What stress can do to you

Published: September 15, 2013
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The doctor told me I was stressed, but I refused to believe him. ILLUSTRATION: IMAAN SHEIKH

It began in grade twelve. My grades had suddenly gone down, and I had no idea why. The journey from being a class-topper to actually failing in three of my favourite subjects was a short one. It took a toll on me.

A year later, the stress that I had been gathering for years appeared in the form of a coin-sized bald spot on the crown area of my head. The night before, I had slept with a full head of hair, but that afternoon as I prepared to go for lunch with my friends, I saw that hairless little patch of scalp peeking through my fringes.

After a few more patches, I consulted a doctor. I was told I had alopecia areata. This disease can be hereditary but can also happen if you have a weak immune system naturally. It is triggered by stress. You lose your hair in patches, which can become huge and appear overnight.

This was chewing at my self-esteem. From being that child in the family who was showered with compliments for having long, straight and healthy hair, I had gone to waking up finding my pillow covered with hair – it was frightening and unsettling to say in the least.

Every time a doctor told me that it was happening because of stress, I would look at them in shock and protest,

“But I am not stressed at all!”

After all, my friends were doing almost the same things as I was, physically, and they were all right. Why was I always low on energy and demotivated?

It wasn’t until some eight months ago that I decided to pick myself up. I started off by admitting I was stressed and that my brain and body worked differently. I stopped sweating over the small stuff and learned to ‘block it out’ by keeping myself distracted with happy things — music, painting, writing and humour. My new job was a blessing in disguise, keeping me from thinking about useless things that would trigger my stress and also cause an alopecia relapse.

The doctors and their medicines cannot deep-cleanse the build-up inside anyone’s mind. Only we can help ourselves de-stress. Recognising your problem is the first step, the rest is a rinse-and-repeat procedure — remember, ignore, forget.

It has been nearly a year since I had that bald spot. I am doing more work than I have ever done before and though I get tired with nearly 12 hours of university and work in a day, I am usually mentally at peace. However, I have made some resolutions which require me to not push myself to a point where my health was compromised.

All it took was some determination, courage and a lot of carelessness!

Imaan Sheikh

Imaan Sheikh

An graduate with a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Karachi, she enjoys reading, writing and listening to classical psychedelic rock. She blogs at www.imaansheikh.wordpress.com and tweets as @SheikhImaan (twitter.com/SheikhImaan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • advocate

    The author has correctly stated that the problem of hair loss is associated with stress. I also started to have horrible patches in my head within a month and i was freaking out that why was this happening to me as i am not old enough to go bald,and no on in my family has hair problems. I went to the doctor and he told me that it was happening because of stress and i replied that how is this possible as everyone in Pakistan is taking stress these days, to which he replied that everyone is different and i have to stop worrrying so much and that is the only way to stop the hair fall.Recommend

  • effi

    Allah k zikr say dilon ko sakoon aur itmenaan puhunchata hai. (You will get satisfaction of your heart while remembering Allah).Recommend

  • Rabail

    The same thing happened with me from class 12 .. at this time when i entered my university , the main step to build up my career , i was going down with my prOgress !! but then i want to a clinical psychologist ( not PSYCHIATRIST ) and he help me through counselling sessions , alhamdullilah nOw im doing well , but still i feel some sort of stress in which even psychologist cant help me , half responsibility is of doctor and half is of our mind that how we treat with people and everything , therefore i suggest everyone to take help from doctors and even from ur inner self which helps yOu more :)Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nice………and nice to see that you kicked the bug out of your system mostly under your your own steam. Recommend

  • http://www.sidraaiman.wordpress.com Reader

    I felt as if i’m reading my own story. I too have that bald spot and had an on-and-off health issues as a result of stress. It is motivating for people like me who usually stay stressed for no apparent reason. Thank you for writing this! Recommend

  • Kappa

    @effi: Than why muslims are killing each other.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Rabail: but still i feel some sort of stress in which even psychologist cant help me…….half responsibility is of doctor and half is of our mind that how we treat with people and everything

    Every one creates their own stress, happiness, shyness, anxiety, fear etc unknowingly and knowingly. No, your doctor is not responsible for 50% of your stress. Your mind is responsible 100% for the stress you feel

    A psychologist is supposed to explain to you how stress happens and help you look at your problems in a different way. You need to use that information to deal with all kinds of your stress.

    Stress is the emotional and physical way in which we respond to pressure, anxiety, fear, shyness, feelings of insecurity etc. Stress can cause both mental and physical symptoms.
    Title of blog is misleading. Title and blog makes it look like Stress can cause alopecia.
    Alopecia can happen for 20 different reasons and stress can cause a whole lot of problems.Recommend

  • Tanveer Kh

    Sometime stress related hair loss (alopecia areata) and thyroid dysfunction go together. Adding vitamin C, E, zinc, copper and good fats in your diet helps a lot with auto-immune disorders. Ask GP about auto-immune and its relation with dietary changes. Dietary changes as well as lifestyle changes always work together.

    Don’t only rely on allopathy only, homoeopathy is also an option and sometimes it has very good results. Best of luck :)Recommend

  • Insaan

    It began in grade twelve. My grades had suddenly gone down, and I had no idea why. The journey from being a class-topper to actually failing in three of my favourite subjects was a short one. It took a toll on me.

    Me thinks, grades went down because you were dealing with severe stressful problems. I am surprised that you had no idea why your grades were going down.

    Title of blog is misleading, it implies stress can only cause Alopecia. Stress can cause a whole lot of symptoms, alopecia is not of the top of list of stress symptoms. Alopecia can be caused by over 20 reasons.

    Almost every one has some kind of stress in his life

    Our thoughts control what we feel. If you can relaxe, you can’t feel stressed. Thinking that we need to Block stress, implies stress is a reality and only we can only block it.

    Many people use yoga, meditation, exercise, jogging etc to feel relaxed.

    One has to understand how thoughts are making him/her stressful and change thoughts for a long lasting changeRecommend

  • GM GI2

    what was that ..hair loss WOW..Recommend

  • Me

    Admitting is HARD!Recommend

  • ModiFied

    Stress is the root cause of many other serious ailments. There are many studies which have conclusively proved that stress triggers the ovarian cancer among women. Best way to avoid stress is through meditation yoga and spiritualism. There is a very strong correlation between out thoughts and health. Large number of diseases are nothing but life style problems. Lack of drinking enough water also leads to stress and depression. Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Reader: stay stressed for no apparent reason.

    Most stress is created by imagination, if you look carefully you will find an imaginary reason.Recommend

  • Indian

    What a nice thought process ,you learned.
    Sometimes our mind can be our greatest enemy – and you learned to tame it (early in your life )Recommend

  • Imad Uddin

    People normally dont understand that being stresssed is not about having a problem in life, not about being afraid of anything and not about some real worries! Its just some strange state in which our mind slips!… From where we must pull it out and we can do it with our conscious effort!
    Stress hits ur worst vulnerability. If ur stomach isnt strong it will deteriorate ur digestive sustem, if ur joints are weaker it will cause u osteoarthiritis, in some it may trigger survical, eyesight issues, weaker memory and learning, those who have higher blood pressure it may cause diabetes and cardiac issues, and of coarse hair loss. However the comon thing stress does to all is tht it makes u tires earlier than others and reduces ur work effeciency.
    Some generalizations about what causes stress:if u think about past and get angry and think about future and get concerned- rather than staying in present. Doing so much imaginative thinking and thinking on matters on which we do not have total control. Being worried about surfing on the harsh waves of contingencies in the future(trying to control every contingency to ENSURE success), rather than only taking care of what we can do and leaving the rest to Allah and Destiny with firm belief on it. Not properly SHIFTING FOCUS (If u paint on large canvases u know while forming small shapes u ocassionally have to get up and walk back to see whether the whole painting is in correct proportion e.t.c……. shifting focus in life is about shifting ur focus between working or thinking on details and matching it with overall objective- thus never letting ur plan turn into fantisizing by not working on the details and, on the other hand, not even missing the overall objective by getting lost in the details ) Those who shift focus are normally least stressed and most motivated.
    Furthermore, negative thoughts, bad intentions and shutting up ones conscience also increases stress.
    To sum up, while stress increases when our thoughts struggle with desires, motives and problems of the harsh sea of this worldRecommend

  • abc

    try EFT,search on internet. will help you for sure. not jokingRecommend