How can I keep from worrying about this?
November 17, 2009 8:02 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep myself from freaking out about a medical issue that, in all likelihood, is common and minor, and for certain is not life threatening?

For the past two months I've noticed an increase in the amount of hair I've been shedding (I'm female with long hair, so I normally shed some hair..but this is markedly more than usual). And for the past couple weeks I've noticed a change in the thickness of my hair, the way it lays on my head, etc. Anyone looking at me probably wouldn't notice it, but I do. It's definitely thinner than it used to be.

At first I wasn't sure what this was at all, but then I heard sometimes a couple months after a physiological stressful event (like fever or surgery or crash dieting), your hair can sort of switch over to "fall out" phase - telogen effluvium. In July I was extremely sick while coming home from India - puking and diarrhea over the course of a day, high fever, all while trying to get out of Delhi in 100+ degree heat. At some points I was so sick I couldn't even stand at the ticket counter long enough to get my boarding pass, was curled up on the floor sweating and with chills etc. etc. I think that qualifies as stress on my body.

As a side note - I am 99% certain it was food poisoning ("Delhi belly"!) because my friend ate the exact same thing as me and also got extremely sick.. yeah we spent the evening taking turns in the bathroom, it was so not cool.

So, I've been operating under the assumption that this hair shedding thing is related to that, and what I've read is that it is pretty common and happens to most people at least once in their life, and that my hair will grow back in eventually. I've decided to go to my doctor after Thanksgiving to get blood work to rule out thyroid, hormone issues and possibly get a referral to a dermatologist.

In the mean time, how can I keep from freaking out? Worrying about going bald? Looking up stupid shit on the internet about it? I'd like to not worry so much about how my hair is changing.. I mean, it IS just hair. I guess the obvious answer would be "just don't freak out" but that doesn't seem to be working. Thanks--
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Most potential disasters don't look nearly so frightening if you have a contingency plan ready to implement if needed. Figure out what you would do if you lose too much hair. Would you wear it piled on top of your head? Wear a wig? Wear a kerchief? Explore these (and perhaps other) options so you'll have a good idea what to do and how you'll look.
posted by DrGail at 8:30 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

The only way to really stop freaking out is to get it checked out by a doctor, which you've indicated you're going to do. I would avoid googling it obsessively (I once managed to convince myself I had Lupus because I was reading WebMD too much).

One thing you can do is make sure you are eating right and getting enough sleep. A multi-vitamin wouldn't hurt either. Stress and a bad diet can have all kinds of negative effects. I had some vague symptoms and mild aches and pains for years that turned out to be a vitamin D deficiency.
posted by weesha at 8:32 AM on November 17, 2009

Seconding the contingency plan. Wigs, for example, sound scary on first thought, but there are some HELLISH cool wigs out there. Once i have money i intend to buy a couple of snazzy ones to wear over my short hair, for variety :)

I don't wish to trivialise your issue, apologies if it sounds that way. But I guess the more you can trivialise it yourself, the better!
posted by greenish at 8:46 AM on November 17, 2009

I googled, which it sounds like you've done. The 1st link says: about 3 or 4 months after an illness or a major surgery, you may suddenly lose a large amount of hair. This hair loss is related to the stress of the illness and is temporary.
The illness/stress may have put a lot of hair into the resting phase, and now it's gone to the falling out stage. I understand your concern, but it sounds like this is explainable. Can you get a good light and a good mirror, and look at your scalp? You may see the new hairs growing in, which would make you feel better.
posted by theora55 at 8:47 AM on November 17, 2009

Stop consulting Dr. Google. It only leads to trouble. If you catch yourself Googling terms like "sudden hair loss symptom", erase the search terms and type in "tubgirl extreme scat fetish" instead. That'll teach you.

Do this at your own risk.

I lost so much hair after having a baby that it looked like a dead squirrel was curled up on the drain after every shower, and now I have like a small crewcut growing back in under my normal hair length. Hair is weird shit and does weird things depending on a lot of different factors. Try not to worry so much. And if the anxiety continues, consider seeing a therapist in case there's some underlying psychological issue going on. Depression can manifest as anxiety, for instance.
posted by balls at 9:05 AM on November 17, 2009

Taking a multivitamin supplement is a great way to feel like you're doing something proactive. While you're waiting to go to the doctor, console yourself by reading stories about people who got their hair back. Years ago, I lost hair from being stressed out, iron-deficient, B-12 deficient, and probably fat-deficient since I was underweight. Happy ending: now that I eat fish every day and take supplements, I'm sleek and glossy again.
posted by aquafortis at 9:14 AM on November 17, 2009

If it makes you feel any better, I have a hormonal
disorder that, among other things, causes my hair to fall out. I have been dealing with this for literally years, and my hair is not so bad that people will notice. Another few weeks will be okay.
posted by sugarfish at 12:28 PM on November 17, 2009

So, I've been operating under the assumption that this hair shedding thing is related to that, and what I've read is that it is pretty common and happens to most people at least once in their life, and that my hair will grow back in eventually.

Yup. Happened to me after I had pneumonia, my hair fell out for six months straight. I finally caved and went to a dermatologist around the end of the six months (I think this was when it was leveling off on its own though), and they said to get Nioxin shampoo. In a few months things were growing normally again.

Good luck!
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:52 PM on November 17, 2009

I lost quite a lot of hair during several months of traumatic therapy sessions on top of other significant stress. It became noticably thinner, lasted about 6 months and took a good 6-9 months to grow back. Of course, trying not to worry about ending up a baldie is virtually impossible. But It will grow back, and taking care of your diet and generally being nice to yourself will help a lot. I hope you feel better soon.
posted by poissonrouge at 9:39 PM on November 19, 2009

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