Article Thumbnail

How Worried Should I Be About Antidepressants Making Me Bald?

Just when I thought I found joy in my life again

The list of side effects associated with antidepressants is long and intimidating — from blurred vision to diarrhea to loss of appetite to erectile dysfunction (to name just a few). Usually spared from this list, however, is hair loss. 

That said, a number of redditors aren’t so sure it should be. “I’ve been on 20 mg of Prozac since January, and have been experiencing hair loss since about that time,” writes one in r/Anxiety. “My hair loss has gotten very bad lately, to the point that I’m losing clumps of hair whenever I brush, style or wash it. I do have an appointment with my psychiatrist scheduled for next week to discuss this, and also plan on scheduling an appointment with my GP. I was just wondering if anyone had any personal experience with this potential side effect of Prozac.”

In a different thread on a different subreddit (r/HaircareScience), another redditor explains, “I was on gabapentin (900mg/day), and my hair texture completely changed. My hair went from being easily manageable and soft, to being coarse, dry and brittle. I’ve found other people online who found that they had the same issues and also experienced hair loss and that the hair loss didn’t stop until they had stopped taking the medication for some time.” 

Meanwhile, over in Europe, a 21-year-old Turkish man was found to have experienced progressive hair loss after just one week of taking Zoloft.

The good news is, according to Mahyar Etminan, a pharmacologist and associate professor at the University of British Columbia who’s studied the effects of antidepressants on hair loss, such a response is incredibly rare. (In fairness, the first redditor does note, “There are many other factors which may explain my hair loss, so I’m not sure if the medication is the exact cause.”)

Any hair loss that does occur while taking an SSRI falls under the banner of telogen effluvium, which is when stress causes your hair follicles to enter into the resting stage (or telogen phase, hence the name) prematurely and more hair than normal is shed. Per a 2018 retrospective study, wherein Etminan wanted to quantify the risk of hair loss associated with different antidepressants, he found that the highest risk was with bupropion (i.e., Wellbutrin). “Fluoxetine [i.e., Prozac] and paroxetine, in particular, had the lowest risk,” he explains. 

Again, though, the overall risk is very, very low. In fact, there’s a much more likely culprit — your depression itself. To that end, according to Healthline, a 2012 study explored possible links between hair loss and depression symptoms in 157 women of various ages. “Of the women interviewed, 54 percent said they experienced hair loss,” it reports. None of them were on Wellbutrin or SSRIs.

And so, it’s much more likely that your SSRI-addled bad hair day is actually just a sad one.