A MUM has told how she was left with a huge bald patch and a comb over after Covid stress made her hair fall out.
Charlotte Hawksley was horrified as clumps fell out in the shower after months of worry over the pandemic.
The 33-year-old was eventually left with a bald spot the size of a fist -with the doctor diagnosing the issue as hair loss caused by stress.
Charlotte, who lives with daughter, Evie, 10, said: "I noticed a small patch the size of a ten pence and I didn't really think much of it.
"I've got quite thick hair so it was easy to hide if I just combed my hair over and it wasn't a massive issue.
"I noticed that more of it was falling out when I was brushing it and there were clumps of it in the bath when I washed it.
"My daughter always pointed out that mummy was going bald and it was getting harder and harder to hide.
"A few months later it was the size of a fist, I looked like I had a massive comb over and had to wear a thick hairband to cover it.
"The fact it was down to stress makes sense because of the pandemic and my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes.
"I didn't feel particularly stressed at the time but in hindsight it does make sense."
Three types of hair loss have been linked to stress – telogen effluvium, trichotillomania and alopecia areata.
In telogen effluvium, significant stress pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase.
Within a few months, affected hairs might fall out suddenly when simply combing or washing your hair.
Trichotillomania is an irresistible urge to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body.
And while a variety of factors are thought to cause alopecia areata, severe stress is linked.
With alopecia areata, the body's immune system attacks the hair follicles — causing hair loss.
The sales assistant added: "I was really self conscious and if it had got any worse I would have seriously considered shaving my head. I thought I was going completely bald.
"I'm not vain and I wasn't panicking because I didn't think there was something more serious behind it but it really affected my confidence and self esteem.
"It made me really self conscious. When we were able to go out again, I didn't want to go on dates or meet new people.
"People were really shocked when I showed it to them."
But recently, the mum from Bournemouth has noticed her hair has started to regrow and she hopes her confidence will come back with it.
She said: "It has started to grow back but it is still noticeable. I'm not a vain person but hair is really important.
"I don't know why it has suddenly started to grow back because if anything I'm more stress than before but hopefully it does keep growing."
How to reduce stress levels
1. COLD WATER
Plunging into cold water puts the body into an extreme state of stress. If you do it often, say, a few times a week, your body gets used to real stress and so when an everyday version strikes, it knows not to react.
2. DITCH COFFEE
Caffeine is a stimulant and while you feel you might need it because you slept badly, have a look at how much you’re drinking in a day. If it’s more than three cups, try reducing or switching to decaffeinated.
3. SWITCH OFF
Turn off your phone and laptop. Always put them in another room and don’t ever have them beside the bed. And make sure you’re having several hours a day where you’re not anywhere near a device.
It’s pretty much the silver bullet for several medical conditions but getting a sweat on has been found in multiple studies to reduce stress levels and can also help undo some of the physical damage caused by stress.
I struggle with meditation, but there’s bags of evidence that it helps. We’re all different, so while I’ve tried it several times and it might not be for me, it is worth a go. Download the Headspace or Calm app.
Studies have found spending just 20 minutes in nature reduces stress hormone levels. Put your phone away to get the benefit. Can you choose a route to walk to work that takes you through greenery, or use your lunch break to get out into nature?
7. MEET FRIENDS
Getting out and meeting people you are close to helps reduce stress. One women-only study found that those who spent time with their friends experienced an increase in levels of oxytocin, a stress-relieving hormone.
A good old belly laugh is so beneficial for stress. A study with cancer patients found the participants who used laughter intervention therapy were less stressed than the control group.
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