When Nadine Dorries spoke out about her alopecia on Daybreak earlier this week, she referred to the condition as a "confidence stealer".

hair loss

Although we don't quite agree that it's that vastly different for men than it is for women - she said on the show that "When men go bald and when they lose their hair, what they tend to do is have a mid-life crisis and go out and have an affair, but what women tend to do is to actually go into their houses and lock the door" - she did shine a spotlight on an issue that is often embarrassing and difficult to talk about.

Dorries isn't completely sure what has caused her alopecia, and there are several types. Androgenic alopecia is the standard male and female pattern baldness, while traction alopecia is caused by pressure to the hair, so if the hair is tied up too tightly or held tightly in a wrapper of cloth.

There are some types of alopecia however, which are linked to stress, which is anagen effluvium, where it occurs three months after a stressful event, like a bereavement or emotional stress, and alopecia areata, when the hair falls out quite quickly and in a circular pattern.

Gary Heron, Head of Practice and former alopecia sufferer at The Westminster Practice spoke to the HuffPost UK Lifestyle about how stress can affect your hair.

He said: "It fluctuates from recession to recession, we have seen more alopecia areata across the board, which are stresses from recession in 2007. We're seeing more aggressive cases too, where there's around 20-30% hair loss, which is a lot. If you're stressed out, your auto immune system runs completely flat, the stress builds up, and if you're the kind of person who implodes rather than explodes, you're more likely to get it."

He adds: "It's also immune system related and genetic related, so in groups of a family, one might have asthma, one might have eczema and another alopecia. If your boats are lined up the wrong way you might be prone to it."

According to Gary, alopecia barbae - which affects a man's beard - is definitely on the increase simply because more men are growing beards these days.

It might sound obvious, but if you are stressed out, or are noticing hair loss, here are the following tips than can make life a lot easier:

1. Take a long, hard look at your diet. If you're vegetarian, you want to make sure that you are supplementing your diet with protein you might not get otherwise. Gary remarked on a woman who was cooking really well for her family but then spent so much time running around that she ate really poorly herself.

2. There isn't enough time in the day to do everything, but that's what tomorrow is for. Sounds obvious, but prioritise what needs to be done today, and don't beat yourself with a proverbial stick if you can't finish it all.

3. Gary recommends the 'Churchill method' of sitting down with a pen and paper and writing down all the good and bad things in your life. Then making an effort to tackle the bad.

4. If you have alopecia and your hair is starting to grow back, don't unduly stress yourself by worrying the hair will stay fine and thin. It takes time.

5. Don't force yourself to go out if you are feeling rubbish, but similarly don't hide away either. Confide in your close friends who will be able to keep things into perspective for you, and more importantly, take your mind off the matter.

6. Lastly, if you are suffering bad hair loss, as in the pattern is turning from a circle to an exclamation mark, then make an appointment with a trichologist who might be able to point out the triggers setting it off.

Here are some tips for stress relief:

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  • Bring Your Dog To Work

    A recent study in the <em>International Journal of Workplace Health Management</em> showed that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/01/bringing-dog-to-work-stress_n_1391420.html" target="_hplink">bringing your dog to work</a> could help to lower office stress and boost employee satisfaction. "Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support," study researcher Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., a professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement. "Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace." The study, which looked at the pet-friendly company Replacements, Ltd., showed that employees who brought their dogs in to work experienced <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/01/bringing-dog-to-work-stress_n_1391420.html" target="_hplink">decreases in stress</a> throughout the work day. Meanwhile, self-reported stress <em>increased</em> for people who didn't bring their dogs, and for those who don't have dogs.

  • Laugh It Up

    If you're feeling particularly stressed, perhaps it's time to take a quick YouTube break. A small 1989 study in the <em>American Journal of the Medical Sciences</em> showed that<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2556917" target="_hplink"> "mirthful laughter"</a> is linked with lower blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The Mayo Clinic reported that laughter also promotes <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relief/SR00034" target="_hplink">endorphin release</a> in the brain and relaxes the muscles, which are all key for stress relief.

  • Grab A Shovel And Some Seeds

    Caregiving is extremely stressful, but a 2008 survey showed that gardening may help to reduce stress among caregivers. The survey, by BHG.com, showed that 60 percent of caregivers feel <a href="http://www.alz.org/national/documents/release_110308_garden.pdf" target="_hplink">relaxed when they garden</a>, the Alzheimer's Association reported. And, Health.com reported on a Netherlands study, suggesting that gardening can help to <a href="http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20507878_2,00.html" target="_hplink">lower cortisol levels</a> and boost mood among people who had just finished a stressful task. That's because doing something that requires "involuntary attention" -- like sitting back and enjoying nature -- helps to replenish ourselves, Health.com reported.

  • Crack Open A Book

    Just <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html" target="_hplink">six minutes of reading</a> is enough to help you de-stress, the <em>Telegraph</em> reported. The study, which was sponsored by Galaxy chocolate, suggested that <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html" target="_hplink">reading was linked with a slower heart rate</a> and muscle relaxation. Drinking tea or coffee, listening to music and taking a walk also seemed to help lower stress, according to the <em>Telegraph</em>.

  • Call Mom

    Even if she's not there in person, a call to mom can help lower stress. <em>Scientific American</em> reported on a study in the journal <em>Proceedings of the Royal Society B</em> showing that young girls who <a href="http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2010/05/11/a-phone-call-from-mom-reduces-stress-as-well-as-a-hug/" target="_hplink">talked to their mothers on the phone</a> after completing stressful tasks had decreased cortisol (the stress hormone) in their saliva, and increased oxytocin levels (the bonding hormone). The girls who talked to their mothers on the phone had <a href="http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2010/05/11/a-phone-call-from-mom-reduces-stress-as-well-as-a-hug/" target="_hplink">decreased cortisol</a> and increased oxytocin levels compared with young girls who weren't allowed to contact their mothers at all, <em>Scientific American</em> reported -- girls who hugged their moms in person had a similar reaction to the phone group.

  • Eat Some Chocolate

    Dark chocolate doesn't only have health benefits for the heart -- eating it can also help to <a href="http://www.livescience.com/7974-chocolate-reduces-stress-study-finds.html" target="_hplink">lower stress</a>. LiveScience reported on a study illustrating that eating 1.4 ounces of <a href="http://www.livescience.com/7974-chocolate-reduces-stress-study-finds.html" target="_hplink">dark chocolate</a> a day for a two-week period is linked with decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. That study was published in 2009 in the journal <em>Proteome Research</em>. (But of course, chocolate still contains sugar and lots of calories, so make sure you're eating the chocolate in moderation!)

  • Gossip

    Gossip may not be viewed as socially "good," but it <em>might</em> have benefits in relieving stress. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/17/gossip-stress-exploitation-heart-rate_n_1211207.html" target="_hplink">gossiping can actually lower stress</a>, stop exploitation of others and police others' bad behavior. "Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/17/gossip-stress-exploitation-heart-rate_n_1211207.html" target="_hplink">make people feel better</a>, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip," study researcher Robb Willer, a social psychologist at UC Berkeley, said in a statement. Willer's research was published this year in the <em>Journal of Personality and Social Psychology</em>. So if something's bothering you, go ahead and gab -- but just make sure you move on so you don't dwell on the negative emotions!

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