May is Mental Health Awareness month, and beyond this month more and more people are realizing that the mind can become ill as easily as catching a cold. There should be no stigma about it—specifically in households of color that believe mental illnesses are not a “thing.”

I grew up in a traditional Latin household, where depression was fixed with cleaning and staying busy. Mental illnesses were an “excuse” people used, and possibly a consequence of thy sins, but what isn’t understood is that genetics, biological disorders, and stress are the root of the matter. I dealt with mental illness as a teen, and still, it occasionally creeps up into my life as a young adult. As a developing teenager and curly girl, I was, of course, fixated on my aesthetic appearance, and I began to notice that my hair was thinning and falling out due to stress. Family issues and the pressures of school (in and out of the classroom) were beginning to take its toll.

Studies have shown that stress—emotional and physical—is a massive power of destruction, and can affect something so small as the hair follicles on our head to our overall health.

Keeping our cool isn’t the only savior of our tresses. There are many other factors that can affect hair, such as personality disorders and genetics. The most common diseases are depression, anxiety, OCD, trichotillomania (impulse control disorder), and unhealthy eating behaviors.

Photo Courtesy of @CreateHer-HarborGracePhotography

Stress and Anxiety

Anxiety is the result of long-term stress, and can cause large clumps of hair to weaken and fall out suddenly or later on. These large bunches can add up overtime and make some people go bald, if the issue is not treated.

Besides taking a nap, exercising, or taking time to oneself to recharge, drinking tea can serve as a great home treatment due to its tranquilizing ingredients. Although, this doesn’t replace seeing a doctor for a proper diagnosis, if the problem persists. This test can help in determining if anxiety and stress is becoming a problem.

Biological disorders

OCD (obsessive compulsion disorder), bipolar disorder, and trichotillomania (impulse control disorder) are some of the diseases that can cause hair loss, directly or indirectly.

Hair-pulling is a behavior usually associated with OCD, and can ultimately damage hair follicles that will block the restoration of new hair growth.

The other disorders indirectly cause hair damage and hair loss due to the medications—antidepressants, beta-blockers, mood stabilizers, etc—needed to address the symptoms.

According to a study done at Ohio State University College of Medicine, omega-3 supplements can naturally aid in the case of anxiety and depression, when taken on a regular basis or added to one’s daily diet.

Photo Courtesy of @CreateHer-HarborGracePhotography

Hair growth and health restoration does not happen overnight, but addressing life’s stressors and disorders can aid the timeframe in which it goes back to normal or close to it.

All of these issues can really affect one's health and hair, which in turn can lessen our confidence and self-esteem. It is important to tackle any and all illnesses as soon as possible, that way the areas we love and care for don’t suffer.

Always remember, you are loved.

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