When we hear someone mention hair loss, we usually think of aging or chemotherapy. What most people don’t associate with hair loss is eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia nervosa. In reality, many people experience hair loss due to eating disorders, including hair thinning and areas of balding. But why do eating disorders cause hair loss? Today our center for eating disorders is sharing the science behind this physical change.
There are various types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and more. Many people with eating disorders are malnourished, meaning they lack the proper nourishment needed for the cells in their body to work properly. The main reason eating disorders cause hair loss is because of keratin depletion.
Our hair is made up of the protein keratin, and without it, hair begins to thin, shed, and fall out altogether. Malnourishment, which is common among people with eating disorders, is often marked by protein depletion, including proteins like keratin. The result, of course, is hair loss.
Hair loss is a symptom of an eating disorder that’s reached a severe stage. The medical term for eating disorder-related hair loss is telogen effluvium. This is a reversible condition marked by the excessive shedding of resting or telogen hair after the body goes through a sudden change or shock.
When the body goes through an immense amount of stress, such as severe changes in eating, stress pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase, eventually causing them to fall out. Hair loss caused by eating disorders can range from mild shedding and thinning to losing clumps of hair at a time.
When a person’s eating disorder gets to a severe point, the body may become so determined to save itself that it concentrates its efforts towards organ function and cuts hair out of its energy budget.
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are most often linked to hair loss, thinning, and shedding. This is mainly due to the eating-related behaviors practiced by individuals with these conditions, including starvation, self-induced vomiting, reduced food intake, and over-exercising.
Eating disorders are usually linked to distorted body image, fear of weight gain, and an obsession with body shape and weight. Considering this, not only can eating disorders cause hair loss, but other side effects of eating disorders include:
Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Considering its impact on the body, this isn’t a surprise. But it is a tragedy. So many have lost their lives to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, which is why finding eating disorder support is so important.
Banyan Treatment Center offers various levels of eating disorder treatment at our Philadelphia rehab center. Our counselors, therapists, and nutritionists work with patients through every step of their recovery to ensure they achieve sustainable physical and mental health.
We understand that eating disorders are often linked to underlying issues with mental health, which is why we also offer body dysmorphic disorder treatment at our facility. In addition to disorder-specific programs, our team administers various therapy programs in singular and group settings to promote personal growth and peer support.
Not only do eating disorders cause hair loss, but they deteriorate a person’s physical and mental health as well as their relationships with friends and family. Don’t let an eating disorder rule your life any longer.