It is estimated that 77% of Americans experience physical symptoms related to stress. Stress can affect your body in many ways. It's common to feel nauseous or unable to eat or sleep when you're stressed. Other less extreme physical symptoms may include sweating and fidgeting. When stress causes so many physical symptoms throughout the body, it's not surprising to think stress may be related to nosebleeds.
Nosebleeds are more common in patients who suffer from anxiety and depression. However, it's unlikely that stress is a direct trigger to cause a spontaneous bleed. It's more likely that the nosebleed is brought on by other symptoms and actions related to stress. It's no secret that both good and bad stress directly affect your body. Your heart rate and temperature increase. You might feel thirsty, lightheaded, or even a little dizzy. When you're stressed, your actions change as well. Agitation can make you hypersensitive to the way you feel, so a stuffy nose may suddenly seem like too much to bear. When you're occupied during moments of intense stress, you likely won't realize if you pick at, rub, or blow your nose obsessively.
The Effects of Stress on Your Body
Stress can affect your body in many ways. Of course, not all of these symptoms could trigger a nosebleed. However, there are some physical side effects of stress that may cause your nosebleeds.
- Hypertension - A surge in blood pressure when you are feeling anxious or angry is the most common way that nosebleeds are related to stress. There are many tiny delicate blood vessels inside your nasal cavity. When your blood pressure rises, blood is forced through these vessels too forcefully which may cause them to crack.
- Insomnia - Not getting enough rest leads to many health problems. If you suffer from long-term insomnia, you are more likely to have a weakened immune system, leading to chronic colds and sinus infections. Additionally, lack of sleep can aggravate hypertension.
- Smoking - Many people who suffer stress for long periods of time turn to nicotine as a stress reliever. Smoking leads to dry mouth and drying of the nasal passages. Dry irritated nasal passages can become scabby and are more likely to lead to nosebleeds.
- Lowered Immune System - Nosebleeds themselves are not an illness. However, chronic nasal conditions can lead to nosebleeds. Stress triggers hormones that your body uses during emergency situations. These hormones also temporarily lower your body's immune response. Ongoing stress keeps your body flooded with these hormones and keeps your body's defenses down for long periods of time, often leading to chronic colds and sinus infections which dry out and weaken your nasal membranes.
- Increased use of medication - Stress causes physical symptoms that make you feel ill. Headaches, congested sinuses, and fatigue are common side-effects of stress. In order to combat these feelings, you may find yourself taking more over-the-counter medications. These medicines can cause drying of the mouth and sinuses. Additionally, if you use nasal sprays for long periods of time, you are more likely to experience nosebleeds.
- Nervous habits - In moments of extreme anxiety, many people react in ways they aren't aware of. If you suffer from chronic nasal symptoms due to long-term stress, these symptoms might suddenly feel worse when you experience increased anxiety. Your reaction to these increased symptoms may become a nervous habit of strenuous nose blowing, rubbing, or picking. These actions make you more susceptible to nosebleeds.
- Frequent crying - Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Crying jags increase pressure on your aggravated sinuses. You are likely to experience rebound congestion and other nasal effects after crying for long periods of time.
- Drug abuse - Prolonged extreme stress leads some people to use and abuse dangerous drugs. Alcohol and drugs lead to dehydration and increased irritation of the nasal passages. Drugs like cocaine that are snorted up the nose can cause serious damage to your nasal passages and delicate membranes.
Nosebleeds aren't dangerous, but they can be stressful. A sudden nosebleed can seem dramatic especially when you're in public. This can bring you unwanted attention, causing more stress. Knowing how to react to your nosebleeds can help you treat them discreetly and efficiently. If you experience a nosebleed, stay calm and react quickly with these steps.
Find a comfortable place to sit down. Sit up straight with your head tilted forward. Pinch the fleshy part of your nose and take slow deep breaths through your mouth until the bleeding subsides. Don't be alarmed if this technique takes 10 minutes or more to slow the bleeding.
If your nosebleed is a result of stress, consider taking additional actions to relieve your stress during the situation.
- Remember that your condition is not a true emergency. It's okay to take the time to move to a quiet calm space to treat your nosebleed.
- Concentrate on your breathing to distract yourself from feelings of anxiety.
- Enlist a trusted friend to help you take care of yourself until you are feeling in control.
Avoiding Future Nosebleeds
Whether your nosebleeds are caused by stress or other factors, there are many ways to reduce their frequency. Understanding the symptoms of stress can help you avoid excessive anxiety. Paying attention to your physical health is also an important factor especially if you are under a lot of stress. Try these techniques to avoid future nosebleeds.
- Stay hydrated.
- Make sure you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Use a humidifier in dry climates and when using drying heat sources.
- Quit smoking.
- Research ways to relieve your stress. Consider seeing a therapist for help.
- Avoid excessive nose blowing.
- Visit an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to discover the underlying causes of your chronic congestion.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise will strengthen your heart, lower blood pressure, and relieve stress.
If you suffer from frequent nosebleeds, there might be an underlying cause. Pay attention to the events surrounding your nosebleeds to see if you can find a pattern. If nosebleeds are severe or occur frequently it's important to contact an ear nose and throat specialist.