Updated on January 31, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Anxiety is a mental disorder that causes excessive feelings of fear, worry or nervousness. Although anxious feelings are a standard response to fear, anxiety manifests as a more extreme panic disorder that causes a patient to worry beyond what is considered normal or healthy. Temporary worry transitions into persistent anxiety that can consume one’s entire thoughts, significantly impairing their ability to perform daily tasks and activities.
However, while the symptoms of anxiety are initially psychological, persistent worrying can generate physical health effects, as well. Excessive worrying can cause the body to experience gastrointestinal upsets, weakness, fatigue and even alopecia — also known as hair loss.
Alopecia is a medical condition that causes hair thinning or balding on the scalp and other portions of the body. Some individuals may experience moderate to mild hair loss. However, in more severe cases, alopecia develops into alopecia areata when bald spots occur to a greater degree. Regardless of the severity of hair loss, alopecia is a severe medical condition that can create emotional suffering and psychological damage.
Some medications geared toward treating anxiety can create adverse side effects of issues. Additionally, they do not often take alopecia or hair thinning into account for patients suffering from these complications. However, research studies support medical marijuana as a viable treatment option that helps lessen the symptoms and side effects of anxiety. Not only do patients experience mood elevations, but they will also find themselves dealing with less stress-induced physical complications, including alopecia.
Although alopecia can occur as a condition separate from anxiety, it can also occur as a side effect of this mental health disorder. Despite being a rare side effect of anxiety, balding and hair thinning is very serious and emotionally damaging for those who experience it. But how exactly does anxiety lead to alopecia in specific patients?
Hair grows typically 0.5 inches per month on average. While it may seem like hair growth is merely a natural process that occurs separate from any health disorders, a disruption in one’s physical or mental health can greatly impair the process of hair maintenance. Hair requires key nutrients to grow at regular rates.
When a patient experiences elevated levels of stress and anxiety, the body focuses on combatting these feelings, causing muscle tension, excessive or irregular hormone production and skin sebum production. Added sebum can also clog the pores, preventing hair from growing back after balding.
The loss of abnormally high levels of hair and stimulate a chain reaction that makes an individual more anxious. This, in turn, can create even higher amounts of balding in the process due to the heightened sense of stress.
Certain anti-anxiety medications can stimulate hair loss as a side effect, too. Although anxiety and alopecia are two separate conditions, some patients may find these issues are connected. If you or a loved one are experiencing stunted hair growth, balding or other signs of alopecia while undergoing severe levels of anxiety, it’s crucial to contact a trained professional who can help you develop the ideal treatment plan for your conditions.
One side effect cannabis users boast about frequently is how well it helps them control their moods. How does this benefit hair loss? Since balding and hair thinning is a potential side effect of prominent levels of stress, medical marijuana can help patients control anxious feelings, causing less hair loss as a result.
In patients with anxiety-induced alopecia, the immune system attacks the hair follicles and inhibits healthy hair growth and maintenance. Cannabis works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system in a way that produces positive results.
Within the endocannabinoid system of patients with abnormally high levels of anxiety, CB1 and CB2 receptors responsible for normal bodily regulation — including that of the nervous and immune system — may be abnormal or not fully functional. The cannabinoids stimulate these receptors to normalized levels, ensuring the endocannabinoid system can properly regulate the body’s necessary functions with ease.
Does your state allow medical marijuana treatment for mental health illnesses like anxiety? If so, considering reaching out to a licensed medical doctor in your state today. Your health care practitioner will connect you with the resources necessary to develop an effective treatment plan. Once approved, you can select the medical cannabis best suited for your needs while scheduling regular follow-up visits with your physician, too.
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat alopecia areata , check out our resources: