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Nosebleeds always happen at the most inopportune time: right before that big presentation, after a successful 10k, and the moment you’re leaning in for that goodnight kiss.
The common denominator in these situations: They’re all pretty stressful. Which makes you wonder… is stress the culprit behind nosebleeds?
A quick science lesson on nosebleeds
A 2005 study revealed that of emergency room visits in the U.S., 1 in 200 were due to nosebleeds.
Nosebleeds, aka epistaxis, occur when tiny blood vessels inside your nose become damaged. They’re most common in young kids and those over 65.
There are two types of nosebleeds:
- Anterior nosebleeds. Nosebleeds that stem from the front of your nose. These are rarely something to worry about. They’re often a result of a scratch in your nose or dryness.
- Posterior nosebleeds. Nosebleeds that come from the back of your nasal cavity, which are a little more concerning. These can be a sign of something more serious.
Stress and anxiety are just one of the risk factors for nosebleeds. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 40 million adults have an anxiety disorder, which means a higher chance for both recurring or spontaneous nosebleeds.
While stress poses a risk, it’s not necessarily a direct cause. Anecdotal evidence links anxiety to nosebleeds, but scientific evidence generally points elsewhere. Stress is more likely indirectly involved in your nosebleed: The real villains are often related to health conditions, lifestyle or behaviors, and even some medications.
So, what stressful triggers can lead to a nosebleed? Let’s explore:
- Headaches. Stress can trigger headaches, which can, in turn, potentially trigger a nosebleed.
- Frequent nose blowing. Some folks tend to excessively blow or pick (you do you) their nose when stressed, which can create scratches and nicks inside your nose.
- Pregnancy. Hormonal changes can trigger pregnancy nosebleeds.
- High altitudes. The higher up you are, the lower the oxygen levels. Low oxygen means thinner, dryer air, which can lead to cracking and bleeding in the nose.
- Extreme sports. Increased blood flow from heart-pumping physical activity can cause the tiny blood vessels in your nose to rupture.
- Physical trauma. Trauma to the body can cause a variety of risk factors, including nosebleeds.
Another possible nosebleed trigger is hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure. While this has been refuted by some, those with high blood pressure may experience heavier blood flow during a nosebleed.
Additionally, medications (like blood thinners) prescribed to treat high blood pressure can sometimes cause nosebleeds.
Whatever the cause, treating a nosebleed is a fairly straightforward process:
- Sit yourself up straight (posture, please!).
- Slightly tilt your head forward.
- Use your fingers to pinch your nose closed, while slowly breathing in and out through your mouth. Be prepared: You may be pinching for a while, as it can take the blood flow a full 10 minutes to stop or slow down.
If your nosebleed doesn’t stop or slow down after 10 minutes you should make a visit to the emergency room.
Be sure to hydrate with plenty of water once you’ve got the flow under control!
If you feel like stress is to blame for your nosebleed, there are several ways to feel more Zen, including:
- Peace out of any stressful situations you may find yourself in.
- Calm your mind and feelings by finding a quiet space to be by yourself or with a trusted friend or family member.
- Take deep, relaxing breaths. Let yourself feel the rise and fall of your chest as you clock the length of each breath.
There are many ways to ease stress and anxiety in your everyday life. By creating a healthier inner self, you can help prevent stress-related symptoms, like nosebleeds.
A good place to start is by forming healthy habits, such as:
- limiting your caffeine (we know, giving up that extra cuppa can be rough)
- drinking plenty of water
- getting in regular cardio
- enjoying time outdoors
- watching what you eat (some research has suggested that nosebleeds can also be caused by certain foods)
- avoiding allergy triggers
- using a humidifier while you sleep
- reducing your exposure to cigarette smoke (and quitting altogether if you smoke)
- trying therapy if you’ve been dealing with chronic anxiety and/or stress
Yoga is another great stress reliever, because it can help you feel more calm and balanced. Beginning a regular yoga practice and incorporating simple poses like Mountain Pose or Child’s Pose into your routine can help you find that sweet “ommm” in your day.
In a 2017 study, yoga was also examined as a treatment for hypertension.
Some people find that doing a “body scan” helps to release tension and stress, and reduce anxiety. Don’t let the name fool you — there’s no fancy scanning equipment needed!
Start by picturing the various muscle groups in your body. While taking deep, soothing breaths, relax each muscle group one by one, letting go of the tension and stress within you. This simple exercise can help you become more focused and connected to your body.
While it may seem like stress can lead to a nosebleed, they’re more often stress-adjacent, triggered by related circumstances like certain health conditions, lifestyle choices, or medications.
Nosebleeds aren’t generally cause for concern, but experiencing frequent nosebleeds may be a sign of a more serious issue. If you find yourself with regular or severe nosebleeds, it’s best to call your doctor.