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

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.

Dec 06, 2015
white coat
by: Pat

So glad to have found you guys 😊 I have same problems, taking BP at home or Drs office..I never had BP problems until the last few years...now I have turned 70, and that really bothers me..I just retired from my job this year, and since then I have a phobia about my blood pressure...I get a headache and know my BP is up, and it always is..

Dec 09, 2015
Try to find others
by: Noreen

Pat, I've tried to find others, where I live in the Chicago area, to possibly get together to support each other. I think one person from this group on the blog is from Florida. Where exactly, I don't remember. I've even put an ad on craigslist. No luck so far, but I keep trying.

We all understand your problem. When you are feeling low, please reread all of this blog and I am sure you will feel better.

Dec 12, 2015
so fed up
by: Lesley

I had a stroke 18 months ago but have been lucky to recover well apart from side effects of medication and this stupid irrational fear of having my bp taken. Recently went on holiday to Florida and had to see a doctor there which worried me due to being afraid of 'the machine'. Even though I was panicking bp was 160 over 100 which was not as bad as I thought it would be. Now home I will need to see my own doc to discuss pills I'm now on and she'll want to take my bp. My fear started earlier this year when they gave me a machine to bring home and take bp twice a day for 6 days - it was a disaster and I had been perfectly OK before that taking it at home. Now hate the sight of the machine.

Dec 23, 2015
Phobia for measuring BP
by: Ademola

Thank God for being able to get all these comments from this website. I thought i'm the only person involved but thank God for the comments 'am reading here. My BP is always up anytime my doctor or my pharmacist measure it and this is due to my phobia, panicking and fear. I'm trying to measure it on my own and 'am getting it right normal but each time I visit my Doctor the panic will affect my reading and it is even affecting me when I measure it myself, pls help o.

Dec 23, 2015
Yeah me too!
by: Anonymous

Just got back from the Dr's. And as usual I was in the 170 over 100 range. Even brought in my monitor and showed my home readings of 120 83 and 115 67....doc was rude and didn't care. He said my montitor wasn't accurate. Even the nurse gave me a hassle. So they let me do my monitor and it was spot on.....then I showed them past home reading. They called me crazy for not taking the meds. Now they want to schedule another EKG..this is ridiculous. I hate living with this phobia because our society had deemed the man in the white coat with a cuff the standard health being by the approatote number. Guess I'll have to seek hypnosis . Zen ?What ever..?.

Every doctor I change and go to we go through this same routine. I'm so sick of it. I'm 52 and have been dealing with this for 30 years now.

Glad to find this site and know I am not alone.

Dec 24, 2015
Temporary high BP not dangerous
by: Kevin801

It is hard to overcome but finding the right doctor is VERY important - I have one now who just lets me bring my home readings in - Try Hemi-Sync before taking BP - check out my earlier comments on this.

I have discovered that a big part of the fear and avoidance is being embarrassed at what nurse/doctor thinks - I have found being aggressive about it helps - we are the type of people who don't like to stand up to someone or make waves (my opinion here)

If it is only high at the doctors or when nervous at home, the fear of a stroke is way overdone - it will go lower when you stop thinking about or go to sleep - here's a stat that should be calming - my doctor said that with the bp I had at the office (211/102, highest its ever been) and cholesterol at 220, I would have a 1 out of 3 chance of a stroke over 10 years! - I figured at that reading id be dead in a couple of days! at home I'm about 135/75 which is fine, and now col at 175.

I still struggle with this fear but using this site helps a lot - keep writing your thoughts! KB

Dec 26, 2015
Fear
by: Lisa

Glad to know I am not alone. My fear started about 30 years ago when I went to the doctors (not my usual doctor). My blood pressure was 140/80 and he said it's too high And I could have a stroke any time. Ever since then my blood pressure has gone up to about 170/90 and higher when I went into hospital. Not too high at home about 160/80 and most nights it comes right down to about 120/60. Just the sight of the machine upsets me. I get sick of explaining how I feel to the doctor, in fact I put off going just so they don't take my blood pressure. The other thing that annoys me is when they say in the doctor's surgery or when in hospital "just relax". Don't they know if I could do that I would! I feel I have no control over it. I am disappointed that the people you go to for medical assistance can't be more understanding and supportive. I don't do this to myself deliberately. My dad and my mum always said to me, what are you worried about, my blood pressure is never high. All I hope is one day I will just forget about it because I do worry about it daily.

Dec 27, 2015
Down with the HBP
by: Montrealer

I'm in the same both or bath :-)

When first I was "diagnosed" with HBP it was all my fault.

My fault because when I was "diagnosed", 5 years ago, I was losing my job and Dr asked if everything was Ok at work, I said Oh yes no problems

My fault because for the 2 visits to the dr office I was in rush finding a parking and running to the dr office.

Dr's are quick in prescribing and I didn't have all the "knowledge" I have now regarding HBP so she hooked me to HTZ 12.5 mg which becomes 25 mg after a year or so.

Once I was even told that HBP medication is for life .... wow wow what psychological support.

My last visit I got 180/100 and told that she is not supposed to let me go. I told her I'm just tense since it has been awhile I didn't measure it.

Since then I'm avoiding to see her cause I don't wanna her to prescribe me some other "poison" that I have to ingest.

I'm now scared to measure it at home but I do it, it starts high then it goes down.

I don't wanna be in denial but I think the fact that the reading doesn't stay high is a good indication that maybe I don't even have HBP and that all is in my head.

I feel trapped and I regret that I didn't decline the medication in the first place.

Sometimes a laugh brings it down, sometimes surfing while measuring it ... just get busy for 5 sec and voila' 20 points or so down.

It is ridiculous.

A month ago I called the nurse to tell her that the numbers at home are not bad (around 135-145/88-95) she told me those are high, in a way she freaked me out.

I think Doctors and nurses have to study psychology first and they have to be cut for such job, it is not for whoever wanting just to make big salaries.

I use to panic when I get 160-180/100-110, now I just freak out :-) and I walk by the house while measuring it and you know what, which doesn't make sense, it goes down to 150ish ... go figure.

I'm really glad I met all of you here and I encourage you to face this phobia and to talk to your care provider that stuffing you with meds is not good, to put it mildly.

I know that a doctor has to cash in seeing the max of patient, at least here in quebec/canada, but we need a doctor that listens to us with empathy that encourage us when we do a lil better.

I'm 100 % sure that if you go to see your doctor and he/she mesures your BP and even if it is high (without you seeing the numbers) will tell you "wow you are doing great, 'm glad it is improving ... let me take another mesure" ... I'm sure he will get low numbers.

But it seems they don't really care ... more they prescribe more grants they get.

Again, Good luck for you All and 'm quite sure a good percentage among you doesn't need any meds cause you are just fine :-)

Dec 28, 2015
Good to have a friend from Canada!
by: Noreen

Keep reading and find comfort in our situation. I really wish we could all get together.

Dec 29, 2015
Great to meet u all
by: VJ

It has been really debilitating feeling for almost 2 years and am so glad i am not alone. I am 58 years old. It is not just white coat but just the sight or even the thought of the stupid machine kicks in the panic. Even a 3rd or 4th reading after deep conscious breathing never gave normal. I can actually feel the jitters when i think about measuring bp. This irrational fear is so obsessive that my day is occupied with these thoughts. My muscles are tight and a constant neck pain. I told the doctor and he said i should start taking bp meds. He believes i do have hypertention because my readings are high even at home. He also gave me Lexapro. I think i will start with Lexapro and see if it helps. Would be great to actually meet any of you. I am around Cherry Hill, NJ area.

Dec 30, 2015
To JV
by: Montrealer

I would not mind taking meds if I really have HBP.

The problem here is that we are dealing with phobia, anxiety n so on.

So we need to fix that because we know for sure that it is the root cause of the High readings.

If I was a doctor I'd refer you to a psychologist because you may only need to exocise those bad thoughts that are making u feel miserable.

Take time to talk to your doctor and if he doesn't have time for a chat find another one.
My mistake is that I accept to take meds and once u r hooked there is no way out ... they r called drugs r n't they.

Cheers


Dec 30, 2015
afraid of being afraid
by: Anonymous

Hi I've had this for years also! Went to a therapist who advised me to take it at home and always give the nurse a number don't just tell her it will be high. Well I mostly do OK until I come to periods of high stress and then it's an ordeal to take it at home too so I'm in the same boat. I need surgery in a month and have started freaking out .... just really glad to know I'm not alone!!! Thanks!!

Jan 01, 2016
High BP from anxiety
by: Anonymous

Hi, wow I can't explain how thankful I am to have come across these responses. I had my son two years ago and had to deliver him early due to high blood pressure. I am 27 and consider myself healthy otherwise. Long story short after my son was born I was not allowed to be released from the hospital until my blood pressure normalized. Every time the doctor came in to take my BP I immediately felt sooo anxious. My heart raced, I physically felt my blood pressure rising. Now TWO years later I have a fear of taking my blood pressure. I monitor it at home and get somewhat normal readings, but higher than normal. I know for a fact it's my anxiety. The doctors are another story, I have anxiety even thinking about getting my BP taken at the doctors. Anyways please please let me know what others are doing to cope! I need to get this under control... Thank you all!

Jan 05, 2016
Me Too!
by: Anonymous

I'm going on 78 and have had HP phobia since I was 25 and trying to get life insurance! No Luck!! The top of my bucket list? Trying to find a cure! Reluctantly go to doctors unless have an emergency! Example: Gall Bladder and appendix! I know my BP is not hi until I'm in doctor's office! Never left hospital & being told BP was high! BP at doc's office sky high, knowing they are taking my BP! When I leave, I am relaxed and know it's less than 140/90; my reading at home! Lately, It is getting high at home (the phobea has come home)! Went to doc and they are trying BP meds! NO Difference!! I know I don't need them! So, I' m gonna stop taking it! Taking BP anytime, I feel BP rising! They tell me to be aware of stroke! I have been active all my life playing sports, still work out at least 3 times week joggin, ridin Airdyne bike and WALK steps at high school stadium! 5'9, 177 lbs! They tell me I'm overweight! I never think about BP till havin it taken! Glad, after all these years, I' not alone!! Just relax, we'll b fine!

Jan 05, 2016
thanks Mike
by: J

I tried the magnesium for pre surgery anxiety and it does seem to help ... have the same BP phobia as everyone else and trying not to obsess about the coming doctor visits and surgery day (yeah riiight!) anyway, Thanks!

Jan 06, 2016
Beetroot juice
by: Anonymous

I'm so glad I'm not alone on this one. Like every body else I'm scared of readings, home machine, sound of it, looking at it, thought of it. So I've taken matters into my own hands after reading a British study on beetroot juice. Medically proven to lower BP much the same as medication. I drink 250mils every day as a preventative. You get used to the taste & I believe it's doing the job. Still have the anxiety problem reference to BP but to me it's like taking medication with no side effects. Trust in the beetroot.

Jan 07, 2016
Few things i started doing
by: VJ

Thanks Montrealer. Fully agree with you on 'drugs' being drugs. One thing i wanted to share here is i got my Vit D tested and it is 17.5 ng/Ml which i came to know is well below normal. Started taking supplements but not in high doses. Also started few minutes of yoga (mostly breathing excercises) daily mornings. Have not attempted checking my BP but feeling a little better mentally. It all may be a 'placebo' effect and psychological but i will continue. Its too early to say. I also looked at something called 'amygdala retraing', not tried yet but will try. My feeling is, we have to beat this ! We will attack it from all directions ! Try everything as long as it is not damaging. I wish you guys all the best. Be in touch,

Cheers.

Jan 09, 2016
Bp app phobia support group
by: JepOy

Im jepoy from the philippines. 27 y.o. Siagnosed with hypertension 2 years ago.

I have the same experience just like you. If im alone, my bp is fine. When anyone sses that im checking my bp, it goes high. Much higher when im with my doctor. Do you have any group in fb so that we can share our sentiments there. Who knows, with our support to one another, we can overcome this phobia and be normal again.

Jan 10, 2016
agree
by: j

I think a lot of it stems from 'performance anxiety' and that first time you get the 'stink eye' from a nurse. I had one run out of the room to fetch the doctor who lectured me but I stuck to my guns and refused the medicine b/c I know I don't have high BP just the phobia. But I did get some tools from my therapist who I had a working relationship with from other issues but this problem has been going on for at lest 20 years ... I can usually get a normal reading at home but under times of high anxiety like waiting on upcoming surgery and how many stink eyes I'll get it's high at home too but nothing off the charts. Luckily my personal doctor knows about it and that helps... good luck everybody a good therapist does help if only to give you 'tools' to cope at the doctors office ... sorry to say I don't know about a cure but if you can finally desensitize to a home reading then that would be all the proof you need. That's why those BP machines were invented!

Jan 18, 2016
Dr advice on this condition
by: Tauqeer

My name is Tauqeer, am from India and I never had this issue before, not sure when it kind of got into my system. I dread the same way as you all, while just looking at this machine.

Once I went to a Dr as part of Health Checkup for my new job, it was a mandatory test, which I couldnt escape, I explained this to the Dr when he saw my BP level rising, and he advised me to have a Ambulatory Device, which basically is tied to you for 24 hours and would record it once in a few hours, and at the end of 24 hours, it will give you a trend of the BP reading using which we can ascertain the correct BP.

I checked the cost of this Machine and it was found to be very expensive, but still even if I have this machine, I dont think I have the courage to wear it for 24 hours. I feel facing it again and again and getting used to it would help, but it is easier said than done. My email id is mtauqeer@hotmail.com if somebody can crack this please pass the info to me. I need help!

Jan 22, 2016
Reply to last comment regarding wearing machine 24/7
by: Anonymous

I think the problem with wearing that machine for 24 hours would be that every time you'd feel the thing tightening on your arm, you'd go into panic mode and it would read consistently high anyway, so it still wouldn't be an accurate reading. I'd thought about doing a machine like that but if that's what would happen, then why bother. It would only do more harm than good.

Jan 22, 2016
Don't Do It!!
by: Anonymous

Just replying to the last comment re 24 hour monitoring!! Recently had one of the dreaded machines strapped to me and can honestly say it was a nightmare and proved nothing other than confirmed my fear of having BP taken! BP remained consistantly high and after 24 hours without sleep felt drained and so stressed. Consultant accepted that fear played a big part in the high readings however we are now at an impasse as no real idea how to proceed. Just trying to switch off, not easy but am sure that I would have keeled over and died were my BP to be as seriously high as the readings show. Hate myself for not being able to resolve but so pleased that I am not alone!!

Jan 23, 2016
To Tauqueer
by: Noreen

When one has a phobia, the best way to get over it, is to do the thing that causes the problem.

I was advised to get a wrist monitor, the one you hold up to your heart. It is much better for me, as it is not cranking up on my arm!

Practice doing it without looking at the results. After a while, you can get used to the action and not be so bothered, so that when you finally do look, it should be good.

Anyway, this has helped me. I can usually get a normal reading. If I don't I do it a few more times and then get a normal reading.

Jan 26, 2016
Thanks Noreen
by: Tauqeer

Thanks Noreen and others for your valuable comments and suggestions, I agree that strapping our arm for 24 hours would not be a good idea, it would definetly drain us and keep us constantly stressed. But what Noreen said I think would help us all to an extent, i.e go through the entire process and never look at the readings and continue doing so, until you feel comfortable with the feeling and I think the final reading would be ok.

But I think there has to be a kind of awareness, so that the Doctors and the respective faternity would actually agree that it is indeed a fear and not that the respective people are suffering from High BP, so that they would come out with something which would help us all. I fear,God forbid, if people suffering from this issue land up in a hospital and the Doctors wouldnt buy your explanation, we feel helpless, I have suffered the same situation and had to forcibly come out of the hospital. How long can we do the same. There has to be some help from the Doctors.

Feb 01, 2016
Deep Breathing is Important
by: Kevin801

Remember everyone that deep breathing for 5-10 minutes can reduce systolic BP by 20-25 points - the studies show that it works for people with White Coat BP but not on others!!!

Feb 03, 2016
nervous in seeing BP machine
by: rj

every time i went to any clinic, i always go nervous i don't even know why even though i'm not there for the check up. it's just that i'm afraid of taking my BP. MY BP is 130/90 because when the moment the BP machine get into me, my heart is pounding very strong and very fast also for the reason that i don't know . and i can't help myself to relax even though i try

Feb 06, 2016
Thank You Candi
by: Anonymous

I found this post while experiencing extreme anxiety. I,too, check my BP dozens of times a day and it's usually high the first several times, but then goes down; it continuously fluctuates between high and normal depending on where I'm at in my panic cycle. I clicked on the first link Candi posted and by the end of reading the page my anxiety was significantly reduced. Thanks for that wonderful resource.

Feb 06, 2016
Thanks!
by: bmms

I've been dealing with this for 30 years +/- and I wish I had found this conversation LOOOOONG ago. I don't really have any other anxiety issues that I know of but my MD knows my high readings in his office are not what's really going on. I tried to get him to stop taking readings because it just reinforced that reaction but he wouldn't. He said he was showing that I had "white coat syndrome" by comparing to my readings at home. I've tried meditation and got to where I just stopped taking for long periods.

About 1989, I was diagnosed with HBP and put on meds. It took me about 10 years to figure out that I didn't really need them but I was still in the "doctor knows best" mindset. I'm not there anymore and haven't gone back to meds although I am still concerned about it. I exercise regularly but my weight has gone up a little and being older (62) might mean that I need to go back but, until I can get reliable readings, it's hard to know.

Feb 11, 2016
Dr appt
by: Anonymous

So I have my yearly physical next month at the doctors and I'm already dreading it. I think about it all the time and it's depressing. Sometimes I build up confidence and feel good about it saying it will be quick and done and I'll feel better getting it done and over with. Then I think my blood pressure is going to be high and maybe I'll get bad blood work results or something and I'll be worried. I have been weight resign all year and am definitely in better shape then the last time I had a physical. I had borderline high cholesterol but nothing bad. I just try and tell myself everything will be ok and doctors are there to help us not hurt us. My blood pressure phobia will probably kick in too but my doctor understands this about me. I checked it a couple months ago at home and it was pretty good. The usually starts out high and then comes down. That's what happened last time I was at the doctors. Ugh I wish I could just be normal and go to the doctor anytime I needed without getting so worked up about it. Thanks

Feb 17, 2016
Can't calm down
by: Anonymous

Hello all! So very glad to find this site. I never had a problem worrying about blood pressure until my dad had a stroke. Now I get white coat Hbp each time I go in. It even carries over to my home checking. I realize that I may be genetically disposed to hbp, but I want accurate readings in case I end up Having to take meds as I don't want to over medicate. And does anyone else feel like having Hbp makes them "defective" in a way? Maybe that's why we get anxious; we enter want to admit maybe we are getting old, are vulnerable, have to watch what we eat etc. I think maybe that's my issue. Also, I wore an ambulatory monitor but I had positive results: it definitely showed white coat hypertension- the rest f the reading were quite good. Everyone take care, a glad we found each other!

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