A nosebleed, or epistaxis, happens when the tiny blood vessels inside your nose are damaged.
Nosebleeds near the front of your nose are called anterior nosebleeds. They’re often caused simply by your mucous membrane becoming overly dry, or a nick or scratch to your nose. Very rarely are these kinds of nosebleeds dangerous. Posterior nosebleeds, which originate at the back of your nasal cavity, can be more serious.
According to a 2005 study, nosebleeds accounted for 1 in 200 emergency room visits in the United States. Young children and people over 65 are more likely to get nosebleeds.
Other risk factors for nosebleeds are stress and chronic anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that more than 40 million adults in the United States have some kind of anxiety disorder. These people are more at risk for chronic, recurring, or unexpected nosebleeds.
Keep reading to find out how anxiety and stress can be connected to nosebleeds.
Stress and nosebleeds: Possibly an indirect connection
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that points to stress and anxiety as nosebleed triggers. But what’s more likely is that stress and anxiety are related to certain behaviors, health conditions, and medications that directly trigger nosebleeds.
Causes that may be triggered by stress
If you tend to pick your nose or blow your nose frequently when you feel stressed or anxious, that could also trigger a nosebleed.
Situations such as pregnancy, travel to high altitudes, extreme sports, or physical trauma can all bring on anxiety — and nosebleeds. In these cases, a nosebleed isn’t directly caused by the stress you feel, though the two things may appear connected. Instead, it’s caused by the situation that also caused the anxiety.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, has been suggested as a trigger for nosebleeds. However, that connection has been contested. Medication that you take for high blood pressure, such as blood thinners, can make a nosebleed harder to control, though. High blood pressure itself might also cause you to bleed more than you otherwise would from a nosebleed.
Treating a stress-related nosebleed
Although not usually dangerous, a nosebleed can be a stressful situation all by itself. There are steps you can take to reduce the anxiety surrounding a nosebleed when it happens.
No matter what’s causing your nosebleed, the first-line treatment method is the same:
- Sit up straight.
- Tilt your head slightly forward.
- Pinch your nose shut as you breathe in and out slowly through your mouth. You may need to pinch your nose shut for a full 10 minutes before the blood flow slows or stops.
When you get a nosebleed that you attribute to stress:
- Try to relax your breathing.
- Pay attention to the length of each breath and the rise and fall of your chest as you wait for the bleeding to stop.
- Remove yourself from any stressful circumstances while you treat your nosebleed.
- Seek out a quiet or secluded area. People tend to react strongly at the sight of blood, even when it’s just a nosebleed, so removing yourself from any excitement is ideal. Calming your thoughts and emotions will be easier when you’re by yourself or with one person you trust.
Once the flow of blood slows down, drink some water and get hydrated. If you can, go to an area with a humidifier or air that hasn’t been dried out with forced heating.
Nosebleed prevention and stress relief techniques | Prevention
You can incorporate stress relief techniques into your daily life to make stress and anxiety less of a factor.
Yoga has been studied as a treatment for high blood pressure and anxiety. Practicing yoga poses such as Child’s Pose and Mountain Pose might help you feel more balanced and calm.
In stressful moments, you may also try a “body scan” exercise to feel more connected to your body and relaxed. To do this, envision the different muscle groups in your body, then relax them, one at a time, as you breathe in deeply. This exercise can make you feel more present and aware of things other than your anxiety.
You can work to prevent stress-related nosebleeds by adopting healthy habits that contribute to a more balanced inner life. The following can all help reduce stress levels:
- Stay hydrated.
- Reduce your caffeine intake.
- Participate in regular cardiovascular exercise.
- Spend time outside in nature.
Take a look at the foods you tend to eat. See if there are things in your diet that may be causing your nosebleeds. There’s research to suggest that certain foods, like chocolate and citrus fruits, seem to bring on nosebleeds.
Sleeping in a room with a humidifier and avoiding allergy triggers can also work to prevent nosebleeds.
Nosebleeds aren’t usually an indication of a more serious health concern. But if you have recurrent nosebleeds — whether or not they’re related to stress — speak to your doctor. There are cases in which severe nosebleeds or nosebleeds that keep happening are a symptom of other health conditions.