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Ask the Expert: Could my teen daughter's hair falling out be due to lockdown stress?

'The pandemic has brought on a lot of stress for teenagers at what is already an emotionally turbulent time in their lives'

Q: MY 16-year-old daughter has been quite stressed about lockdown and her GCSEs being cancelled this year, and now her hair has started falling out. Could this be connected to stress, and is there anything I can do about it?

A: Consultant psychiatrist Dr Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director for mental health at Bupa (bupa.co.uk), says: “The pandemic has brought on a lot of stress for teenagers at what is already an emotionally turbulent time in their lives.

“Your daughter isn’t alone in feeling unsettled by the disruption over the last few months. Bupa’s own research has found more than 4.1 million young people in the UK have experienced symptoms of poor mental health since lockdown began. A worrying three-quarters (76 per cent) have seen an impact on their physical wellbeing, with symptoms ranging from hair loss to weight changes.

“Hair loss can be caused by mental health issues such as stress, but there are a number of factors to consider, from hormonal changes to diet, so I’d advise you speak to a GP about any underlying health concerns behind the problem.

“If you suspect your daughter’s hair loss may be the result of a mental health condition, think about any other changes you may have noticed in the time since symptoms began. Have there been any changes in her mood, sleep patterns, or relationship with you or her friends, for example?

“If she’s struggling with her mental health, and you’ve noticed it persisting for more than two weeks, starting a conversation with her is the first step. Asking her how she’s doing and showing you understand and are there for her can help start a more productive discussion and encourage her to open up.

“Having talked about it, you may decide you need to seek further help. Early diagnosis can lead to a better long-term prognosis for mental health conditions, which can help your teenager and your family return to their ‘normal’ as soon as they can.

“If you’re not sure where to start or need further guidance, Bupa’s website hosts a number of free resources for parents and teens on how to manage mental health in lockdown. There are also resources such as charities Mind (mind.org.uk) and Shout (giveusashout.org) that have helpful information and advice for parents.”

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