughts 

  • Distancing from family members or loved ones

Anxiety

According to another article published in the BMJ, hair loss can also lead to instances of social anxiety, where the person avoids attending social gatherings and other events to avoid being seen with a balding appearance by others. 

There can be anxiety that stems from hair loss and has a psychological impact relating to identity. Interestingly, those with limited hair loss are more capable of covering their hair loss with the hair they still have, and so are less likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety.

Those with hair loss may suffer serious anxiety related to their image, as hair loss may not be limited to the top of the head, and could include eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair, and other parts of the body.

Research has shown that mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression are common among those with hair loss. 

Can Depression Cause Hair Loss?

Can Depression Cause Hair Loss?Thinning hair may be caused by treatments for certain mental health issues, such as depression. 

You read that right. As much as hair loss can cause depression, depression treatments can also cause hair loss, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Although rare, certain antidepressants, such as sertraline, may cause hair loss

If you are currently taking depression medication and are noticing your hair thinning, talk to your healthcare provider to find out the best options for you.

Depression is not a direct cause of any type of hair loss; there are several factors that may be at play. For example, if you experience hair loss due to heightened stress levels, then you are likely experiencing telogen effluvium

Certain health conditions, such as thyroid problems, cancer, or high blood pressure, can also cause hair loss. 

Male pattern baldness is also not caused by depression or depression treatments. In fact, it is caused by genetics and DHT hormones. 

However, a study published in the Brazilian journal, Anais Brasilerios de Dermatologia, noted that people who suffer from androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness) have a lower quality of life than those who suffer from patchy hair loss, or no hair loss at all. 

Additionally, the same conclusion was found in a study published in International Journal of Trichology: those with androgenetic alopecia suffer a lower quality of life than those who do not.

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Treating Hair Loss and Depression

The biggest issue surrounding hair loss isn’t balding itself, but rather how it begins to erode the confidence at the core of manhood. Taking the right steps toward treatment can be a game-changer. 

Address Mental Health

The first step to tackle the issue of depression-related hair loss head-on is to eliminate the negative feelings that accompany hair loss. Talking to a health care provider can allow for proper mental health treatment.

Options such as antidepressants or therapy could be the key to relieving your depression symptoms, effectively eliminating one part of the depression-hair loss cycle and supporting your overall well-being. 

Talk to a hims psychiatry provider today and discuss your depression symptoms. 

Hair Health Supplements

Taking your hair health seriously will prevent long-term hair damage that may lead to balding down the road. Natural supplements, like biotin, and DHT blockers may make strong inroads in preventing hair loss by promoting healthy hair growth.

In other words, you don’t prevent a cold by taking cold medicine, start today to avoid the hardships of tomorrow.

Hair Loss Medication

If you’re already seeing signs of balding or receding hairline, there's no need to feel down. This trend may be easily reversible with oral and topical treatments like finasteride and minoxidil.

While it may take months to really start to see results, the fact is that with continued use, hair loss solutions can help reverse the physical effects of balding.

That’s a small price to pay for restoring confidence in your physical appearance and being the best man you can be when it counts the most.

However, it is important to note that certain patients may see negative psychological side effects of finasteride, such as suicidal thoughts. 

One study published in the book, , discovered that there were significant signs of suicidality and adverse psychological events for alopecia patients younger than 45 years old who use finasteride.

If you are taking or decide to take finasteride, it is important to disclose any side effects to your healthcare provider. 

If you have a history of depression or are experiencing symptoms of depression, you should likewise tell your healthcare provider before you begin taking finasteride.

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Depression and Hair Loss: A Final Thought

While both depression and hair loss can be frustrating, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider about both to get a treatment plan that is right for you. 

Be sure to disclose all current medical conditions and medications you are taking in order to carve the best path toward hair regrowth.

9 Sources

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.

  1. Nardi, A. E. (2005, November 5). Psychological impact of alopecia: Alopecia may lead to social anxiety. BMJ (Clinical research ed.). Retrieved October 5, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1283238/.
  2. Taylor & Francis. (2006, September 1). Reported experiences of persons with alopecia areata. REPORTED EXPERIENCES OF PERSONS WITH ALOPECIA AREATA. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15325020490890633 Hunt, N., & McHale, S. (2005, October 22).
  3. The psychological impact of Alopecia. BMJ (Clinical research ed.). Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1261195/ Finlay, et al. (2001, December 21).
  4. The effect of hair loss on quality of life. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1468-3083.2001.00229.x U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). Mental Health Medications. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications Basaria, et al. (2021).
  5. Investigation of suicidality and psychological adverse events in patients treated with finasteride. JAMA dermatology. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33175100/ Hagigeorges, et al. (2019, June 1).
  6. Association between alopecia areata, anxiety, and depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962219308904 Ayvaz, et al. (2018).
  7. Comparison of quality of life in patients with androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://www.scielo.br/j/abd/a/GqJwcPCXBwqZQKgzQCmL78D/?lang=en&format=html Goyal, et al. (2019).
  8. Quality of life assessment in patients with Androgenetic Alopecia. International journal of trichology. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6706984/
  9. Hunt, N., & McHale, S. (2005). The psychological impact of alopecia. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 331(7522), 951–953. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1261195/

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.