One hundred and seventy-eight patients with severe alopecia areata were asked at interview whether they attributed their first attack of hair loss to an emotional trauma. Twelve patients (6.7%) reported a severely disturbing event during the 6 months preceding the first symptoms of their disease. No patient reported that episodes of hair loss coincided with stressful life events. Emotional triggers were not especially correlated with any particular type of alopecia areata. The present study does not therefore provide evidence of a significant role of emotional stress in the pathogenesis of alopecia areata.