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Phobia taking blood pressure

by Jim
(Louisiana)

I have this problem taking my blood pressure. It's not just white coat syndrome, I have the phobia and fear when I am home and trying to take it. When my BP is taken, I go into a panic and the reading shoots up very high which causes additional fear and panic. I obsess about this night and day, to the point of panic when just thinking about taking my BP. My Dr. wants a record from home to be more relaxed but to no avail. I keep cancelling Dr's appointments because of the panic and extreme stress this causes. Diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder. I have tried many, many meds. which have not helped, just added side effects. I have had this problem for about twenty years and would like to find relief and peace. Maybe someone could give some suggestions. Seeing a therapist and psychiatrist but little progress......thanks....Jim

Answer:

Phobias like this are more common than you may think. It can be really frustrating because the more you try to talk yourself out of becoming anxious, the more anxious you become.

Below are some relaxation exercises that might help because they involve re-training the body to respond differently. It takes most people a few weeks of daily practice to start to notice results.

I hope this helps!

Relaxation for Coping with Panic

Retraining the Amygdala

Anchoring

Biofeedback Therapy Relaxation

Deal with Squeamishness

Nov 17, 2017
Different Mechanism NEW
by: Anonymous

I have the same problem you all speak about and have been taking meds for 30 years...I am only 50. I even searched out a doctor who specializes in patients who seem to be somewhat resistant to medications...they give me more and more meds and it still remains too high. I put myself on a low sodium diet(I cook all of my own food unless in a pinch or out with friends), I take garlic tabs, apple cider vinegar and flax seed each day. I am 5 feet 10 inches tall and 175 pounds. And...my pressure is still too high. It's a works in progress. I would love if I could get my blood pressure taken, effectively, without using a standard cuff. My machine is automatic, and my expectation of high results, results in a high pressure and then it gets higher because my anxiety kicks in. Is there another type of machine, or another administration type, that will effectively take my blood pressure? Any help would be appreciated.

Nov 21, 2017
More common that doctors let on NEW
by: John B

It's a bit heart-breaking to read all of the posts here and realize just how significantly and adversely this condition affects each poster's life. We can all see the common threads here: one or more traumatic triggering events earlier in life that start the phobia coupled with the maltreatment and widespread ignorance of it by medical practitioners that only exacerbates the phobia and seriously interferes with proper medical treatment over one's lifetime.

I suspect my BP phobia started when I took a physical exam for the Naval Academy during senior year in high school in a shoddy clinic at a nearby Navy airbase. I'd been taking large dosages of cortisone injections for several weeks prior to control an allergic reaction that caused severe facial swelling. When the corpsman took my BP, he announced loudly to everyone within in earshot "Man, your BP is 160/90! I've seen lower readings on dying 90 year olds. Something's terribly wrong with you." Needless to say, the Naval Academy was no longer interested.
In the decades since, I almost always get high (150 to 170 systolic) BP readings in medical settings, followed by the usual consternation and even panic from the staff and doctor. Fortunately, my home readings are almost always around 125/75.

Nov 22, 2017
BP fear group NEW
by: Anonymous

Is the poster from Chicago still around? That is a good idea. To get a group of people together

Nov 22, 2017
mental health NEW
by: J

WCS is a phobia which is mental health and I don't know if the doctors are to blame exactly but healthcare IS a business and all the tests and scares are money makers. I almost think the news etc. promotes disease and we thinkers act on their suggestions and get sick. Anyway this is a mental health issue as it is an anxiety disorder and we should expect our doctors to be educated on this. Keep taking it at home and go armed with your home readings and go to a talk therapist if needed. I did and it helped. We're NOT alone!

Dec 03, 2017
Me too NEW
by: Anonymous

Thanks to you all, I dint feel like such a freak ( I know you understand). So, my therapist says to not take my BP as it obviously is doing me no good (I can feel it rise just thinking about it); however my medical person suggested twice a week. Do I try to desensitize or do I just try to enjoy life. But the hard thing is to "let go and move through " the fear. Any advice? Thank you!

Dec 14, 2017
What we should do..... NEW
by: SD

Of course the goal is to desensitize our fear of the process and monitor itself. We have to accept that It will be high If we are anxious when taking it and that does not mean we have a disease or will die. Its the same as exercising and taking it right after but our minds will totally accept that high reading but won't accept a high reading due to anxiety.

It doesn't make sense to keep taking it until we change our mindset and thinking towards this problem. IT IS ABSOLUTELY NORMAL FOR OUR PRESSURE TO GO UP WHEN WE ARE FEARFUL.

My brother is a cardiologist and when I told him that I had a high reading at the dentist, he didn't think twice about it since he knows how anxious I get.

Dec 14, 2017
to Me too NEW
by: J

If I were you I would keep taking it at home until you're comfortable with it on you... I used to walk around or drive with the cuff on taking my BP .... Anything to distract me!! and after a while I learned to relax and now I can take it at home and it's not as bad in the Drs. office either (not like at home though!) . This was on the advice of a therapist. The main thing is to not look at the numbers but to get relaxed while the cuff is inflating, once you conquer that you should be OK (at least at home) Good Luck!

Dec 30, 2017
Wow! Others like me NEW
by: Anonymous

Thank you for all the comments. I am a 51 year old male who has been battling this for many years. I was in the Marine Corps and do not have a problem with fears or phobias. Health concerns do not enter my mind. However get me near a blood pressure cuff and everything changes! As soon as I put the cuff on my arm it is on and I can barely breathe. Now I know I'm not crazy or alone. I can accept it now. Thanks

Jan 29, 2018
not to take bp NEW
by: Anonymous

Can you just ask them to no take it?

Mar 10, 2018
Me too! NEW
by: Lindy

I have asked a couple of times for the nurse not to take mine. I had been able to take mine at home but because of a nurse's reaction and comments by a doctor a few years ago, I developed the fear of taking it myself. I used a method found in "The anxiety and Phobia Workbook" and was able to take it again myself. But just recently, I had a similar "reactionary" experience, only much worse. A blood pressure reprimanding, accusatory, interrogation by one of the staff members while preparing me for surgery put me in a very bad place, enhancing quilt, evoking tears and fears. It's an embarrassing,guilt riddling, problem causing problem and how health care providers "handle" it makes a huge difference. Hopefully they will get a clue. Thank you for sharing and good luck to all of you. Lindy

Mar 21, 2018
Same experiece NEW
by: Anonymous

I got into this website by chance and found that i am not the only one experiencing this. This is really something annoying in life especially i need to get the right BP reading for my upcoming job promotion test. I am working as a police officer and that required physical ability test to be passed for promotion. Only a right BP reading can allow one to start the physical ability test. It is so difficult for the GP in my country to understand my condition. They just find me weird and started prescribe me HBP medication.

Mar 22, 2018
If Only NEW
by: Joe

if only there was a way we could always get our bp reading over our sleeve all the time. i would invent a hidden cuff that is under your shirt sleeve. if you ever get your bp taken, the cuff always reads a number under 120/80. this way you fool tge doctors, fool yourself, and you never havr to worry about a high reading again.

Mar 30, 2018
Read the linked article, if nothing else NEW
by: Anonymous

Glad I found this thread. We all know this is a real phobia. I wish all medical personnel understood this. If you haven't read this article, I suggest reading it and taking a printout when you visit a doctor:
"Could Blood Pressure Phobia Go Beyond the White Coat Effect?" by K. Dillon https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/28/11/1306/250730

Just like the other commentors, I've dealt with (or not dealt with, in reality) this phobia for many, many years. I've avoided any sort of medical treatment and been afraid to take my BP at home. It's always there in the back of my mind. Branching into the fear of "what if I need to see a doctor for something else and I can't?" I have zero fear of dentists, but have avoided them for years, because they take my BP there.

I believe a number of factors contributed to my phobia. As a child I recall very unpleasant trips to the pediatrician. My mother had high blood pressure, and once was urgently admitted to hospital for it, though part of me thinks THAT may have been over-reaction to this same phobia, as she has always had very, very high anxiety (and is now treated for it). In high school health class, the teacher once gave every student, one by one, a blood pressure check, in front of everyone else! I'd always had VERY high anxiety about speaking in class or being the center of attention -- you could imagine this put my BP through the roof. This single, awful experience may have been the biggest contributing factor.

At 40+ now, I've finally decided it's time to get past this. What's helped me most recently is: privately journaling to acknowledge the phobia and explore what triggered it in me and my desire to address it. Finding forums like this and articles like the link above and realizing I'm not unique. Realizing that, even if I have high BP so does 33% of the population. Learning to PROPERLY take my BP at home (arm supported on a cushion, at heart level, feet flat, back supported, urinate first) so that I don't see incorrectly high readings. Understanding that, even when I do get an elevated reading, it's not reason for panic, alarm or shame. I literally had to work my way up from just looking at the machine, to taking it out of the closet, slipping on the cuff without running it, etc. over time.

Another thing that helped A LOT was a service thorough my employer benefits that recommends a doctor AND actually makes the appointment for you all via a website -- no high-anxiety phone calls to make! I used the service and was able to include a note to the doctor beforehand that I get extremely anxious and have very high readings when taking BP. When you do see a doctor, take the article printout and also make sure they check your BP correctly (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/11/20/564832694/odds-are-theyre-taking-your-blood-pressure-all-wrong)

I know this is very difficult to get past -- if it were easy I'd have done it decades ago. My own comments probably wouldn't have helped me much a year ago. But I hope this helps someone.

Mar 30, 2018
PTSD War...BP Phobia NEW
by: Anonymous

My husband has similar trouble at home and at the doctors office.

He was a marine in a small patrol always volunteering for point who experienced frequent extreme engagement.

The trauma of witnessing blood pressure loss is one trigger for this high anxiety and inaccurate readings.

I wonder if over medicating a transient high blood pressure is causing damage.

Mar 30, 2018
PTSD War...BP Phobia NEW
by: Anonymous

If you have been exposed to sudden trauma causing PTSD such as combat related deaths talong blood pressure reading is a likely trigger. Cognitive reorientative therapy may help.

My husband a marine with PTSD has experienced far to much war related trauma as many have. His blood pressure readings are not predictive of his resting state. You have to wonder if treating a transient phobic traumatic memory is relevant without being able to obtain true resting readings.

Apr 04, 2018
Same here! NEW
by: Bev

I never thought there were so many of us! I really thought I was a rare bird. Hate to say it but it is comforting to know I'm not alone. My blood pressure reading is by far the worst part of any doctor's visit and/or procedure. I have an appointment this afternoon and am already experiencing major anxiety. That's how I found this site...trying to find a way to calm down this morning! I get great home readings and carry them around with me to PROVE I don't need more BP medication. My appointment today is with my vascular surgeon. My last visit there my BP was 220/112! When the monitor starts pumping up the second and third time I just about come unglued. I'm so anxious to get out of there because I know it will start coming down as soon as I can leave! I have cancelled and delayed many appointments because I just could not handle the stress of it all. I feel like I would be much better off if they just would not check it everywhere I go......and have ask them not to! Of course that's a ridiculous request. They must think I'm nutty! I've been "labeled" as having CLINICAL HYPERTENSION. This is all over my charts but it still puts everyone in an uproar and most of all me. It's always the center discussion of all my visit's. God bless you all. Wish me well today. If anybody understands you..it's me.

Apr 26, 2018
Me too! NEW
by: Anonymous

I was about 43 yrs old when at a physical test appointment my BP came unexpectedly irregular. Up to that time, my BP was always ok, or so I thought. All I can remember is that the reading was 146/85. Sure I was under a tremendous stress over personal issues, as everyone else. Far away from home, my brother recently past away really hit me. I didn't pay too much attention to it after those events.

Then, we had to move to another country, for job reasons. The company who hire me booked me for a complete routine physical test which, of course, included the BP measuring. By the time I arrived at the building everything was just fine but after looking all the people and nurses around, my anxiety started the loose control. I was inside the BP measure room, put the cuff and the machine started to read then hitting the 160/90 BP. I felt like confused, lost, everything. The nurse bombing me with questions about if I am a high BP or take medication, whatever. All that made my system collapse and they sent me outside to catch my breath and proceed with the rest of the tests. I went back to take the BP reading again but it was useless 177/100.

Long story short, I went to a cardiologist for a certificate; BP outside the clinic was normal and went into medication since then. But every time I have to take physicals or go to the doctor, HBP is there. I have managed to control it at home, so my readings are normal for my age 51 (130/80).

Now I know I'm not alone. I wanted to share my story with other people to see that you are not alone as well. Relax as much as you can, forget about troubles, listen to good music, take a deep breath and your BP would be fine.

Apr 26, 2018
Me too! NEW
by: Anonymous

I was about 43 yrs old when at a physical test appointment my BP came unexpectedly irregular. Up to that time, my BP was always ok, or so I thought. All I can remember is that the reading was 146/85. Sure I was under a tremendous stress over personal issues, as everyone else. Far away from home, my brother recently past away really hit me. I didn't pay too much attention to it after those events.

Then, we had to move to another country, for job reasons. The company who hire me booked me for a complete routine physical test which, of course, included the BP measuring. By the time I arrived at the building everything was just fine but after looking all the people and nurses around, my anxiety started the loose control. I was inside the BP measure room, put the cuff and the machine started to read then hitting the 160/90 BP. I felt like confused, lost, everything. The nurse bombing me with questions about if I am a high BP or take medication, whatever. All that made my system collapse and they sent me outside to catch my breath and proceed with the rest of the tests. I went back to take the BP reading again but it was useless 177/100.

Long story short, I went to a cardiologist for a certificate; BP outside the clinic was normal and went into medication since then. But every time I have to take physicals or go to the doctor, HBP is there. I have managed to control it at home, so my readings are normal for my age 51 (130/80).

Now I know I'm not alone. I wanted to share my story with other people to see that you are not alone as well. Relax as much as you can, forget about troubles, listen to good music, take a deep breath and your BP would be fine.

May 09, 2018
Me too! NEW
by: K. in MA

Boy am I glad to find this website. I am about to lose my mind!
My ordeal started with perimenopause, when I started to get anxiety disorder. Up until then, my BP was always on the normal side, even at the Doctor's office. I did have white coat syndrome due to trauma in my early childhood and painful hospital and doctor visits, but it only ever expressed itself with nervousness and racing heartbeat.

The only medication I ever had to take was only recently: Levothyroxine for hypothyroidism, and Wellbutrin for depression/anxiety. (I used to be on Celexa but I gained a lot of weight)

My first high bp reading at the doctor's office came right after my mom got dementia, which made my anxiety disorder worse.
The reading was around 145/85 (can't remember the exact number). My doctor didn't worry too much at that time because she knew about my disorder and about my mom.

But after that, my BP taken at annual visits always remained high. Never above the 150s/80s, but enough to cause my doctor to finally decide she had to send me for blood work, EKG, heart ultrasound, and a 24 hour bp monitor. Everything came back normal, except the 24 hr monitor. Even though the average of all readings was 120/75, there were several spikes that went above 150/80.

Thing was, the monitor day happened right on a day where I had to do a lot of running around, and had a job interview. Now you can imagine that a person with anxiety disorder at a job interview isn't going to result in a normal bp reading.

So from that point on, my doctor started to mention bp meds. Of course I told her no, because my home readings on my monitor were always normal, and sometimes even on the low side. She had me bring in my monitor to see if it read correctly (it did) and had me take my bp at home every day for 3 months and keep a log which I had to bring in.

Aside from the usual spikes after exertion or an anxious episode, all was normal. So we left it at me monitoring at home and letting her know if there were any changes.

Next doctor visit (the one before my last one) she again needled me about meds. I had already begun to dread any visit because I KNEW that my bp would be high and that we would have the same go around again.

After that visit, I started having trouble with taking my bp on my monitor at home. If I thought about what I was doing and why (and try NOT to think about it!) my reading would be in the 130s/80s and the more I tried to calm myself and re-take it, the more anxious I became and the higher the reading got. I stopped when I had a 157/92 reading and had to take half a lorazepam.

I stopped monitoring for a few months until I could venture into the process again without immediately stressing out. For a couple of months, I actually did quite well. I had lost 25 lbs (went from a lifetime high of 160 to a 135), had cut out alcohol and salt, all in the hopes of having normal home readings and a not so high office reading. Home readings were back to normal, even a bit lower than they used to be because of lifestyle changes.

Then I had my doctor's visit (only a follow up for my anti depression meds) and my reading was 156/90 after the nurse took it. My doctor was alarmed, of course, and mentioned that she had read studies that even labile hypertension could be dangerous in the long term and really we should start on some meds, but low dose so I wouldn't 'bottom out' at home. She then took another reading which was by then 170/95.

Now I was beginning to think that there was no way to avoid it anymore and my fate would be to drop dead at home because of the bp drugs. My doctor asked if I could go home, take a reading and call it in right after I got home. Of course I ended up with 162/95 because I was still reeling from the visit.

This was three days ago. I have not had a normal reading since then, (even bought a brand new monitor) because every time I even put the cuff on, I get butterflies.

So now I'm at the end of my rope. I don't want to measure my blood pressure anymore. Not at home, not at the doctor's office. If I can be 51, a healthy weight at 5'7", eat rabbit food, exercise every day, and my physician STILL thinks I need to be on medication, what's the point anymore? I wish she would entertain some other avenues to find out just why my bp spikes like that instead of immediately jumping on meds.



May 10, 2018
Not doing it NEW
by: Anonymous

38 years old and can't stand it. I bought a machine to test myself at home, but could not do it.

The sight of it literally scares me.

Due one shortly for work, think I might flat out refuse. I figure them telling me it's high will make it higher, that can't be good.

May 15, 2018
omg I'm not alone NEW
by: Anonymous

any SF bay area here? I am scared of BP machine. Just thinking about taking BP makes my palm sweat. I am getting anxious now reading this post.

May 15, 2018
Snuck up on it! NEW
by: Anonymous

Same problem as everyone else. No solution until the other day. Quite by accident to, Was sat doc's office for routine stuff.

I had previously told all the medical people about my problem and they were content with me telling them "My bp is ok - I checked this morning before coming in (I hadn't just a little white lie)."

I'd been doing this for over a year.

Anyway, as I was sitting there - Crystal (my very good nurse) had the little finger thing on checking my pulse. I'd already told her my 'white lie' once again and she was just getting my vitals (but not bp).

I looked at the pulse thing and it read 64 and I commented - I know my bp is fine cause if it wasn't my pulse would be up because it always shoots up with my bp.

She said, "good." And then in a matter of 2 seconds she whipped out the stethoscope and stuff - and said - "let's check it real fast." Which she did "really quickly" and told me - yeah it's 130/85 and smiled at me.

I was STUNNED!

She had 'snuck up on me' - not gave me time to stress out or anything and got a NORMAL reading.

Truly a once in a lifetime moment and one that can not be duplicated by me (again) or anyone for that matter.

What it took was (1) me knowing (that morning) that they was not going to take my bp. (2) a quick thinking/acting nurse.

Thing about it. How could I duplicate this again? I can't.

I wish there was a way I could duplicate it again - and I really wish there was a way all of you people could duplicate it. But of course that can't happen because we stress ourselves out "thinking about it."

Anyway, maybe something can come from this for the rest of you.

I hope so.

May 26, 2018
Stay away from Doctors NEW
by: Anonymous

The only way to combat anxiety and stress is to stay away from Doctors and medication (unless
there is an emergency)

My GP of many years insisted
I take meds for hypertension and
hypothyroid....I refused and never
felt better...
I am active and happy and healthy
I play golf daily...go to fitness ...
walk and eat healthy.
BTW I am in my 70’s.
I have an Omni machine in my drawer and haven’t taken BP
in over a year. To hell with it!
Trust me much of this is psychological and Doctors love to
prescribe...it’s their business.
Listen to your body and mind.

May 27, 2018
Cured! NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi guys! I know this is an post but I used to Google phobia of taking blood pressure because I had this phobia. I couldn't even take it at home. It happened after having extremely high readings at doctor's before and the way they reacted. I know have a new doctor who knows I have this. I just take my meds and don't my pressure. But a few months ago, my doctor was worried that my meds weren't working and wanted to up them! No way! I'm already on metoprolol and lisinipril. Anyway, I started eating better and lost about 8 pounds in 3 weeks. No exercise. I'm also a smoker, btw. I knew I needed to be able to take it at home. I realized I have control issues. And this was part of the problem. So one day, I put the cuff on and pressed start. Immediately my heart started racing and I felt panicked but I forced myself to do it. Surprisingly, it was only 165/95 or something even tho I expected it to be worse under those conditions. It relaxed me so I did it again. It started coming down. After the 4th try it was 119/65! I now knew foe sure my meds were working and that I could take my pressure at home. When I went to doc I took my monitor with me and showed him the readings. It was still high in his office and probably always will be. But now I know it stays normal most of the time. I hope you that suffer from this will practice doing it at home until you get over it. It works!

Jun 06, 2018
Panic is my middle name. NEW
by: Anonymous

I have had anxiety most of my life. (I'm 67) For the last few months, I've added 'Panic attacks' to my resume. I can feel them rising up in my body, even when I'm not having negative thoughts. My heart starts to beat fast and my BP goes way up. I'm also afraid to check it and stay put until I get a lower reading. I take Xanax for these episodes, however, the Xanax only lasts for a few hours and then, I can't take any more at that point.

Jun 07, 2018
not embarrassed anymore NEW
by: Jay

I had emergency plastic surgery 2 days ago and my BP was up and I warned them and besides who would be calm? I noticed that despite the stress it doesn't embarrass me anymore this is SO normal for a lot of us and I know it's normal at home and my primary physician understands so go to a therapist if you need to talk this out ... I did years ago and in the meantime I don't let anyone bully me (most understand) because we are NOT alone ... just work on getting a normal one at home for your own piece of mind. I've posted here many times and I use a wrist monitor which is less scary for me .... Good Luck everyone!!

Jun 21, 2018
BP and Pulse rate NEW
by: Anonymous

I'm 71 and have had this phobia for almost as long as I can remember, both at home or in a clinical setting. I also don't feel comfortable for anyone to put their hand on my wrist to take my pulse, or put the stethoscope on my chest to listen to my heart.

I haven't noticed that there are any other comments so far about pulse and stethoscope. I have a wrist device for blood pressure readings, and it also displays my pulse rate. I can take my pulse on my own before a reading, and it will go way up when I put the bp device on my wrist.

Once in a while as a fluke, I don't react with fear to any of this, and not sure what makes the difference, but those are the times I get very normal readings.

Jun 29, 2018
Blood Pressure Phobia NEW
by: M. J. Cummings

I have had BP phobia for many years. Like you, I find that my BP is abnormally high even when I measure it alone in my home.

On one occasion, I plied myself with beer and wine. When I was pretty well juiced, my blood pressure was normal.

Still, my blood pressure skyrockets in the doctor's office. Fortunately, he understands my problem and says I don't need BP medicine.

Jun 30, 2018
Any solutions? NEW
by: Anonymous

Same thing. I’m 23 and have been struggling with taking my bp for about 3 years. It all started one time that I was really anxious and the bp read a bit high. Before that I had never had a high reading. But something about that time triggered the phobia and now I can’t take it without starting to feel extremely nervous. I can feel my bp rise as I put the cuff on.... I’ve had moderate and even normal readings when I’m calm but most of the time, especially at the doctors, it is way too high for my age... I hope to get over this one day :(

Jul 02, 2018
Oregon NEW
by: Pattie

Wow so glad I found this site. I thought I was alone. Reading the comments is exactly the way I feel, thank you for sharing this. Thank you again.

Jul 11, 2018
New Zealand NEW
by: Anonymous

Love this post!!!

I can so relate to all of this! Thank you

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