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

Jul 02, 2015
Major bp phobe
by: Anonymous

Read all y'all comments. I hear ya n sympathize 100%! Today my reading was 176/107 at the dentist! Lord have mercy! I can FEEL the fear. I Fear the fear! Hate that feeling of dread n panic. My heart beats so terrible fast. There's GOT to be a way to conquer this. There oughta be seminars for ppl like us where we all get educated about bp, what it means, how high can we go, then take readings all together as a sort of support group. Years ago they didn't try to fit those readings into such smaller numbers, did they? Wonder how they treated back then? Good grief I agonize for days before an appt. n sometimes cancel. It's so stupid, but also horrific. A person just has to go once in awhile for other stuff. Can't stand the stifling fear. Also don't trust many bp meds. If you read the pill book, often side effects of blood pressure meds are High Blood Pressure! So tired of this. I'm a believer n pray for help. Feel sad n embarrassed, but fearing still! A spirit of fear is not of God! UGH!

Jul 04, 2015
White coat won't kill you!
by: Kevin801

Phobias are not rational but continue her exposure with relaxation exercises eventually help - I was under the south tower on 9/11 directing and running with others while prices of the building falling on us- I guarente you my BP was Lower than at the dr office,crazy, embarrassing . I avoid having medical procedures if the take BP - had 2 hour surgery with implant cutting into gums etc but Just fine because he didn't do BP!!! So nuts. I can't give simple solution but read my previous recommendations and know that WC HBP is much less dangerous than we all believe. It goes to similar levels with exercise and your body is built to take high levels, just not constantly. Man wouldn't have survived if our body couldn't take high levels - the cave men had to run all the time,we are made this way-remember we didn't have any meds for BP in the early 1900's - Roosevelt had BP average of 195/110 for over 4 years before he died.

I'm not saying it's safe to have high BP, but white coat is called a "benign " condition in medical books. I've been in a number of emergency landings but have no fear of flying- most people with phobias are more intelligent than aver - here's to all us smart people!

Jul 07, 2015
Me too
by: Lesley

Oh boy,I thought it was just me,such a relief to read of others the same.I use a wrist monitor at home as it lessens anxiety when taking measurements,result is the same.I play Hayday or something on my iPad when doing it and tell myself so what if it is high,there is always a BP pill to lower it.Auto suggestion is the key,when you go to docs take your own readings for the last week so they can discount their machine.

Jul 08, 2015
Me too!
by: Anonymous

I thought i was alone in this. My doctor also suggested I take my pressure at home but I still feel the same anxiety. I too have avoided the doctors office because of this. I try so hard to talk myself out of this with no avail. I have tried everything and now i'm concerned how i'll ever get a true reading

Jul 22, 2015
Just Stop Checking It and live
by: Nick

Hi I just read all the comments and so glad to see more people have this issues and not just me. People don't understand what we go through its so hard having a phobia like this. I fear anything about blood pressure. I used to check mine at home and it would start high but always come down and that would satisfy me because I knew I just have WCH. I have found a good doctor who understands and he said I'm ok. This helps a lot. I had evey test done on my heart and it was ok. I have learned to just stop checking it now because I learned that when I'm calm its good and when I'm stressed obviously it's gonna be high so why check it? Anyway good luck to everyone and hopefully we can conquer this fear. It's the reaction to what the doctors say that frightens us more I think. Are they gonna put us in the hospital? Etc. I hate having to convince another doctor of my phobia and why it's high. I try to not think about it anymore. Have faith and live life. Laughter is the best medicine

Aug 03, 2015
Dread my review date!
by: Anon

It's great to read all of your comments as I have had this fear since my doctor put me on medication which made me feel ill about 10 years ago.
My husband used to take my BP at home and I told him to write it down and not tell me, as not knowing what it was helped a lot.
Since he died 4 years ago I have had a lot of heart tests and have a blocked artery which luckily has made its own bypass.
I am now on medication for my BP and last year at the doctors the lowest it went was 148/78 although he watched it shoot up and said I had white coat syndrome.
After going to the doctor today he said my BP was sky high and he got me to sit and breathe in and out slowly.
This got the pressure down to 184/84.
He then suggested a 2 day monitor which I said I couldn't tolerate, so I volunteered to take it twice a day for a month.
I am now seriously considering getting a monitor with a 60 day memory and then I don't have to look at the readings.
It would be a very good idea to have a group of people who could support each other in this and work together to overcome our fears.
Thank you for reading this.

Aug 22, 2015
We are not alone.
by: Melissa Nielsen

I've had this for 23 years. The worst us when your doctor freaks out. I am able to take mine at home now and it is around 110/70. Today it was 198/105. In the "crisis" range. I know how irrational it is but my brain takes over and I can't relax. Thinking about going to a psychologist for help. It's do embarrassing when you refuse for people to take it. They act like you're a weirdo. I always end up babbling and feel affected and judged. So happy to know I'm not alone.

Aug 29, 2015
A phobia for Life
by: Kevin B

How is everyone doing? I had a doctors appointment yesterday and, as usual was okay with everything but BP - I have found a great doctor who will not take it at the office but only my home readings, where thru relaxation, mental imagery, equi-sync binaral sound (see my previous comments about this) I can do it at home without freaking out - I do have hypertension and take meds for it but always have had White Coat Syndrome - last year was 211/97 at doctors office and 115/72 that evening at home - so I have it bad - but I have managed it pretty well by finding the right doctor - good luck to all of you

Aug 31, 2015
Tired of this!
by: Anonymous

I'm so glad I found this website! I'm 38 years old and i have this issue for several years....as many of you have posted..... I avoid going to the doctor, dentist ect.....because I freak out when they take my BP.....i feel hopeless and i don't know how to overcome this fear ..... I've tried some relaxation things but doesn't work....but I'm glad I'm not the only one that feel this way....

Sep 01, 2015
This helps me!
by: Terri

Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I feel so much better that I'm not alone with this fear. I bought the anxiety program called the Linden Method and it's been the most helpful thing I have ever done. It hasn't taken all my fear of going to the dr.'s away but has greatly helped me overall. It is an amazing program that makes perfect sense. I hope it might help you all and continue to help me too!
Thanks again for helping me feel not so crazy and alone!

Sep 03, 2015
Fed up and fighting back!
by: Fightingthegoodfightoffaith

I'm so glad I decided to do a Google search today of this topic to try and find some help. All of your posts were very comforting, just in knowing that I'm not the only one who's fighting this ridiculous fear!

It infuriates me that I am afraid of having my blood pressure taken! It used to be just at the doctors office, but, as so many of you have mentioned, it's the same way at home now. I am a Christian and I know that fear is not of God, so this really makes me mad that I'm having such a hard time overcoming this fight with myself.
I'm not afraid of anything else but taking my blood pressure. How stupid is that?! I know full well that if I just relax, my blood pressure is fine, but, when I get all freaked out it goes way high and freaks me out and the doctor. It's just so dumb!!

The sound of my blood pressure wrist cuff freaks me out so bad that it causes the cuff to show an error message because my blood pressure is too high for it to measure it! That's comforting! :p

I went to the emergency room one time a few years ago because my blood pressure was really high and my husband and I were worried. I was under a lot of stress and when I had the pressure checked there it was over 200! They kind of freaked out about it and asked me if that was normal. I said no so they sent me up to the waiting room to wait my turn to see a doctor. The emergency room was really full and I had to sit for over an hour. My husband was with me so I just leaned against him and did deep breathing and praying and calmed myself down. As a matter of fact, I felt so calm after awhile that we decided to leave and went out and got a milkshake and had a good time. When I went home I checked my blood pressure and it was perfectly fine! Lesson learned!

Now I just need to remember those things when I try to take it these days. I find comfort and peace here in knowing I'm not the only one and that it really won't kill me or stroke me out!
I'm still looking for answers.
Thanks for sharing everybody!

Sep 10, 2015
glad Im not alone
by: Sue J

the nurse took my bp this morning...it was the usual nightmare for me...ive been like this for 40 years....187/111...came down to 160/98 in a couple of minutes...now have to have the dreaded machine at home...I HATE being like this

Sep 13, 2015
Me too!
by: Diane

Glad you are all sharing your experiences. I have had this problem for 10 years in the Dr office. Low readings at home. Now it is affecting my readings at home as well. Trying relaxation but still can't take my mind of that darn BP machine!

Sep 16, 2015
I am with you all!
by: Anonymous

I agree with all of the above. If would be really nice if some of us could get together to talk about this, or practice taking our blood pressures together. If anyone lives in the Chicagoland area, we could reserve a room at a library and try this out. I have to play so many mind games with myself in order to be able to take my own pressure. I don't let the "doctor" do it. Maybe IF the doctor would do it, it would be better than some of those nasty nurses! turquoisesilver@hotmail.com.

Sep 17, 2015
Hate it
by: Anonymous

I have to have a hernia operation but I'm more scared of them not doing it because of my blood pressure going to be high from fear of surgery. I've never had surgery before. What happens if your blood pressure is too high because you're scared and anxious? I know my bp is good normally at home but anything doctor related it goes up! Do they give you a pill that lowers it before surgery and calms you down?

Sep 20, 2015
Your Operation
by: Anonymous

It's natural for most people to have a raise in blood pressure when faced with an operation.
Just remember that you'll be put to sleep and wake up with it all over, and believe me you'll be so relaxed then from the anaesthetic that your blood pressure won't be a problem!

Sep 23, 2015
Thanks!
by: Luke

Have had high BP for 8 yrs or so. I'm 34. Started taking readings at home because of what might be White Coat but I still have serious anxiety about it.

Maybe I'm causing my high blood pressure with anxiety about high blood pressure. Why not?
Couldn't find much on this subject but found this site.

Nice to hear that I'm not alone.

Why isn't this possibility talked about more?

Sep 24, 2015
Support
by: ScaredofBP

I'm 38 years old and have high blood pressure. But also have extreme white coat syndrome, so no one knows how high. I'm terrified of both having it taken at the doctors and at home. Bought a home machine and get anxious every time I look at it. My new doctor seems understanding (ie. she didn't ship me to the hospital the other day), but the fear consumes me now.

I'm glad I found this forum - your stories have helped me feel less alone in this ridiculous phobia. I'm working with a therapist to overcome it, but do worry about how long that might take.

Thanks everyone!

Sep 24, 2015
finding a doctor who understands
by: Georgia

I wish I could find a doctor's office that knew how to deal with this issue properly. My problem is that I probably do need treatment for hereditary hbp but the reaction to my overly high readings at the office have made it very difficult to take care of. The worst part is the nurses who tsk tsk every reading and when I tell them it's lower at home they say it should be low there too. I like my current doctor fairly well, but she keeps insisting I come back every three months until we can get a good reading in the office, even when I'm getting good readings at home. I passed a 24 hour test and was so happy to be able to stay on the one medication I was taking long term, but then she said I had to get blood tests and go back in another 3 months for a check up. I couldn't bear it, so her response was to not renew my medication. How is that helpful in any way?

Since then I've tried every lifestyle modification I can think of and have kept it in the borderline range. It's been higher lately at home though, so I really should go back to the doctor but am filled with dread thinking about it. I have no idea how to find a doctor who is sympathetic to this type of situation and insists the nursing staff is as well.

The reaction to a stressed out high reading in the office is fear mongering, as if I need to be scared into treatment when being scared is actually keeping me from treatment. I'm getting more stressed about it, and it's starting to make me fear the home readings as well. If anyone's found an understanding doctor, how did you do it?

Thanks.

Sep 25, 2015
Relax
by: Anonymous

I found a good doctor and the first thing I said to them on the phone was about my fear of having my blood pressure checked. I check it at home and keep track I told them and bring in your own readings. My doctor was cool about it and said my home reading were better then his. Everyone's blood pressure goes up when in a scary situation. It's the fight or flight response that triggers your body to go crazy and shoot up your blood pressure.
I even went to a psychologist about it and she gave me the best advice. She said why are you taking your blood pressure all the time? Did your doctor tell you to do this? Because I used to check always. I said no but I need to check it so I can have peace of mind and show my doctors it's good and not high like in the office. My doctor even got mine down after he was understanding and said not to worry it's all in my head.

The psychologist told me our bodies can't sustain a high blood pressure the way it is when we are scared to death and it shoots up at the office and at home when we're so anxious about it. This about how low it goes when you're asleep or really calm on the couch watching TV or something. The best thing to do is just try and relax and don't think about it.

If you check it don't look at the readings at all and keep doing this until you're ok with the actual feeling of having it checked then slowly u can go back after a month or so and look at the readings. I know I get alarmed at the first high reading then I freak out but the key is to keep calm and take a couple more.

Sep 26, 2015
How True, Relax
by: Anonymous

How true, Relax,

I posted earlier about havng to take my BP at home for a month for the doctor.
I was petrified at first but I took a good friend's BP first and then he took mine.
When I discovered it wasn't as high as I thought I took it again myself after a couple of minutes.
I made it into a project working out an Excel chart with a graph with blood pressure and pulse rate.
I discovered the lowest reading was in the late evening when I was sleepy, it never bothered me taking it then but in the morning it would be higher.I was determined however to get it down and on the 3rd reading I usually did.
I was really proud of my accomplishment and couldn't wait to show my chart to the doctor but on the morning of my appointment he rang and said he wasn't well and would I take an average figure and give it to him over the phone.
When in town I dropped the chart into the clinic so he would see it later.
I now take my BP occasionally when relaxed as I don't want to leave it for another year.
Before I first took my BP I had booked an appointment with a CB therapist but by the time I went there I had overcome my fear myself as I knew I had to.

Sep 28, 2015
Doctor's Appt.
by: Anonymous

I have an appt. tomorrow. It's a new doctor. So here we go again, another situation in which I have to explain why I don't have my bp taken. It's like opening a can of worms. I really do get tired of having to go through this. In previous posts I have wished that we could get together for support. I am in the Chicago area and has also included an email address. I have also placed a craigslist ad to get together with people with this problem. I feel that it is the best way for me to get over this phobia. A nurse with the problem actually replied to my ad, but then didn't follow through with a possible meeting. I had suggested meeting in a library, where you can reserve a room. But no, it didn't happen. If I could just once have my bp taken at a doctor's office, and it be normal, I would be so over this problem!

Sep 30, 2015
BP Insurance exam
by: kb801

How did you do at the doctor's office? I am trying to get life insurance but they want to send a nurse to "examine" me and I know it will screw everything up - I tired to get them to take my doctors notes on this to no avail.

I didn't go to the doctor for over 3 years because of this - Can you fill me in on what the nurse said?

At least I found this new doctor who now will take my readings from home - I had to get aggressive with his nurse but after twice saying "NO" and getting to talk to the doctor first, it worked! Finding the right doc is critical - if one give you a problem, find another one! Stand up for yourself!

You can't get over this by willpower alone or we would have it solved by now!

Oct 02, 2015
Doctor's Appt. Results
by: Anonymous

The doctor didn't care about my blood pressure. I told the new doctor that I had the problem and she didn't mind not taking it at all. But then I got bold and decided to have her do it anyway. Because I had thought if I could just get a reading done once, which was normal for me, I could take that record with me wherever I went. It's didn't work. It was high, but she didn't care, just sort of laughed (in a way). This is a "vein" doctor and I could see she was really interested in making money. I am so tired of trying to prove to doctors that I have normal blood pressure. I do have a hard time taking it at home too, but I can get a normal reading with much anxiety. My pulse goes up 20-30 over normal, so I know the bp reading is even lower, than the reading I am getting. turquoisesilver@hotmail.com

Oct 02, 2015
Ditto
by: Mojojojo

Just got put on bp meds today for the first time in my life. Had white coat syndrome for a while now. Took forever to get my BP down during the diuretic test. I'm laughing about it now because that's all I feel I can do. It's going to be so much fun waking up every morning now taking my BP with my trusty sphygmomanometer! Did I spell that right?

Oct 04, 2015
Wow...Others like me!
by: Ron

I always had white Coat and have routinely had doctor visits with 170/95 for years now.
I would then go home and take it...and it was OK around 130/80. So up until about 5 years ago, it was just high at the doctors....but gradually it has changed and now I am age 65... on Metroprolol 100 Mgs ER and still have "pressure attacks" at home where the pressure goes to 180/90 when I first put the cuff on. Most of the time it will go down to below 140/85 IF I sit and deep breath for about 15 to 20 minutes. Everyone tells me to relax and not think about it, but the thought of just taking it now gives me a high reading and sometimes it's a "fight" to get it down to where I can at least sleep at night without thinking I need to go to the emergency room! Funny, My Doctor wants me to take it at least 1 time a day.

Oct 05, 2015
Relief to see others in the same boat!!
by: Gilly

Like many of us fellow sufferers initially started getting high readings at docs but now just as bad at home. Latest doc has advised to stop taking it as much (previously asked to take readings six times a day and avearge out!), fortnightly now considered enough! Have seen cardiologists where nothing found so reckon its just a phobia that needs to be controlled although HOW is the big question!!? Am now scared to take at all as can feel pressure rising as soon as I put on the cuff!! Am sure I would have keeled over dead by now were it to be something serious but do wish there was some local group (I live in the East Midlands, UK) where people could meet up and try to work out how to address this debilitating problem.

Oct 05, 2015
Would be so happy to get together with others about this.
by: Noreen

One way I could get over this phobia is to go to the doctor everyday and have them take it a few times. But, as you all know, that is not going to be possible, with all the red tape and rules. But I do also think that if I could get together with others who understand this situation, it would improve. Unfortunately, I cannot find people near me. But I keep asking...Chicagoland area, turquoisesilver@hotmail.com

Oct 05, 2015
Ideas And Meet Ups
by: ScaredofBP

It seems like turqoise in Chicago is super keen about meeting up with others with this issue - I'm actually surprised to have found so many people on the internet with this issue. Equally surprised there are no groups already. If I was in Chicago, I'd be open to it. But I'm not - I'm in Toronto.

I'm working with a therapist who does cognitive behavioral therapy to de-sensitize me to the home BP machine. We're also working on visualizations to help me go to the doctor and get a good reading - after I can get a good reading at home. I bought my home machine 2 weeks ago and am only now starting to feel less anxious about even going near it. I certainly have not used it yet.

My suggestion - find a therapist (if you haven't already) who does this kind of therapy and who specializes in anxiety issues. It seems to be slowly helping me, and I'm hopeful.


Oct 05, 2015
Oops
by: ScaredofBP

By turquoise, I meant Noreen. I just noticed her name, but have noticed her email on each post. Sorry about that!

If someone is in Chicago, I do urge you to reach out to her. Such a great idea.

Oct 05, 2015
Not white coat
by: Melissa Nielsen

I've had this since 1993. I used to call it white coat syndrome but now identify it as irrational phobia. I used to get a rapid pulse at home and now I'm fine. You just have to do it. It slowly becomes easier. The problem with this phobia is that you can't hide or avoid it! I've kept records of before during and after that basically proves it's just at the doctor. I think it definitely helps that it has a name and we are not alone. Missynielsen129@msn.com

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