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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

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

Oct 06, 2015
Yea this sucks
by: Anonymous

This site definitely helps. It's tough when you get those high readings because it sends you in panic mode and then there's just no point in taking more. You feel like you're on top of the world when the reading are good though. I find that if you exercise first like go walking or running for a couple miles and then check your pressure after a while it's the best. Something about your mood. After I exercise I'm in a good mood and my pressure is usually at its best. The morning right after you wake up is a good time to check it too because you are more calm and not anxious.

Oct 06, 2015
Yea
by: Anonymous

It's funny how I don't mind pain. Like getting my wisdom teeth removed awake as long as they don't check my blood pressure. At the dentist I'm fine too. If only they could find a faster way to check blood pressure that didn't involve putting a cuff around the arm and pumping it up. Something fast like a scan thermometer lol

Oct 17, 2015
This has just started happening to me too!
by: Judy

I've been battling high BP since 2010, and it's been successful with medication for the past 5 years. Recently I felt some heart palpitations, and after a couple of weeks of feeling them, I realized it wasn't smart to ignore this, so I went to the doctor. Well, of course my pressure was pretty high and he doubled my dose of metoprolol ER succinate, from 50 to 100. I started checking my pressure at home and I used to have no problems checking at home and got fantastic readings before, years ago. But now since this thing with the palpitations and the doubling up on the dosage, every time I try to check my bp at home, I start to feel the panic rise in my chest and I know it's going to be a really super high number, and it always is! I know it's because of the panic, and I start to try to watch something funny or listen to music to take my mind off of it, but it never helps. Like I can't trick my mind or something. I can't redo the readings because they'll just get higher and higher for me. I have no great advice but just wanted to add to the conversation and I can't believe how common this is! How are those of us with true high BP ever supposed to get an accurate reading anymore when we can't even test ourselves at home, where they're supposed to be lower? Has anyone found it helpful to take a break from it? I feel like I want to do that, but in a way, that might be dangerous and not something to ignore. My fear is it getting so high I'll stroke out or have a heart attack. I'm not afraid of the actual machine, I'm afraid of how high I'm going to see those numbers go and like someone said, it'll ruin my day because then I wonder if I have to go to the ER or something. Oh my, this is driving me insane.

Oct 17, 2015
Phobia with Blood Pressue
by: Bvear

I am so glad I came upon this site. I have BP phobia and it has gotten worse over the years especially after menopause. I am 61 and my number are very high at the drs office...and like many here, I can't take it at home without going into panic mode. I just had some outpatient surgery and my BP was high and then down a little and then spiked again. The office stressed me out so much that I had to take some anxiety meds when I got home. And until reading these posts I was having a difficult time releasing my BP fears and that something was going to happen to me. Like alot of other people here I have had a multitude of tests all normal. I have also been on all kinds of BP meds. I am considering seeing a therapist to help me work thru this...thanks everyone for your comments...I wish I could find a local support group in the Springifled, MA area.

Oct 17, 2015
Relax
by: Anonymous

I have taken a long break from checking mine and I don't miss it. I used to check it weekly and it would start a little high but I would get it down and then I thought why do I bother checking it always? It always comes down when I'm calm and relaxed so I don't have high bp. My doctor didn't even tell me to check it he agreed it's high when anxious but normal when relaxed. Everyone's bp goes up high in a stressful situation just accept that fact. Our bodies are pretty amazing and strong. They can sustain a high bp for a long time but also know that these crazy spikes from fear and panic don't last forever. Our bodies can't maintain that high intensity level and will eventually come back down to normal. Forget the constant fears and checking. A therapist told me to stop checking and throw away the machine. It became a compulsive behavior and that's not good. Take up a hobby, go to church, get on a good exercise regimen. Your body and mind will thank you and you will see great results. Don't give up and stay strong. Fear is not knowing God. With God anything is possible. So just your mind right and live a healthy happy lifestyle.

Oct 22, 2015
UPDATE to my story from last week. Happy Ending!
by: Judy W.

I want to update my experience. I went to see a PA (Physician's Assistant) today about this. I'm very glad I went and want to encourage you all to make an appt. If you are very upfront about the issues you're going through, and if you find someone who is compassionate and willing to sit and take the time with you, you can find help. You don't need to suffer alone and you shouldn't because there is help out there and good people to help you. This is a copy of the email sent to my friend just now, so it may sound a little weird in spots, but I so wanted to share my story as I think it's very important and if I can help even one person get through this horrible phobia, it will be a blessing.

Here is my story:


When I went to see the PA, she was so AWESOME!

On the way there, I had to pop a xanax because I felt my panic starting. OMG! Stoplight- XANAX!

So I walk in and the nurse comes at me with the BP cuff. I said, why don't we just wait for Denise to do that because that's what I'm here about and I'm having issues and just looking at that thing is freaking me out right now! She walked away like I was a crazy lady. I did not care. :)))

So the PA, Denise, comes in, she's maybe late 30's early 40's. Super sweet. She sits down and starts talking and I start at the beginning telling her everything, and pretty soon I'm crying like a stupid idiot. She calmed me down and we just talked and by the time she was ready to actually take my BP reading, I felt much calmer. It was like 153/84, which actually isn't so bad, considering I've been up over 100 on my bottom number before!!!

I'm glad you told me to take my machine with me. We compared it with her reading, and she said while my machine is the best and the one they recommend to their patients, it doesn't work for me. huh??? She said the way my veins in my arms are, it's very very hard to listen to those last beats and to get an accurate reading, you have to really be trained and listen. The machine doesn't do that. Remember when I told you my numbers are always better at the doctor's office? That's why!!!

We used my machine, and I was at 153/96 on it! She did it with her cuff again, and I was at 153/84 again. So....12 points off is a HUGE difference, especially that bottom number!!!!!! So, I'm still on the high side, but not as terrible as I thought. She added another BP medication for me to take when I wake up, and the doctor ok'd it, I already take the other one when I go to bed.

I hadn't eaten before I went, so even though I'd had coffee only, she considered it a fast, it was 5 pm by this time, and so they took a whole blood panel of everything. She checked my neck with the stethoscope, my heart, lungs, ankles for swelling, I mean, she was as good as any doctor ever! And sweet and patient with me! What a great experience!

So now that I know my machine is off I really can't trust it and it's brand new, so I went into Walgreens to pick up my new meds and talked to the manager about it. They'll return it for me no problem.

I have to go again next week to see her again to see how my pressure is, and then maybe do that for awhile, ya know, every week, every month, every few months, you get the picture. But if I'm not going to be checking at home anymore, it's no biggie for me to do that. I just hope they aren't going to charge me a co-pay each time!! Maybe the first couple times because I'll probably wanna talk with her, but I can't imagine that if I went in there just to get my pressure checked they'd charge me all the time, but we'll see.

So, anyway, it was a good day and I'm really so glad I went. I feel so much more relaxed now, no more panic. I felt like such a stupid idiot, crying, and she asked if anything else was going on bad in my life, and I said that no I have such a good life, it's embarrassing and crazy that I've become so fixated on something so stupid, but, ya know, she didn't seem judgey at all. She was very compassionate and I'm sure she's seen it all anyway, worse than me. So, that's what happened! :))

Oct 24, 2015
Yes, take a break.
by: noreen

The less I take my bp, the better off I am. One thing that seems to have helped, is getting the wrist monitor. Since it isn't squeezing my arm, I have less reaction and acceptable readings. A doctor suggested I get this one. And, I've seen it being used at another doctor's office. I don't let the doctor's office take my bp, anymore. I know it will be high, so why do it and ruin my day, my life!

Oct 27, 2015
Scared to check again
by: Anonymous

So I havnt checked my bp since last December and I had an anxiety attack and it was high then so my wife got fed up with me checking and took the machine away since. I've been thinking about it on and off and it's kind of good that she took it away. I used to check it like once a month and it was usually pretty good until I started worrying about it one day and other health things like moles and going to get checked at a dermatologist. I had that on my mind and was checking it and it was all over the place because I was worrying about miles etc. well miles checked out and here I am almost a year later and so scared to even check my bp again. I fear the worst that it's gonna be sky high and I should go to the hospital or something. I avoid anything medical like its the plague but I went to a new doctor last year and everything was ok. He understood my anxiety caused my bp spikes and it was usually good at home. Now I'm faced with the fear of checking it again. How can I get over this and just be normal?

Oct 28, 2015
How to cure a phobia...
by: Noreen

The best way to cure a phobia is to do that thing.
I read somewhere else, just to take the bp, but don't look at the reading. Just do it one time, over days, to get used to the action. After a time of practicing, when you are at a high moment, then look at those readings from the memory function of the monitor. This, as well as using the wrist monitor, has helped me. I seem to do better if I am paying attention to something else while I am taking my bp...talking to a friend, watching the boob tube, etc.

Oct 28, 2015
Relieved to find this thread...
by: Kelly

Like everyone else on here seemingly I thought I was the only one with this problem. Would be good to know just how widespread it actually is as some medics act as if they have never encountered it before. I was lucky to find this today as just had a horrible shock. I was supposed to have an exercise test for the ectopic heartbeats I have been experiencing for several months, and no one told me in advance that I'd need to be on a BP monitor throughout... (I'd already explained to cardiac specialist that I had phobia). They were very kind in the unit and said it would be OK if I just had one test at the beginning, and although a lovely nurse held my hand through the ordeal the result was 208/115!!! This despite fairly normal readings done at home in recent weeks.
Consequently they were unable to do the test and I am left feeling worse than ever. How I hate being like this. Have even had CBT which got me as far as taking my own readings (although I have to get someone else to look at results) but after today's shock I don't think I'll ever dare take a reading again!

Oct 28, 2015
Finally checked! Good news
by: Anonymous

So I had the machine on my living room table for a couple days and just lookin at it made me anxious. I was irritable all week because I knew I wanted to check it because I havn't in so long. It was a nice break not checking it. I started with just putting the cuff on and then taking it off for one day. Then the next day I plugged the machine in and just practiced putting the cuff on and that was that. The third day I was really anxious and said I'm just gonna check it a few times but not look at it. I felt the pressure on my arm and my heart beating fast but I did not look at the numbers. Just took it and then turned if off. Just doing this a few times made me feel better so I went for a jog and then took a shower and I was in a good mood and good spirits because at least I was taking baby steps. I sat down and checked it again a few times without looking but really wanted to peek at the numbers So eventually I peaked when I felt calmer and saw it was 140/75 which made me really happy so I slot checking it after and brought it down to 125/75 and that was that. I'm so happy now. I got over my fear with baby steps. I also would start looking at the numbers as the cuff filled up and noticed that when it pumps to about 160 or less my bp is usually good. When it pumps to over 200 it's higher. So that's another step u can take to just look at that before actually looking at the numbers. It's all mental with me and my anxiety raises mine. Good diet and exercise and being relaxed is the best advice. Also laughter helps before checking. Watch something funny. Ok sorry for going on hope everyone can get over their fears. It's just a darn machine!

Oct 30, 2015
blood pressure and phobia.
by: jim

I also lived every day of my life worrying about my bp.at 18 yrs old and after smoking 5 cigarettes in the Dr's office he told me we were going to the hospital if I did not calm down, put me on pb meds and from that point I was petrified to even see a bp kit. Somewhere down the line I started checking my own and I would check it 20 to 30 times a day and wind up going to the er because it would get higher each time I checked it. My Dr could not believe I checked it so many times every day. He put me on a low mg of stertraline and now I do not care to check it or worry about it. But if I miss a dose look out I just made my bp go to 207 over 105 by checking it. I started to panic took more bp meds and now it is down to 133 0ver 77. It sucks living like this. I worry about having a sinking heart attack for most of my life. What does it feel like not to worry about this I will never know. Good luck my friends.

Oct 31, 2015
I wish we could all meet!
by: Noreen

It would help me more than anything to get together with all of you. Again, I ask, are any of you in the Chicago area? turquoisesilver@hotmail.com

Nov 01, 2015
Mindfulness
by: Kelly

I have been looking into mindfulness as a way of overcoming my BP monitor phobia. It's about changing our relationship with fear and anxiety in general and basically accepting whatever the situation might be. I intend to give it a go and will report back if I find any improvements. Anyone interested in meantime Jon Kabat Zinn would appear to be good start. He is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. So very good credentials.There are lots of his talks and exercises available on youtube.

Nov 04, 2015
Attempting to conquer my fear
by: Hanna

I am currently undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy through the NHS to conquer my fear of having my blood pressure taken and other fears to do with having my blood taken etc. I don't fear my blood pressure being too high, I fear the feeling of feeling my pulse and that my circulation is being cut off. This is coupled with an extreme shame that I react so extremely when the medical staff try to take it. Even writing this is fairly difficult.

My therapist has been taking me through very gentle processes and exercises to try and get me over it. Unfortunately if anything has become enormously apparent although there is no magic answer. However, with very dedicated work and a supportive therapist I believe I am definitely on route to overcoming this phobia.

Every time I come across a difficult situation I have to write down the circumstances, then I have to write down my automatic thoughts / fears, the resulting feelings, the resulting emotions and my reaction. I then have to analyse it and give advise as though I were to a friend. Then I have to set myself goals and experiments of how to start moving it forwards.

The aim is to make these goals really gentle, and to take breaks between them so that you don't scare yourself further. Sometimes the act of writing down the thought itself is hard enough.

Anyhow, I have to have a blood pressure test tomorrow and it is my hope it is going to go with as positive approach as possible. Wish me luck!

Nov 08, 2015
Good Luck and Lots of Support
by: Noreen

We are all there for you, in spirit. We all know exactly what you are going through. It's a crazy phobia to have. I wish I a had a fear of flying, instead. Then, I could just take a Xanax, or something. This phobia is so all-pervasive (and intrusive).

Nov 17, 2015
AFRAID of Blood Pressure
by: joseph

hey guys! Im 23 years old and I have also the same problem with you.. I am soo afraid everytime the doctor or nurse check my BP.. I dont know Why? I just feel uncomfortable... please help me.. it saddens me really.. sometimes i ask my self why? it embarrassed me for many times... and I was so shy to admit the reality that I just afraid on the machine... help me pleasseee.... GOD BLESS US ALL..

Nov 23, 2015
Read all of the blog
by: Noreen

Joseph, reading this blog has really helped me. Because it is a lonely feeling to have this fear. I don't discuss it friends or family. One reason I don't is because I don't want to put any ideas in anyone's head to pass this problem along. It is really a nasty habit...getting a phobic reaction to that blood pressure machine. That is what it is...a habit we've hypnotized ourselves into. Supposedly, we can hypnotize ourselves out of it. It just takes practice. I've done things like when I'm going for a walk, visualize myself throwing off an anchor, symbolizing the phobia, and saying "I don't want it anymore, I don't need it anymore, and I don't have it anymore". After all it is your thoughts that are causing this. So it's your (our) thoughts that can stop it. There is hope!

Nov 24, 2015
In the same boat
by: Anonymous

I feel so stupid trying to tell people that I am afraid of the sound of that cuff beeping and then being told it's all in my mind. Well no kidding it's all in my mind. My poor doctor wants me to put on a 24 hr monitoring machine. I told her after 24 hrs of constant beeping , my head I think would explode. I have a cuff at home, and just looking at it raises my anxiety level, and I can feel my heart rate elevating. I broke my leg a few yrs ago and had to go in for surgery. Was I concerned about pain, anesthetic etc, no, all I was anxious about was after surgery they kept on taking my BP . (Which they do for every one)

How can I be so stupid!!!!

Nov 25, 2015
Me too !!
by: Anonymous UK

Read the last comments with great interest as to have the dreaded 24 hour machine fitted next week!! Not sure if it is going to prove anything other than confirm my fear of the darned thing as sure it will stay high throughout!! Am getting to the state that BP is constantly on my mind so think therapy or hypnosis might be the next step, any advice gratefully received.

Nov 26, 2015
To Anonymous from UK
by: Noreen

I hope you've read all the comments in the blog. There is a lot of helpful thoughts. A doctor suggested that I wear that 24 monitor and I declined. Why put myself in a state of panic for that long? Also who the hell can sleep with that thing on? What has helped me the most is to buy one of those wrist monitors. The one that you hold up against your heart, (not the new one that you put on your wrist and then lay your wrist on a table). Just leave it on my wrist without taking a reading, just to get used to it. Then, take the bp reading without looking. Do these things for a few days, weeks, and I believe it can help you. Remember, it is YOUR mind's thoughts that are causing the problem. The mind has to be retrained. I've tried therapy and hypnosis. That did not help me. The best way to get over a phobia is to do it. Try the suggestions I've made, (and others). You can get better! Trust me (us).

Nov 27, 2015
Try this
by: Anonymous

I have had HBP for 26 years and also have white coat syndrome. After many attempt's of trying to lower it tension was the cause. Now before i take it i have two large alcoholic drinks which puts me in a completely relaxed state and my b/p results are normal. Try it.

Nov 29, 2015
2nd fear
by: KB801

In almost all phobias it's not the first fear that puts you over the edge it's the second - the one were you fear the fear itself. If you allow the fear to take its course and not add the"oh my gosh here we go again" and you focus on the fear and make it worse. It's not easy but I you just let the first fear run its course and not add that second " omg this is afwul" and don't try to control it the fear will eventually fade.

And remember even if it's high when you take it - it will go down when you are not thinking about it/asleep etc

Good luck all

Nov 30, 2015
Being Fitted Today!!
by: Anonymous UK

Thanks for your thoughts. Monitor being fitted this afternoon so will try to keep calm and use some of the suggested techniques, will keep you updated, fingers x !!

Nov 30, 2015
Working on it!
by: JMN

So comforting to know there are others with my same issue!!
Nice not to feel so alone!
This is a rather recent phobia that I believe was brought on by the fact my dad had a small stroke (w/a BP of over 230/110). Ever since this happened (almost 2 months now) I get severely anxious just thinking about having my BP taken!
I've never had an issue w/having my BP taken before at the Dr's office or anywhere else, no history of high BP, and am a very healthy 52 year old woman-I eat right, exercise and keep myself at a healthy weight. No meds.
Now, I go into full panic mode and the adrenaline sends my BP way up whenever I attempt to get a reading (at the grocery store). Scary!

I've just purchased an audio book that was recommended to me and I am hoping this will help.
Check out; Pass Through Panic by Dr. Claire Weekes. I'm going to give it a try and am praying for success! It had great reviews, so I thought I would share.
Best of luck to all of you here....I know we can beat this!!
Thank you for your support.
JMN

Dec 01, 2015
Monitor On!!
by: Anonymous UK

Just a quick update, had the dreaded monitor fitted yesterday (just inflating now!!) and not happy!! Initial blood pressure on fitting was much higher than ever before at 219/99, reduced to 205/99 within a few minutes but pretty sure it has stayed high ever since as can't switch off from the constant waiting for the next reading!! Haven't slept at all and longing for 3pm this afternoon when it comes off!! My advice, unless really necessary, don't bother with this monitor as all it does is build the fear! Will be interesting to see what's next!! Expect to hear from the hospital consultant within a couple of werks, will keep you posted but going to look at relaxation tapes or maybe yoga!!

Dec 01, 2015
It's nice to know I'm not alone
by: Mike

Hi, I'm sorry so many of you suffer from this issue, so do I, but at the same time it's encouraging to know I'm not alone. I've had anxiety issues for all my adult life--and going to the Dr.'s office may just be my biggest trigger. Last time I was in the office the first reading came back at 190/100 and the nurse just looked at me like WTF? I'm this 5 ft. 9, 150 pound guy who runs and takes care of myself and I confessed to the nurse I'm terrified of coming to the office. He was sympathetic and a few minutes later my Dr., who knows about my issue, took it and it had come to down to about 160/100 (When I got back to my parents' house 20 minutes later or so it was down to 130/85). Lately, after reading Dr. Carolyn Dean's amazing book 'The Magnesium Miracle,' I've been supplementing with magnesium and it's really been helping to the take the edge off. She makes the point in the book that most people who have issues with anxiety and depression or often hypertension are deficient in this very important mineral (Stress depletes magnesium from the body). I'm learning not to be ashamed any more of this fear, but there are still times it kind of drives me batty. Slowly, I'm desensitizing myself more and more, but it takes time. Good luck to everybody and be well this holiday season :)

Dec 01, 2015
Slow Exposure Therapy
by: ScaredofBP

I'm working with my therapist on slow exposure to the home BP machine. Finally got it on my arm and inflated (although so loose it errored out) without going over a 5 on the 1-10 scale of anxiety.

Going to my doctor tomorrow, and am not letting her take my BP. It could push my therapy back weeks. Should be interesting, but it's my body and I call the shots. That's something else I'm working on - the doctor is there to help, but they can only do what YOU let them and what YOU are comfortable with. If you need time to work through a phobia, they can't stop you.


Dec 01, 2015
Magnesium
by: JMN

Thanks, Mike.
I too find magnesium to be helpful for calming me down.
I will check out the book you mentioned.
Most people are deficient in this mineral...I suggested that my mom take it for her heart palpitations and she is having great results!

Dec 02, 2015
Greetings from Australia
by: Anonymous

I am so pleased to have met you all on line and to learn that there are so many like me! I hate all medical procedures where taking my BP is necessary. I've just been diagnosed with cataracts and immediately my BP has risen thinking of the ordeal ahead, especially the reactions of medical staff when I get high readings. They really freak out, don't' they? That scares me more. Luckily for me, I am ok at the dentist probably because he is a very calm and understanding man. All your comments have helped me greatly. Thank you so much.

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