Can Eating Disorders Really Cause Hair Loss?

Teen girl combs her hair in front of the mirror while thinking about anorexia and hair loss.

Anorexia. Bulimia. Binge eating disorder. Eating disorders like these have many negative health consequences ranging from tooth decay, organ damage, malnutrition and even death. But, can an eating disorder cause hair loss or thinning hair? In this post, we’ll explore the connection between eating disorders and hair loss, and we’ll share resources for getting started with treatment for anorexia, bulimia and other mental health conditions.

Q: Can Anorexia Cause Hair Loss?

A: Yes. Anorexia and hair loss, thinning hair or bald spots often go hand-in-hand.

Q: How Does Anorexia Cause Hair Loss?

A: Our hair is largely made up of a protein called keratin. People who struggle with anorexia are chronically malnourished, and their bodies do not get the protein they need to support vital organ function. To ensure organ function, our bodies use protein that would have been used for hair growth to help keep our organs working.

Q: Can Bulimia Cause Hair Loss?

A: Yes. Bulimia and hair loss, thinning hair or bald spots are common symptoms of this disorder.

Q: How Does Bulimia Cause Hair Loss?

A: Like people with anorexia, bulimia depletes our bodies of the nutrients it needs to support vital organ function. Our hair, which is not essential for life, needs protein in order to grow and regenerate. So, to help offset the lack of protein coming in through a person’s diet, our bodies will stop generating new hair so that it can use the scarce resources for more important bodily functions.

Q: Is Hair Loss from Eating Disorders Reversible?

A: Yes. The good news is that, depending on a person’s age and genetic disposition, hair growth will most likely resume after a prolonged period of nutritional balance—typically six months or longer.

Q: Is Hair Loss from Eating Disorders Common?

A: Yes. Hair loss caused by anorexia or bulimia is a very common symptom. Compared to the other negative health effects of eating disorders, hair loss is relatively harmless. However, this is sometimes the one symptom that finally drives a person to seek professional treatment for eating disorders.

Q: What Should Someone do if They are Struggling with an Eating Disorder?

If left untreated, eating disorders may not go away on their own. Not only that, they can cause permanent damage to our bodies and even death. This is why it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Whether you’re researching for yourself or a loved, it could be a good idea to learn more about eating disorders, their warning signs and how to choose a quality treatment program.

Eating Disorder Treatment for Teens in Los Angeles and Chicago

With locations in California and Illinois, Adolescent Growth is proud to offer comprehensive treatment for eating disorders, mental illnesses and addiction. Learn more about our treatment services, or call 1-888-948-9998 to speak with an admissions specialist about your child. Alternatively, you can fill out our online form and we’ll call you back at the time of your choosing.