Telogen Effluvium: The Dirty Secret of Stress

Published Categorised as Personal, Health

There’s a condition doctors won’t tell their patients about. It sneaks up on an unsuspecting person;  when you suddenly realise what’s happening, doctors dismiss it, relatives poo-poo it. It’s called telogen effluvium. In short, massive hair drop or the big sink clog or the human hair pillow. Yes, folks, your crowning glory falls out and no one cares but you. And your hairdresser.

Judy Taylor found this out herself. She suffered massive hair changes as a result of what she went through. Now, you’d think that with catheters and relying on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) for her life, she couldn’t care less about hair changes or hair loss. But you’d be wrong. Hair is important. Balding men go through nausea-inducing (in other people) hair plugs to reverse the fall out; men and women dye their hair to cover up the dreaded colour change; women buy wigs to hide the balding from chemotherapy; men impose hair codes on women (and women take on those codes as their own); artists even created a rock opera called Hair. Hair is powerful. Hair is beauty. Hair reflects our personality.

So when it falls out in great handfuls in the shower or greets us in the morning on our pillow instead of staying on our head where it should be, it’s a bit disturbing. Judy tried to talk to Jeej about it, but he was concerned with her bigger problems. She eventually did get some help, which you’ll have to read the book to find out about, but I remember thinking when I heard this story that it must be very hard to first lose the hair you’re used to and then having to persist to get some attention on remedying it. I don’t think there’s a remedy for me but time though.

According to a UK patient website:

“Telogen effluvium is a condition where more than normal amounts of hair fall out. There is a general ‘thinning’ of the hair. Unlike some other hair and scalp conditions, it is temporary and the hair growth usually recovers.”

About 12 weeks after a majorly stressful event, a lot of hair suddenly starts falling out. There’s a physiological reason, which is only partly reassuring. I say partly because for me, I experienced massive hair loss the year I was injured in a car crash, back in 2000. I consoled myself that I was born with such vast amounts of hair that though I lost half of it, I wasn’t obviously bald. But it was only this past spring when my hair started to thicken up again. I held my breath, hoping this was not some horrible tease by the universe. Unfortunately, it was. My hair is now thinner than ever after two months of never-ending hair shed.

I can trace the 12 weeks back to the pre-trial and settlement negotiation period of early summer, when I wondered if the dickheads would finally act like grown ups and if justice would ever be served (ha!) and being fully set to lose my summer to preparing myself for trial. In the end, we signed a settlement. I wasn’t happy, for a variety of reasons, but I was also realistic about all my options. However, I never thought I’d lose MORE HAIR! Maybe I wouldn’t have signed then if I’d known the full repercussions!

My Duck logo walking on my books in pink and blue shading.



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