Anorexia and Hair Loss

Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa.

Social pressures to stay thin are primary causes of Anorexia and Bulimia. Many sufferers are persons with low personal esteem.

Excessive shedding of terminal scalp hairs may follow Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa.                                                                                                                           


Anorexia Nervosa is a chronic illness in either sex but predominantly adolescent females. It is characterized by the individuals pre-occupation with body image and weight control. The ultimate fear of becoming fat may result in regular weighings measurings and extreme dieting to the point of emaciation. Anorexics are usually therefore underweight for their height and age. Their bodies becoming thin thereby accentuating buttocks and thighs). Amenorrhea (the absence 3 + consecutive periods) in women who should be menstruating. Massive hair fall (telogen effluvium) will often result.
The anorexic’s self-esteem is enhanced by weight losses, but reduced significantly following any weight gain. The later being perceived as failure of self control.

Anorexia is an age old illness with cultural and religious significations.

Body criticism

Duration of disease
May be of short duration with full recovery.
More usually it is a chronic illness (worsens over the years)
Severe cases require hospital treatment.
Some Anorexics will die as a result of chronic starvation (malnutrition) and loss of vital salts (potassium and sodium) from bodily fluids and tissues (e.g. muscles).



Bulimia Nervosa is classified as a mental disorder, in which the patient’s identity and self-esteem are heavily dependent on body weight and body image. Symptoms may present as:
Repeated bouts of compulsive eating during which excessive quantities of foods are consumed within a short period of time followed by compensatory behavior to avoid weight gain. e.g. self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, fasting and excessive exercise. Bouts may occur several times weekly for many months.

Types of Bulimia:
People who compensate for their binging bouts by self-induced vomiting, or the misuse of laxatives or diuretics.
People who compensate for their binging bouts by fasting or exercising excessively.

Who are affected
Males and females The average age of onset for bulimia is 18 years, but it occurs in children as young as 9 and adults into their mid-40s.
Anorexia and Bulimia each cause serious and potentially fatal physical and psychological problems. The following vital functions / organs may suffer serious consequences: Heart, Endocrine system, Nervous system, Kidneys, Blood etc.

Bulimia can result in death from suicide, starvation, gastric hemorrhaging, or multiple organ failure.

Medication, nutritional therapy and psychotherapy.

Self dissatisfaction,
Family problems.
Emotional crises.
Educational and Work stresses.

Hair Losses

In Anorexia and Bulimia, the Anagen (growing phase) of the hair cycle is prematurely terminated by starvation, gastric abnormalities or reduced vital organ performance.

The hair follicles skip the Catogen phase and enter the Telogen and Exogen (loss phases). The resulting excessive hairlosses (telogen effluvium) commence 6-12 weeks later. Read more

The average scalp has 84000 – 145000 hairfollicles. In healthy persons at any given time, approximately 80-90% of scalp follicles are in the hair producing (anagen) phase, with 10-20% in the telogen phase. Normal average daily hair loss is 60-150 hairs.

In Telogen Effluvium, the anagen and telogen ratios change dramatically. Statistics are unreliable. The author has observed patients loosing all but the shortest hairs within 6-12 weeks of the onset.

What can you do to help?

A reputable trichologist is worth consulting. Is there a Society Registered practitioner near you? (see HAIR CONSULTANTS)

B.J.STEVENS Contact the author