I, I must remind you that the, uh, scanning experience is usually a painful one, sometimes resulting in nosebleeds, earaches, stomach cramps, nausea.Purely mental battles are hard to show with special effects. Sure, you can have the characters sweat, strain, or show veins swelling on their forehead. But when a character with Telepathy or other Psychic Powers pushes them to the limit, or when a character is under mental attack, nothing quite exemplifies the true state of affairs like a thin trickle of blood oozing from their nose. Exactly how much damage this implies varies from place to place. Exaggerated versions of this include blood from the eyes, or eyes and nose simultaneously. Within nodding distance of Truth in Television, as rupture of the capillaries inside the nasal membranes is a recognized (albeit rare, and usually only seen in people already in poor health) symptom of dangerously high blood pressure, such as that caused by extreme emotional stress, physical strain, or — presumably — intense psychic effort. Sudden nosebleeds under stress have been known to precede strokes. An early example of the trope was the film adaptation of Stephen King's Firestarter, where it was used in place of the original book's far-less-visible "tiny cerebral hemorrhages". However the first actual depiction can be found in the film Scanners (pictured above), which came out a few years prior. Bleeding from the eyes or ears instead of or alongside a nosebleed could be considered variations of this trope. Blood from the ears in particular is a more worrying sight than a nosebleed, because it's a highly recognisable sign of head trauma. Polite Dissent, a comics blog written by a physician, regularly provides examples of Psychic Nosebleed Zen, which the author has dubbed "epistaxis telepathica". Sometimes overlaps with Deadly Nosebleed if the psychic battle is also doing real, physical damage to the character. Only occasionally related to Blood from the Mouth. For nasal hemorrhages that are more of sexual than psychic nature, see Nosebleed. And for a psychic trope that may result in such, see Dirty Mind-Reading.
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Anime and Manga
- In AKIRA, the new, weaker psychics developed and employed by the Big Bad Tetsuo tend to have this. Tetsuo, and the other more powerful psychics, won't get any such ill effects.
- Manga example, In Gantz, the psychics Sakata and Sakurai get a slight nosebleed when they use their psychic abilities. This is explained as using these abilities pushes their bodies past limits that just shouldn't be pushed, resulted in wearing out their insides in a process that's exactly like aging: although they always appear to be the same age, their bodies are becoming that of old men by using these abilities. Of course, considering the Old Man character that's the Hero's Right Hand Man, this might not be a BAD thing, per se.
- Oh, but it gets better. Later on, when Sakata holds back an enormous alien at the risk of his life to give Sakurai and Reita a chance to escape, he bleeds from the nose, mouth, eyes and ears. Ouch.
- In Full Metal Panic!, Tessa has a massive nosebleed after melding her mind with Kaname's and helping her assume direct control over the Tuatha de Danann.
- In Naruto, after using his Amaterasu Sharingan technique, one of Itachi's eyes begins to bleed profusely and becomes extremely bloodshot. After using Amaterasu and several other similar techniques repeatedly, Sasuke's eye bleed even more and are so bloodshot they look like they're about to explode.
- While trying to trap the 9 tailed fox inside his Chibaku Tensei meteor, Pain gets a nosebleed from the strain of the technique.
- When Inoichi telepathically communicates to an entire army of 20,000 at once he ends up getting a nosebleed.
- In X1999 Subaru Sumeragi has blood coming from his ears after going within Kamui to bring him back from his borderline Angst Coma after Fuuma's Face-Heel Turn and Kotori's murder.
- A common occurrence in Psyren. Psychicers commonly have nosebleeds after they either develop or exhaust their abilities.
- In Weiß Kreuz Gluhen, Shimojima develops a nasty nosebleed while Berger is using his Psychic Powers to force Shimojima to drive his car out of control. The nosebleed abates when Berger stops.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima! when Haruna's artifact is used to defend from a massive attack on all sides, she is knocked unconscious and receives a slight head injury from the feedback received from her artifact.
- In Gundam X, ex-Newtype Jamil Neet starts bleeding from the ears while attempting to communicate with another Newtype, Tiffa Adil.
- Anemone from Eureka Seven has these, but it's used as an indicator of the abuse her job puts on her mind and body rather than actual psychic powers.
- While not due to psychic efforts, near the end of Summer Wars, Kenji's nose starts to bleed at the immense effort of mentally decrypting a two-thousand digit key, entirely in his head, with only a few seconds left until the satellite drops.
- In Night Raid 1931, Yukina suffers one after working with Shizune and her seer powers to show a strong illusion of an atomic bomb in effect to a crowd of people as a warning.
- In Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, this has happened a couple of times when Meiko Otsuka and others with her telepathy power overexert themselves.
- Max Lord, of the Justice League of America, had a small nosebleed whenever he used his metahuman "push" ability. In Justice League: Generation Lost, Max pushed his powers far enough to erase memories of his existence from everyone on the planet except for Booster Gold, Fire, Ice and Captain Atom. To do so, he had to constantly replenish his blood supply from the massive haemmorhage it gave him.
- The Fantastic Four series has quite a few examples cropping up from time to time. Any character that suffers psychic stress seems prone to the Psychic Nosebleed. In recent times it happened in both the movie and the Civil War. For example we have Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman. Also, Marvel Boy/Justice also got nosebleeds when overusing his psychic powers.
- Jean Grey and Rachel Summers. Hardly surprising, since the second is the first's time-travelling daughter from an alternate future.
- Cable (Jean's Clone's time-traveling son from this reality) subverted this on one occasion by bringing himself back from the dead without any problems. Usually, though, he suffers psychic nosebleeds when doing things like inadvertently mind-controlling a continent's worth of people, saving airborne continents from crashing after gravity comes back into effect, or beating up the cosmically-powered Silver Surfer in an attempt to burn out his own powers.
- In the Marvel Age we have Emma Frost. She constantly gets severe nosebleeds as her abilities are awakening.
- In the 80s graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, a brainwashed Professor X psychically attacked Storm and Cyclops, almost killing them—they were left unconscious, with blood trickling out their noses.
- The villain Saturn Queen from the Supergirl comics.
- Sophie, one of the Stepford Cuckoos from New X-Men, suffered a psychic nosebleed before her death while using Cerebra (the upgraded version of Cerebro). This was a combination of several factors; she wasn't a strong enough psychic to control Cerebra, and was on the mutant-power-boosting drug "Kick" in order to do so. Combined with her inexperience with the machine, it's somewhat unsurprising that it led to her death.
- In an issue of Chuck Dixon's Team Seven, a Russian telepath tries to use her Psychic Radar to track them through the Cambodian jungle. It doesn't work, due to a "greater power." She gets a Psychic Nosebleed for her trouble.
- This happens to Zorg in The Fifth Element when having a telephone conversation with the Bigger Bad.
- The movie The Butterfly Effect has the main character start to get nosebleeds after he has several blackouts. Each blackout (i.e. each use of his power) cause worse and worse damage to the main character's brain. This is caused by the main character's Ripple Effect-Proof Memory kicking in and the memories being physically written into his brain and co-existing with the older sets. After the first couple of times the main character fiddles with the past, he gets an MRI and the doctor notes that his brain has all the age-induced scarring of someone twice as old as him.
- The 80s movie version of Dune involved a scene in which several Bene Gesserit (psychic witches) cried blood when Paul drank the Water of Life.
- Scanners not only invented this trope, it pushed it farther than anyone has since, where it shows that enough psychic energy not only causes noses to bleed, but veins to pop leaks, eyes to bulge and even pop out, and, in one famous scene, an entire head to explode. There's also a scene where the psychic protagonist is explicitly trained to mess with the opponent's biological functions. After all, it's hard to stay focused if you're having a heart attack or worse.
- In The Ring, characters experience a nosebleed whenever the Curse's influence grows particularly strong.
- Shown to happen to the three guys from Chronicle whenever they overuse their powers.
- Also seems to work like a psychic connection between the three when something happens to one of the others.
- In the 2005 Fantastic Four, Susan Storm aka Invisible Woman, suffered a nosebleed when she formed a force field around the ensuing "supernova" her brother Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch created to defeat Dr. Doom. It also happened on the Brooklyn Bridge, when she first discovered her force field abilities by containing another (unrelated) fire. In the DVD cast commentary, Jessica Alba mentioned that she liked the idea, since it shows how much she's pushing herself.
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse had this at the end. Security guard nosebleeds and dies.
- In Let the Right One In, something similar to this happens when vampires enter without being invited. Well, more like they start bleeding from... everywhere.
- In Firestarter, Andy has this happen to him whenever he uses his mental domination powers.
- Used in The Wizard of Gore to show that Montag had the morgue attendant hypnotized. It's later revealed that the attendant died from the experience.
- Used in Valentine; whatever was killing the victims left all of them with nosebleeds after they died.
- Pacific Rim: Using the mental link without a partner or on a Kaiju brain causes aneurysms, shown as this.
- Inverted in the Chevy Chase comedy "Modern Problems", where he uses his new psychic powers to make someone else's nose bleed.
- The Dark Messiah in Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice causes a man to bleed from his nose by carving a wooden effigy with a knife. It gets so bad that his entire face starts bleeding, and he dies.
- Despite the frequent use of Psychic Powers in Fingerprints, only one psychic nosebleed ever occurs: when a character attempts to use their power on a group of guards who are psychic-blocked. All of the psychics suffer other varying side-effects from overuse of their powers, though.
- In Simon R. Green's Deathstalker series, Espers and the Maze People have this happen rather often, when pulling off big time abilities.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Death Star, a marginally Force-Sensitive stormtrooper called Nova Stihl is hit hard by the destruction of the prison planet Despayre, the Death Star's first test. Nova woke up screaming and felt like he had heard a million people cry out, all at once, as they were killed. Shortly afterwards the Death Star destroys Alderaan. For that, Nova was awake, but he was knocked unconscious and woke up with a nosebleed and intense muscle tremors. Poor conflicted bastard.
- In the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker books, those forced to perform the Weather Working suffer from this.
- In King of the Water Roads this is often the first price exacted for spells. It starts with the thin trickle, but the more magic is used, it can expand to a steady pour, then to coughing blood along with the nosebleeds.
- Happens to John Taylor when he pushes his gift too hard, either by using it too many times in quick succession or by forcing his perceptions past some kind of mystical/psychic barrier.
- In a subversion of the trope, in The Merchant Princes Series by Charles Stross the Psychic Nosebleed is a common side effect of the dimension hopping powers of said princes. The subversion comes from the fact that it is a side effect of malignant hypertension and can be treated with beta blockers and other medication.
- In Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War Malingo suffers from this when Carion is interfereing with his control over the glyph.
- An odd case occurs in Darkness Visible: Though venturing is not a purely psychic talent, there is a lot of mental strain involved, particularly the way that Lewis does it. When he pushes himself too far, the first outward sign is a nosebleed.
- Happens in The Shadow Speaker when Ejii tries to search Dikeogu's mind.
- Christine Feehan's Ghost Walkers series has this happen as well as cerebral hemorrhages. But it's also said that the high numbers of hemorrhages and strokes in Shadow Game are anomalous.
- In Perdido Street Station, the activation of Isaac's moth-baiting apparatus sends out such a powerful psychic blast across New Crobuzon that sensitives all over the city develop nosebleeds, two of them fatal.
- In Rachel Griffin, one character is found "gushing" blood from intense mental stress caused by fighting against a magical compulsion. Overlaps with Deadly Nosebleed, as she passes out from bloodloss and explicitly would have died without prompt treatment.
- In The Bible, Jesus is praying at the Mount of Olives just before His arrest, and His sweat appears like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). As mentioned in the Real Life section below, this is likely due to the stress brought on by His knowledge of what's about to go down.
Live Action TV
- In Smallville, when Chloe telepathically connects with the crystal of knowledge using her Brainiac abilities to save Clark, she gets a nosebleed before collapsing.
- Telepathic cop Matt Parkman in the first season
- Angela Petrelli in the second season, when she (unsuccessfully) resisted Matt's mental assault.
- Peter Petrelli in the second season finale.
- Hiro Nakamura, plus a psychic ear bleed, a burst vein in his eye, and fainting. And now a brain tumor!
- Some other characters as well, such as The Haitian and Eric Doyle. For a list of all the examples, see here.
- Just about everyone who had been Touched by Vorlons in the miniseries Taken did this. In fact the series ended with the super psychic girl giving all her fellow abductees nosebleeds to push out the small transistors that the aliens had placed in their brains, to prevent future re-abductions.
- Babylon 5, the obvious source of Touched by Vorlons, has Lyta Alexander, who winds up with bleeding eyes. Bleeding, black-socketed, empty eyes.
- A variant: when Lyta forces Bester out of her mind in the fourth season, he reacts as if punched in the jaw.
- In another confrontation Bester hypothesises that Lyta can't take his entire team at once since she is sweating after pushing back two. She replies that if she pushes too hard she might pop someone's blood vessel and cause them brain damage. Posturing ensues.
- A variant: when Lyta forces Bester out of her mind in the fourth season, he reacts as if punched in the jaw.
- Similarly, various psychic characters in The 4400 have had nosebleeds when using their powers.
- And of course, we can't forget the ever-lovin' trope-hoggin' Star Trek: Voyager, where Kes had been known to give the crew Psychic Nosebleeds (usually under Mind Control).
- Sci-fi show Threshold has Carla Gugino's character getting nosebleeds every time she even remotely hears the alien signal - EVEN when she's talking on a phone to a friend on a quiet private plane, and neither the friend nor the audience can hear the signal being played on the plane.
- In the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow gets some of these after using a teleportation spell on Glory.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, when Kira allows one of the Prophets to take her body to fight a Pah Wraith (in the body of Jake Sisko), the exertion gives her a Psychic Nosebleed.
- In the episode "The Muse", Jake experiences a Psychic Nosebleed (twice) because an alien creature is stimulating his creativity in order to feed off his mental energy.
- In Lost, this occurs whenever a consciousness becomes "unstuck in time" and is forcibly moved between the past and the future without a constant. Those suffering the effects of temporal displacement experience headaches, confusion, memory loss, nosebleeds, and eventually death by cerebral hemorrhage. A major character has died because of this.
- Other examples abound on the show when characters willingly or unwittingly screw with the forces literally surrounding the island.
- Kyle XY did this when he overused his powers. Happened more often to Jessie than it did to Kyle.
- When D'Anna uses the machine on the Algae Planet in the third season of Battlestar Galactica (2003), she experiences a psychic vision while her body has a nosebleed and then dies.
- Parodied in an episode of Late Night With Conan O'Brien, where a psychic guest loses copious amounts of blood while using telepathy. The psychic's spoon is indeed nudged, although he is now wearing a wet red shirt for it.
- Happens to Sam on Supernatural when he uses his Psychic Powers to exorcise demons, first when he was learning how and later when he gets rid of an especially tough demon.
- In the season premiere of Scrubs season 8, Dr. Cox gets one of these while trying to resist an infectious smile. It's more a battle of wills than psychic, but still qualifies.
- Although it takes place in one of JD's ((Imagine Spot))s.
- Carnivàle: Ben Hawkins got one after he used some form of astral projection.
- It was never made clear whether the nosebleed was due to Psychic Powers or something else, but the "Two by two, hands of blue" assassins in Firefly had a device which caused a progression of symptoms like this: your nose bleeds a little, your nose bleeds a lot, your mouth bleeds, your eyes bleed, you die.
- More like "Your nose bleeds a little, your nose bleeds a lot, every orifice you have and a few that aren't considered orifices, like your nailbeds, bleed, you die. Screaming."
- Based on the sound the device makes while active, it seems most likely to be a high-frequency sonic weapon which causes blood vessels and capillaries to burst all over the body - which could certainly cause a person to bleed out very quickly. However, the device's sound waves appear to be omni-directional, so the only way the two agents could survive is if they were actually robots.
- In Stargate SG-1 Jonas Quinn gets a few of these while using precognitive abilities gained by the Goa'uld Nirrti experimenting with his DNA.
- In Dollhouse a device called the Disrupter gives this and a headache to anyone with the brain structure of a Doll. which comes in handy for The Reveal of Senator Perrin's origin.
- Subverted in Cleopatra 2525 when a telepath spends six months deliberately inducing a nosebleed as part of her escape plan.
- Anna of the rebooted V gets psychic eyebleeds when she uses her bliss on a human.
- On Fringe, if an Observer "reads" you, you can fight it. Symptoms include nosebleeds, bloody eyes, permanent brain damage, and death. (But you might keep him from reading you.)
- In an episode of Leverage, master manipulator Nate triggers a psychosomatic illness in their target of the week, causing Parker to marvel, "Did you just give a guy a nosebleed with the power of your mind?"
- In Warhammer 40,000 nosebleeds are a 'secondary indicative symptom of proximal psychic activity'.
- Much of the fiction features serious psychic nosebleeds, taken to typical WH40K extremes. Dan Abnett's Ravenor trilogy, for example, has the loser of a high-level psyker duel get turned inside out, a language that causes considerable bodily harm and the speaker's mouth to shred, and a Blank whose nose bleeds continuously when a psyker keeps trying to get in his head.
- Cadian Blood has the Sanctioned Psyker Seth who is hit especially hard by this sort of thing; one devastating attack he was said to have launched and melted an enemy tank to slag, but shattered his teeth and left him in a coma for a week. When in a trance, he is only peripherally aware that his body is convulsing, bleeding, vomiting... This sort of thing is common for nearly all human psykers, save those of the Astartes and most of the Inquisition.
- As revealed in Betrayer, psychics and the Butcher's Nails did not get along well in the pre-Heresy World Eaters. Angron's proximity caused psykers to start spontaneously bleeding from the mouth, eyes, and nose, while members of the legion implanted with the Nails (Angron included) found the presence of psykers triggered excruciating migraines. Those members of the Librarium unfortunate enough to be implanted with the Nails themselves frequently suffered violent deaths, either from losing control of their powers, or simply getting turned inside out by raw psychic feedback.
- Very popular trope with spellcasting characters in the Fantasy meets Cyber Punk roleplaying game Shadowrun, especially common with hermetic mages. Or, more precisely, not popular at all with player characters as such, but rather with their players. Considering that the use of one's magical abilities, psychic battles with spirits or astral combat between astral bodies can result in fatigue and even physical injuries, a magically active character can easily overexert himself into unconsciousness or death.
- Hunter: The Vigil has the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit, a task force of the FBI devoted to hunting down supernaturally-empowered serial killers and trained in the psychic arts. Each use of their powers requires them to take a small amount of damage, likely manifesting as a Psychic Nosebleed.
- Psionics in most versions of Dungeons & Dragons has the possibility of nosebleeds (and much, much worse) when psionic attacks are attempted with low wis or against psionically strong opponents.
- In the demo for BioShock Infinite, your partner character Elizabeth can actually get a nosebleed from using too much of her psychokinetic powers as seen here.◊ In the final game, Booker experiences nosebleeds as a result of traveling through rifts in space/time.
- Not quite a nosebleed, but in Mass Effect, biotics with lower-grade implants can suffer things like mental disorders and frequent headaches. Doctor Chakwas says that Kaidan's early-model implant port means he regularly has to deal with blinding migraines. Kaidan himself alludes to the potential for literal nosebleeds when biotics overexert themselves.
- Taken one squicky step higher in Metal Gear Solid 3. The Sorrow's eye bleeds when he uses his psychic powers to "test" Naked Snake.
- Life Is Strange:
- Max begins experiencing nosebleeds after extended use of her ability to rewind short segments of time.
- Max's ability to jump into photographs leads to several nosebleeds during Episode 5, where at one point she time travels - while simultaneously in the middle of time travelling.
- Colin from Two Keys gets a major one of these with blood coming out of his nose, mouth and ears after having a Troubled Backstory Flashback brought on by Landon's psychic Mind Screw. It left him in trouble in the middle of a fight.
- Dominic Deegan is prone to Psychic Nosebleed when he's been fighting titanic battles on the mental plane. See example here.
- This could also be explained that Dominic Deegan merely slammed his face onto the desk while battling in the mental plane.
- It also happens here.
- In Errant Story, garden-variety telepathic communication may or may not cause a nosebleed — hard to tell from what we've seen of it — but possession by a ghod, and the communication that ensues, definitely will do the trick.
- Immense concentrations of evil can cause paladins to suffer from these in Goblins, along with near-crippling headaches.
- Penny Arcade has this happen to Tycho when Gabe tries to hate him to death.
- In Homestuck, noses aren't normally drawn, but Sollux starts bleeding profusely from his eyes and mouth from the immense exertion necessary to push a meteor quite a long distance away to the Green Sun that had recently been created. The stress is so bad that some of the veins beneath his skin burst as well.
- In Sinfest, Slick's last work produces ear bleeding.
- In Awkward Zombie, Ness experiences a literal one when Sonic triggers an X-Bomb in Magicant, as seen here.
- In Stand Still, Stay Silent, this happens to Lalli when he summons his väki.
- This happens to all mentalists in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe when they overstress their powers past their normal limits.
- There Will Be Brawl: Luigi and Ganondorf both suffer these—and more—at the hands of Lucas and Ness, the Butchers.
- Luigi gets away with only the nosebleed. Ganondorf ends up bleeding from his eyes, ears, and mouth too.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged gives us this:
Krillin: My turn my turn MY TURN!!!
Vegeta: Wh—... Nappa, what are you doing?
Nappa: It's his turn, Vegeta. I have to wait for him.
Vegeta: Uhh... uh... uhh!" (nose starts to bleed).
Nappa: You OK, Vegeta?
Vegeta: Yes, just... just an aneurysm out of sheer stupidity.
Nappa: "Wow! Didn't think you were that stupid, Vegeta."
- Dangerous Lunatics has this happen when Tyler gets electrocuted to the point of coma by Dr. Beatrix and Thurston, at the same time as he tries to use his power to leap out of his body. He partially succeeds, though.
- SF Debris points out in his review of the Star Trek: Voyager episode, "Warlord," that massive mental powers often result in a nosebleed from either those using them or their victim. Most of the people on the receiving end of a possessed Kes' telepathic attack are Rubber-Forehead Aliens with six nostrils going up their forehead, so they have even more noses to bleed from. Yuck.
- The Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society's Stephen gets one of these when his psychic powers get activated in Psyren.
- In Pay Me, Bug!, this is one of the dangers of having your mind read by a Sword
- Transolar Galactica plays with this trope in episode VIII: Ominous, when the ship's psychic Samson attempts telepathy with the Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl that they've taken aboard. It ends up with his head exploding.
- In Worm, overusing her ability gives Tattletale migraines.
- Metamor City states that casting spells or using psychic powers causes blood to rush to the head, and the increased blood pressure can cause nasal membranes to burst.
- Happens to Jenkins in the Starship Troopers: Invasion cartoon, hours after he's overexerted himself by making a brain bug ''explode''. It's used while he's alone to illustrate that he did more to himself than he let on to his squadmates.
- Happens to Homer from The Simpsons. While undergoing lucid dream therapy, Bart and Lisa (or, rather, Homer's representation of their memory) start attacking the scenery to jar the blocked memory. Back outside, Homer receives a nosebleed.
- Dr. Killinger in The Venture Bros. manages to induce this upon Dr. Orpheus by merely casually resisting his psychic assault until Orpheus overexerts himself.
Dr. Killinger: Your powers vill not vurk on me, you silly-billy.
- While not bloody, Niko in Galaxy Rangers has, on several occasions, exerted herself to the point of collapse. The first example was "New Frontier." While attempting to detect Eliza's location, the Queen intrudes into the vision and rather violently pushes back.
- Manchester Black suffers one at one point in Superman vs. the Elite.