While bloody noses are not frequently caused by anxiety, they can be. However, some types of bodily stress that lead to anxiety may be the actual root cause of your bloody nose. This article will discuss the anxiety-related changes in your body that can lead to a bloody nose, what you can do to prevent them, and how to decrease your anxiety overall.
How Severe is Your Anxiety?
Many causes of nosebleeds are harmless, but stress can often be one of them, and the more severe the stress the more frequent the nosebleed. Take our free 7 minute anxiety test to score your anxiety severity, and learn more about your specific symptoms.
Why Bloody Noses Occur (and How Anxiety Is Involved)
Nosebleeds are often a result of environmental stressors such as extreme temperatures (either hot or cold) and high altitudes, as well as physical trauma. The situations surrounding these environmental stressors (unfamiliar surroundings, being in a high place, violence, or an accident) are all situations that can easily trigger anxiety attacks. In these cases, the high blood pressure associated with anxiety attacks can make the nosebleed heavier, or cause it to last longer, for which reason it is then considered an anxiety-related nosebleed. Make sure you take my free 7 minute anxiety test to find out more.
When anxiety is involved with your nosebleed, the nasal membranes or inner walls of the nose will have been dried out, veins or capillaries in the nose will have been forcibly broken, or the interior of the nose will have been weakened by:
- Seasonal allergies (which can also be triggered by anxiety)
- Nasal sprays
- Drug use
- A cold or flu
When the nasal membranes are dry or strained, high blood pressure increases the likelihood of a bloody nose. If you get anxious and your heart rate rises while you are experiencing any of these other pressures on your nose, you are more likely to get a nosebleed, and it will probably be worse than it would otherwise. It is, however, unlikely for anxiety to cause a nosebleed without any additional causes being at play.
What to Do About an Anxiety Nosebleed
To keep your nosebleed from getting worse, start by trying to relax yourself. Admittedly, this can be hard to do when you are bleeding (especially is you dislike the sight of blood). However, knowing a few things about nosebleeds may help to decrease your anxiety about it.
When you have a nosebleed, as is the case whenever your body is bleeding from a broken vein or capillary, your body immediately starts doing everything it can to fix it. This means sending white blood cells to the area to guard against infection and sending platelets to create a clot. This may take time, but your body will send more and more until it's done. When the platelets have clotted dry they create a scab, which is tough protective flesh that guards the opening to your inner body.
In order to further relax yourself, here are a couple things you may want to try:
- Relax Your Breathing Breathing too fast will encourage your heart to race. Usually when you hyperventilate from anxiety it is advisable to try to breathe through your nose, but obviously in this case that would be a rather messy operation. Instead, try breathing into a paper bag while lying back and pinching your nose with one hand.
- Think Positive Some people's anxiety attacks may be accompanied by a feeling of impending doom, and they may worry that they are about to die. Bleeding seemingly uncontrollably from your nose is not helpful in this regard. For this reason, you should try to concentrate on other things, and keep reminding yourself that your body is working to fix the problem. Concentrate on the world around you (the clouds or stars are good candidates for observation, seeing as you'll probably want to be looking up), and tell yourself any positive mantras you may know (coming up with a positive mantra while you are calm and relaxed can give you a useful tool to use in these types of situations).
- Stay Hydrated The last thing you want to do when your body is experiencing stress is to add to its stress by causing dehydration. Also, water is a good way to keep your nasal passages from drying out too much in the arid environments that often accompany high places and extreme temperatures.
- Remove Yourself from Company Being around too many people is a common trigger for people with anxiety problems. A nosebleed can cause a crowd to gather. For this reason, it is a good idea to ask someone around you to tell people to keep back (this is a good way to get people on your side: there is safety in numbers), or remove yourself to a secluded area, if you find a convenient one. However, make sure that you do not get into the habit of avoiding people to avoid nosebleeds. Human contact and social activities are an important part of controlling anxiety.
These are good ways to prevent anxiety-related nosebleeds when you are in situations where they are likely, but you may want to also take steps to strengthen your body and mind against anxiety no matter where you are, so that you can feel more confident about going to places where anxiety-related nosebleeds are more likely without worrying as much about getting them.
Practicing Anti-Anxiety and Avoiding Nosebleeds in Daily Life
When you're not on a mountaintop or trekking across a beach on a 90 degree day, you can be preparing to do these things more safely without the risk of anxiety nosebleeds by doing things like:
- Avoiding Red Meat and Fatty Foods Unhealthy eating clogs your arteries with cholesterol and causes general ill health. But beyond that, how you eat affects how you feel, and ideally when you live with anxiety you want to feel as healthy as possible. Avoiding unhealthy foods and choosing vegetables and low-fat/fat-free foods instead can keep your body's blood vessels in prime condition.
- Avoiding Caffeinated Beverages For much the same reasons that you'll want to eat healthy foods, you will also want to avoid caffeinated beverages. These also increase your heart rate and can make you feel edgy, which can have the result of pushing a little worry into a full blown anxiety attack. Caffeine itself doesn't necessary create anxiety, but it does cause physical changes that can lead to more severe anxiety.
- Getting in Shape Looking and feeling good not only help you decrease your overall anxiety, but they also strengthen the component parts of your body. A strong body means that when you are in the types of situations conducive to anxiety nosebleeds, your brain will be less likely to react to the bodily stress involved with anxiety. In some cases exercise can create nosebleeds, so talk to your doctor about what you can and should handle. But exercise itself is incredibly important for living with anxiety.
- Focusing on Your goals Having goals, which can include climbing mountains and trekking through deserts if that's what you like to do, can help give you a focus and keep your mind off the obsessive cycles of negative thoughts that can lead to anxiety and panic.
Don't let anxiety hold you back from having the experiences you want to have. You have the power to decrease the likelihood of anxiety nosebleeds by helping your body and mind get stronger and more capable of handling (and ultimately avoiding altogether) the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety.
I've helped many people suffering from anxiety related nosebleeds recover from their symptoms starting with my free anxiety test. Take the test to find out more about your anxiety and how to control it.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.