Can Antidepressants Cause Hair Loss?
Maintaining mental health looks different for everybody. Some people trust talk therapy, some start exercising and others treat depression with prescribed medication.
Antidepressants have proven effective in managing mental health conditions, and in the United States alone, the use of antidepressant medication has risen exponentially in the past few decades. Unfortunately, while antidepressants can help you heal from depression, they can also have unwanted side effects, such as hair loss. Read on to learn more about antidepressant hair loss — plus, find out what plant-based hair products you should use to combat hair loss and encourage thicker, fuller and healthier looking hair.
The Antidepressant Journey
Depression is a debilitating and deeply upsetting illness that can impact self-esteem and, when left untreated, can lead to traumatic outcomes. The condition is a mood disorder characterized by prolonged feelings of hopelessness, sadness, guilt and worthlessness.
Antidepressant medication or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are thought to work by changing the chemical balance in your brain (called neurotransmitters), which can cause symptoms of depression to develop. Unfortunately, as with anyone taking a new medication, users may experience a side effect or two, such as insomnia, sexual dysfunction, anxiety, headaches and, in some cases, hair loss.
Dermatologist Dr. Cory Gaskins, BSc, M.D., CCFP, explained, "While there are many potential causes of hair loss, some antidepressants have been observed to cause hair loss in some people. This is thought to be due to the way that these medications affect the body's metabolism and hormones. While hair loss is a relatively rare side effect of antidepressants, it can be a very distressing one for those who experience it."
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Types of Antidepressants
If you're struggling with mental stress and depression, your doctor can prescribe you reuptake inhibitors that increase the presence of serotonin in the body. Common antidepressants include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) include sertraline treatment, Sarafem and fluoxetine. These are also prescribed to those struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) come in the form of amoxapine, amitriptyline and trimipramine.
- Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) come in the form of duloxetine, levomilnacipran and venlafaxine.
Someone suffering from depression or a major depressive disorder might also be prescribed atypical antidepressants, monoamine oxidase or adrenergic alpha-2 receptors antagonists. Antidepressants you might be prescribed include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a relatively common medication that was first developed in the 1970s. They generally work well, and users tend to be at lower risk of side effects than other forms of antidepressants. Most users experience a lift in their mood within a few weeks of taking them, and those who take paroxetine are at the lowest risk of hair loss. You might be prescribed:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Vilazodone (Viibryd)
- Vortioxetine (Trintellix)
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Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are a common type of antidepressant that tend to depression, some anxiety and chronic pain. Side effects tend to be mild and usually disappear relatively quickly. You might be prescribed:
- Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
TCAs are an older variation of medication that became available in the mid-20th century. They are as effective as SSRIs but are used less often as they tend to cause more side effects. You could be prescribed:
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Doxepin (Silenor)
- Imipramine (Tofranil)
- Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
- Protriptyline (Vivactil)
Bupropion is an atypical antidepressant to help with depression and seasonal affective disorder. It's also been approved as a smoking cessation medication and can be used off-label to help with sexual dysfunction.
Hair loss can happen for several reasons, so it's always worth checking in with a dermatologist to rule out other conditions, such as androgenetic alopecia, a thyroid condition or diffuse alopecia areata.
What Antidepressants Trigger Hair Loss
Some research suggests that the connection between antidepressants and hair loss is a thing to watch out for.
A 2018 study considered eight years' worth of data from over 1 million new users of antidepressants, including a variety of SSRIs, SNRIs and bupropion, a newer type of depression medication, to help determine the impact they have on hair loss. Results suggested that those who took bupropion were at the highest risk of hair loss, while those who took paroxetine were at the lowest risk. Sertraline has also been found to trigger hair loss, and fluoxetine could also create a hair loss issue.
How Antidepressants Impact Hair Loss
Hair growth happens in cycles, and if you experience depression or other medical conditions that result in your doctor describing antidepressants, you might experience telogen effluvium. TE is characterized by unexpected and excessive shedding of hair.
How Telogen Effluvium Occurs
Telogen effluvium occurs when the body experiences stress or a change. It can be triggered by extreme stress, surgery, illness, poor nutrition or medication. During telogen effluvium, hair follicles enter the telogen or resting phase prematurely. Consequently, more follicles than usual are in the resting phase and excessive hair fall occurs. The good news is that TE is temporary.
To better understand how telogen effluvium occurs, it can helpful to understand the hair growth cycle. Here are its phases.
- Phase 1: The anagen phase - About 90% of your hair is in this stage at any given time. This is when new hair grows, and old hair that's stopped growing is pushed away from the hair follicles. The new hair that develops during the anagen phase will grow from two to six years.
- Phase 2: The catagen phase - This stage lasts only a few weeks, and growth slows as the outer root shrinks.
- Phase 3: The telogen phase - This resting stage lasts approximately three months, and no new growth occurs, allowing new hair clubs to form. This is also the stage when telogen effluvium can occur.
- Phase 4: The exogen phase - Club hairs are shed as new hairs begin to push out. This stage only lasts a few days and overlaps with the anagen phase.
How To Combat Thinning Hair From Antidepressants
You might be able to prevent temporary hair loss from antidepressants or if not, you can combat it. Here's how.
Consult Your Doctor
While the risk of hair loss is an unpleasant experience, if you've been prescribed medication that you think is causing your hair to shed, it's vital to consult with your doctor before you stop taking it. Stopping your medications abruptly could result in unpleasant symptoms, such as anxiety, sleeplessness or headaches. If you're really struggling with hair loss, discuss reducing your dose with your doctor, or you could request to switch to another brand to help solve the issue. But always speak with your doctor first.
Give Yourself and Your Hair Some Extra TLC
In the meantime, be gentle with yourself and your hair. Take some time for self-care and spend time with people whose company you enjoy. Also, avoid harsh chemical treatments, excessive heat and tight hairstyles that can put extra stress on your strands.
Use a Hair Serum
If you experience hair loss while taking antidepressants, consider using our best-selling GRO Hair Serum, which has been clinically proven to reduce shedding and encourage thicker, fuller looking hair.
Hair thinning can happen for many reasons, and if you're struggling with depression, losing your hair can exacerbate the difficult feelings. Our easy-to-use, non-greasy hair serum uses powerful vegan phyto-actives to help balance your follicular ecosystem, which can help promote gorgeous, glossy locks. In addition, the unique formula is completely cruelty-free, and users in clinical trials experienced fuller-looking hair in just 90 days with consistent daily use.
The Good News
Depression can be complicated to live with, so getting relief from medication can feel fantastic. But unfortunately, you might experience some hair loss when you begin your medication journey, which can impact self-esteem. The good news is that hair loss from antidepressants isn't permanent.
Consider a hair wellness routine to keep your hair glossy, full and thick. Eat nourishing and healthy foods that help you feel good, stay hydrated and start with some gentle exercise when you feel ready. Use all-natural products to keep strands glossy and gorgeous, make moves to reduce your stress levels and don't hesitate to check in with your health care provider if you're concerned.
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