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Anxiety is a form of stress that not only affects the way you feel and act but also has an impact on your physical health and appearance. I went through many years of debilitating social anxiety and I journalled the effects it had on my physical health and appearance. I noted an increase in hair loss, a deterioration of skin appearance, increased muscle tension and increased skin sebum. But are these symptoms typical of anxiety?

In observing many of the physical symptoms of those who suffer anxiety I can say with confidence that hair loss is certainly not a guaranteed result of prolonged anxiety. In fact many anxiety sufferers can go for years suffering the condition without any major impact on their hair growth. However, emotional stress does have an impact on physical health, which undoubtedly affects the appearance of skin and hair; whether it causes increased acne or worsening of hair health, or other visible physical symptoms.

How does stress affect your hair?

Several studies, including a UCLA study on mice in 2010, have demonstrated that stress causes hair loss. In the UCLA study the researchers used a drug to block the stress hormone “corticotrophin-releasing factor” and hair loss ceased or reversed as a result.

When the mind is in a state of anxiety, proteins from the thymus or lymph glands are converted to sugar for instant energy. Continued anxiety makes the body draw on further nutrients to compensate. This process releases free-radicals, which in turn necessitates a increased supply of ever-diminishing antioxidants to tackle the free-radicals.

In addition to a reduction in the availability of key nutrients required for hair growth, stress and anxiety also causes increased muscle tension, particularly in the neck and shoulders, increased skin sebum production and an increase in hormones that must be processed by the liver. A strong supply of blood to the hair is crucial for hair growth: the hair receives the nutrients it needs to grow via the bloodstream. However increased muscle tension and a decreased availability of vitamin C can reduce blood supply to the hair. Factors such as smoking also decrease the supply of blood to the hair.

Sebum can clog the pores in the scalp, which may hinder hair growth: sebum contains a hormone called 'DHT', which causes hair loss.

So you can see how anxiety can have an impact on hair growth, particularly if you are a smoker, don't exercise regularly and don't consume high levels of antioxidants and B vitamins to compensate for those lost due to high stress levels.

What can you do to reverse the damage?

The first and most important thing is to take active steps to reduce your anxiety levels. Since anxiety may be the root cause of your hair loss, reducing your anxiety levels may have a direct impact on your hair growth. Secondly, you need to reverse the damage caused by high stress levels.

Just as you need to eat more proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals after participating in heavy exercise to compensate for the use of nutrients, you need to increase your intake of key nutrients that help promote hair growth in order to recover from stress related hair loss.

There are really three key elements to this equation. One is an increase in the consumption of the key amino acids for hair growth, such as cysteine and lysine. Another is an increase in the consumption of supporting nutrients that better enable your body to use the building blocks to grow new hair. And last but certainly not least you need to increase the amount of blood being supplied to the hair, in order to deliver the nutrients to the follicles.

That said, I can't stress enough how important the first step is: reducing your anxiety levels. Although it is relatively easy to increase your consumption of the key nutrients that promote hair growth and there are some easy ways to increase blood flow to your scalp; conquering your anxiety is not an easy task. And until you are able to reduce your anxiety levels you will always be compensating for the underlying problem.

If you would like to learn more about the techniques the author of this article uses to increase hair growth using key nutrients and methods that increase blood flow to your hair follicles, visit the authors blog, http://www.nicehair.org/ 

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