Stress and depression can contribute to conditions that cause bloody stool. It’s important to seek medical attention when you notice persistent blood in your stool.

In today’s fast-paced world, stress is a common experience for many people. When stress becomes too extreme, it can also negatively affect your physical health, particularly your digestive system.

Blood in stool, also known as rectal bleeding, may indicate a range of underlying health conditions that can be worsened by stress. While some causes of bloody stool may be relatively benign, others can be more serious and require prompt medical attention.

If you have concerns about your bowel movements, it’s a good idea to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional can determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment to help ease your mind.

When you’re experiencing stress, your body releases hormones that can cause your digestive system to become more sensitive and reactive.

Stress can also trigger inflammation and changes in how your intestines work, aggravating underlying gastrointestinal conditions and resulting in bloody stool.

While stress can be a contributing factor in some cases of bloody stool, it’s not necessarily the main cause. Bloody stool can have various underlying causes, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or peptic ulcer disease, among others.

A 2019 study discussed the association between stress and symptoms of flare-ups in both adults and children with IBD. The study suggested that stress may trigger inflammation in the gut and ultimately lead to symptoms such as bloody stool.

The same relationship was also confirmed in a 2016 study examining whether stress increases your risk for peptic ulcer disease. It was found that stress more than doubled the risk for peptic ulcers, which can ultimately result in bloody stool.

Does depression cause bloody stool?

There’s limited evidence to suggest that depression can directly cause bloody stool. However, like stress, some studies have suggested a link between depression and conditions that can lead to bloody stool.

A 2021 review noted that depression symptoms can result in IBD symptoms recurring more often. The exact way that this occurs is not well understood, and the review also indicated that the research is conflicting.

While there doesn’t seem to be any direct link between bloody stool and depression, it may play a more indirect role.


Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in your anus or rectum. Aside from bright red blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet bowl, it’s also common to experience anal itching and rectal pain.

Anal fissures

Anal fissures are small tears in the lining of your anus. This common condition is associated with factors such as chronic constipation and childbirth. In addition to bleeding, you may also have a great deal of pain during bowel movements.

Inflammatory bowel disease

IBD is an umbrella term for two conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both can lead to bloody stools, but the conditions differ in certain ways.

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive system, while ulcerative colitis specifically targets the colon and rectum. This is one of the main differences between the two conditions.

Both conditions are chronic and can cause similar symptoms, such as abdominal pain and bloody stool. Bleeding is more common in ulcerative colitis than in Crohn’s.

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the colon or rectum. It sometimes begins as a growth called a polyp, which can be detected and removed during regular colon screenings.

In addition to bloody stools, symptoms can also include:

  • changes in bowel habits or stool consistency
  • abdominal pain
  • weight loss
  • fever or chills

Gastrointestinal infections

A variety of different agents, such as bacteria or viruses, can cause gastrointestinal infections. These infections can irritate the intestinal lining and cause blood in your stools, usually in the form of bloody diarrhea.

Other symptoms that indicate a gastrointestinal infection can include:

  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • fever

Peptic ulcer

A peptic ulcer occurs when there is a break or discontinuation in the lining of the stomach or small intestine. The type of blood associated with peptic ulcers is usually dark as opposed to bright red.

Symptoms of a peptic ulcer can also include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • feeling full soon after eating

If you’re experiencing other symptoms along with bloody stools, it may indicate a more serious condition. Some of these more concerning symptoms can include:

  • unintended weight loss
  • fatigue
  • changes in bowel habits
  • heavy bleeding
  • dizziness or fainting
  • severe pain in rectum
  • fever

When to see a doctor

According to the National Health Service, it’s a good idea to see a healthcare professional right away if you notice blood in your stool under the following circumstances:

  • blood has been present for more than 3 weeks, although some sources suggest 2 days
  • your stools have been softer, thinner, or longer than usual over the past 3 weeks
  • you’re experiencing pain in your abdomen or rectum
  • you feel more tired than usual
  • you’ve been losing weight unintentionally

The doctor will work to evaluate the cause of the blood and determine the best course of action. Waiting to get checked may cause delays in any care that could be needed sooner than later.

Stress and depression can indirectly contribute to conditions that may cause bloody stool, but they aren’t the main cause. Further research is needed to fully understand this relationship, but gut inflammation is a likely factor.

If you experience bloody stool, it’s important to note which other symptoms you may have that could indicate a more serious condition. If you notice blood in your stool that persists for more than a couple of days, it’s worthwhile to seek medical attention from a healthcare professional.