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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

Apr 06, 2016
Appointment
by: Florida11101

Well, went to medical today, and same result. BP was like 170/90, so really high. My pulse was through the roof. The minute I walked out the door, I could feel the relief and my blood pressure and pulse drop to normal. So weird. The technician was freaked out and made me make another appointment with the doctor to talk about this. Just what I need, another appointment to check my blood pressure!
HAHA! Anyway, breathing and kava tea did absolutely nothing for me. So, I am thinking about going to a psychiatrist to work on this. Has anyone had success with that or tried that?

Apr 06, 2016
Therapist
by: Noreen

I did try a therapist. Talking about it didn't help.

But since the only way to get over a phobia is to do it, practice taking it at home and bring the results to the doctor. If that doctor doesn't respond appropriately, find another.

I do wish to all could get together! It seems like there are several of you in Florida. Can't you guys get together to work this out?


Apr 06, 2016
BP machines and things
by: Lesley

Anyone on here who is able to take their blood pressure with no problems at home STOP worrying! at least you know your BP is OK. When you go to the doctor make them accept your home readings, YOU know that you don't need medication. I am one of the ones who cant bear a machine near me at home or otherwise and it is a real problem. I have my first appointment on the phone tomorrow with the CBT people, the first call is an assessment, I'm just hoping they can help me, I think it will take a while!!

Apr 06, 2016
home readings, wrist monitor
by: j

I think if you can get normal readings at home or train yourself to, then you're good. I went to a therapist and she's the one who encouraged me to take it at home all the time and to carry my home readings w/ me to the doctor and to tell the nurse in advance ... I'm better now (not cured!) but I still go through my verbal spiel to the nurse about white coat and that seems to calm me down a little bit by throwing it out there. Also I have a wrist monitor ... makes it easier for me

Apr 06, 2016
omg .. me too!!
by: Anonymous

I too have this BP fear... who knew there are more like me.. I've been battling this fear for just over a year.. At first my Dr. put me on high blood pressure medicine, after taking meds for 3 month all my joints became painful, "arthritic".
DR.. took me off, did home bp for 3 wks and bp was normal.. Dr did conclude I have "white coat"
It took me over 5 months to get my joints back to feeling normal. Now I am fearful of bp meds.
We humans are such complicated creatures aren't we?

Apr 07, 2016
I hear you guys
by: Mark

Hi to everyone I've been suffering from anxiety for several years and I know it drives my BP through the roof. I had a panic attacks years ago which led me to the ER. My BP was 230/110/150 they gave me an Ativan and within 30 mins it went to 130/90/100. Since this incident and after many many tests I have suffered with anxiety related BP.
My GP does not check my Bp anymore as it skyrockets in his office I bring my readings with me and they are generally a bit above normal sometimes a bit higher.
Unfortunately now I've developed a bit of a phobia about taking mine at home. The other I decided to take my BP and unusually I got a high reading of 180/90 it freaked me out and I started checking my BP constantly it has sort of ended up sending back to square one. I had several years of feeling pretty good again this is frustrating.
Does anyone else get a great reading after 40 mins of aerobic exercise? But about 30 mins later it starts to climb again which sends me into a panic. I think I will leave the machine alone for a while it's awful what you're own mind can to to you.
I feel for everyone on this forum as I understand exactly what your going through.
By the way I'm on BP medication which I don't think does anything for anxiety related BP.
If I take an Ativan it drops right down I take these rarely as they are highly addictive. Regards Mark.

Apr 07, 2016
home readings, wrist monitor
by: j

the wrist monitor is good b/c when I get freaked out about taking it at home I walk around or up and down the stairs w/ it on to distract me and it will actually come down ... the whole thing is to get used to taking it at home .. not what the number is esp. if you're having a bad episode.. been there!

Apr 07, 2016
Same boat
by: Florida11101

It seems we are all in the same boat. Some have anxiety all the time, others only during the blood pressure readings. Some have doctors who understand, others not so much. Some can take it at home and get a good reading, others cannot take it at all.
Since I do not think there is a cure for this, I think the best way has already been stated. Take your own BP readings to the doctor with you. If your doctor does not understand, find a new doctor!
I am in a bad position myself. Being military, I cannot choose my doctor. In fact, it is a different technician and doctor each time. Also, I have been lucky and they have accepted by "whitecoat syndrome" story. But, if I get unlucky and get a doctor who doesn't, then I can be medically discharged due to high blood pressure.
I think the best medicine is knowing that there are many others like us and we are not alone in this. Reading these messages doesn't make my blood pressure readings better at medical, but it makes me feel better throughout the rest of the day. Hang in there everyone! We are all in this together!

Apr 14, 2016
Big business
by: Anonymous

I keep reminding myself that blood pressure medication is a big money maker for drug companies. I suspect there are some self serving motives in the setting of supposedly normal bp rates.

Apr 14, 2016
Banquet
by: Noreen

There are so many of us, we should rent a hall and have a banquet!

Anyone, now, in the Chicago area? Email me at:
turquoise silver at hot mail dot company. (No spaces in the address. I wrote it that way so hopefully I won't get junk mail.)

Apr 14, 2016
Extreme White Coat Syndrome
by: Jana96

I have extremely bad white coat syndrome. I lived in another state for 30+ years and my doctors (cardiologist, nephrologist, urologist and primary) all worked with me on it. I found a BP monitor that had a printer so I could print out my home readings. I would take them to my doctor visits and they did not require that my BP be taken at the office. About once a year, I brought in my monitor and they took my BP in one arm and used my BP monitor for the other arm to make sure my machine was working properly. I recently moved to a new state and my husband and I chose a doctor (much to our dismay) that would not even discuss the type of arrangements I had with my other doctors of 30+ years. Since I was short on meds, I had to go through the visit. My BP reading when they took it was 210/132 and she did not say a word about it being that high even with white coat syndrome. My other doctors, on my first visit to them, always asked more questions and delved into the extremely high blood pressure readings that they get. My normal blood pressure at home is 115/60 to 125/70.
This doctor was very rude to both my husband and to me. Her staff mirrored her attitude. Needless to say we are in the process of finding a new doctor. We are not people who are difficult with doctors and have had the same doctors for many years. Two of the doctors have become friends and have been to our home and we have interacted socially.
My white coat syndrome is not only exhausting to me, but a threat to my well being since I have an abdominal aneurysm and only one kidney. I sympathize with all who have this same reaction to blood pressure. I have tried hypnotherapy, self-hypnosis, meditation, etc. and have complete control over the rest of my life, but was never able to conquer this problem.
If you can find compassionate doctors who really care about you, they will work with you so that you suffer the minimum stress.

Apr 14, 2016
Extreme White Coat Syndrome
by: Jana96

I have extremely bad white coat syndrome. I lived in another state for 30+ years and my doctors (cardiologist, nephrologist, urologist and primary) all worked with me on it. I found a BP monitor that had a printer so I could print out my home readings. I would take them to my doctor visits and they did not require that my BP be taken at the office. About once a year, I brought in my monitor and they took my BP in one arm and used my BP monitor for the other arm to make sure my machine was working properly. I recently moved to a new state and my husband and I chose a doctor (much to our dismay) that would not even discuss the type of arrangements I had with my other doctors of 30+ years. Since I was short on meds, I had to go through the visit. My BP reading when they took it was 210/132 and she did not say a word about it being that high even with white coat syndrome. My other doctors, on my first visit to them, always asked more questions and delved into the extremely high blood pressure readings that they get. My normal blood pressure at home is 115/60 to 125/70.
This doctor was very rude to both my husband and to me. Her staff mirrored her attitude. Needless to say we are in the process of finding a new doctor. We are not people who are difficult with doctors and have had the same doctors for many years. Two of the doctors have become friends and have been to our home and we have interacted socially.
My white coat syndrome is not only exhausting to me, but a threat to my well being since I have an abdominal aneurysm and only one kidney. I sympathize with all who have this same reaction to blood pressure. I have tried hypnotherapy, self-hypnosis, meditation, etc. and have complete control over the rest of my life, but was never able to conquer this problem.
Try to find a doctor who is understanding and compassionate and really cares about their patients. A doctor who works with you is so important to people with this problem.

Apr 15, 2016
Thanks for this. I'll bookmark it and come back everyone I'm in panic
by: Anonymous

Thanks for this. I'll bookmark it and come back everyone I'm in panic

Apr 20, 2016
Me too!
by: Anonymous

I've had white coat syndrome for about 10 years--and the NP that I saw was understanding about it and never made a huge deal of it--they would take it but didn't comment. I always worried about when I'd have to see a sub and they wouldn't get it--or as is going on now my NP left the practice and I am forced to see someone I do not know. I've been to other places, a dentist and a gynecologist that have been able to get readings that are normal--recently 122/I don't recall--but there have been times it has been higher depending on what I encountered before arriving or something strange going on in the office or something I am worried about approaching. Well generally it would be in the 140's when I saw my NP but with the new person--even tho I like her a lot--its hitting in the 160's and 170's and after my second visit there she starting talking about trying water pills--I don't really want any meds--I take enough for other things--and so now I worry about it and when I pick up my keys to leave my house I feel my heart leap out of my chest and the anxiety rise. I talk and talk to myself all the way there, I do relaxation techniques and I've started seeing a counselor in the hopes there will be something that will help. Since I am so worried over it I can't even take it at home--the more I try the higher it gets which in turn upsets me more. It's a cycle I can't break even though I know its irrational. I worry over all my health issues which I am sure also plays a part in driving up the b/p readings. So what do you do when a dr insists on giving you meds even though you believe the reading is elevated--but can't prove it? I am glad to know there are some others with such extremes. The woman I see now is nice--but I don't know if I can talk her out of pills.

Apr 20, 2016
Practice at Home
by: Noreen

This is what seems to work for others. Since I've been using a wrist monitor, the one you hold up to your heart, I've had positive results. Please reread some of the previous posts to see what I am referring to.

You are not alone! We are all here with you.

Apr 20, 2016
BP PHOBIA
by: Susana

So happy I found this group!!...Everytime I go to the doctor
I get really high readings..today was 170/110!!!!but at home
my reading was 123/80 . Knowing I have to see a Dr creates so much anxiety I woke up 3 times at night with palpitations and I could not breathe..I just started TM meditation and did it
before I went to the doctor felt a little better but as soon as I arrived in the office my heart was pounding with anxiety !!
I walk 5 to 6 miles everyday I feel like I am in great
physical shape, I eat really healthy, cut down salt, take a bunch of natural herbs for BP....I tried to show my home readings to the dr but he doesn't care, he says that he wants me to take BP medicine ..this always happens so I switch to a different dr..I am going to give Cognitive Therapy a tried!!
I thought I was the only one with this problem !!!!

Apr 20, 2016
BP PHOBIA
by: Susana

So happy I found this group!!...Everytime I go to the doctor
I get really high readings..today was 170/110!!!!but at home
my reading was 123/80 . Knowing I have to see a Dr creates so much anxiety I woke up 3 times at night with palpitations and I could not breathe..I just started TM meditation and did it
before I went to the doctor felt a little better but as soon as I arrived in the office my heart was pounding with anxiety !!
I walk 5 to 6 miles everyday I feel like I am in great
physical shape, I eat really healthy, cut down salt, take a bunch of natural herbs for BP....I tried to show my home readings to the dr but he doesn't care, he says that he wants me to take BP medicine ..this always happens so I switch to a different dr..I am going to give Cognitive Therapy a tried!!
I thought I was the only one with this problem !!!!

Apr 20, 2016
BP PHOBIA
by: Susana

So happy I found this group!!...Everytime I go to the doctor
I get really high readings..today was 170/110!!!!but at home
my reading was 123/80 . Knowing I have to see a Dr creates so much anxiety I woke up 3 times at night with palpitations and I could not breathe..I just started TM meditation and did it
before I went to the doctor felt a little better but as soon as I arrived in the office my heart was pounding with anxiety !!
I walk 5 to 6 miles everyday I feel like I am in great
physical shape, I eat really healthy, cut down salt, take a bunch of natural herbs for BP....I tried to show my home readings to the dr but he doesn't care, he says that he wants me to take BP medicine ..this always happens so I switch to a different dr..I am going to give Cognitive Therapy a tried!!
I thought I was the only one with this problem !!!!

Apr 21, 2016
Thank you!
by: Librarian

Thank you to everyone who has commented here. It's so good not to feel alone in this although I don't wish it on anyone. I have anxiety disorder, and medical problems in childhood are most likely a major cause of it. Needless to say, I HATE going to the doctor and having tests. I hate the way the nurses look at me like "you're about to die" when they take my BP! I never ask them what it is there but could see it on my online records at my most recent gyn annual. I saw The bottom number was 100 and don't remember the top. I usually do ok taking it at home but this year I feel like I'm starting to get phobic to it at home too. That's when I found this board and it has helped me feel so much better. The nurse's link, above, to testing info made me realize my arm was not in the ideal place. When I put a pillow under it, I got a 117/75 62 pulse. Thank you!

My phobias unfortunately extend to all medical tests, and the older I get (47 now) the more I have to get, making me absolutely dread certain times of the year for medical exams.

The rest of my anxiety is so much better. I was agoraphobic for a bit 20 years ago, but I work and lead a regular life thanks to meds and therapy. This medical phobia seems to be getting worse however, because, as someone said, we're smart... I *know* the odds of actually getting sick go up as I age.

I feel relieved to see this boad though. The BP phobia is so common! The advice my therapist gave me this week was essentially, "screw it." You know you're fine. Don't let the nurses and docs tell you otherwise. I tend to be overly polite and passive at the doctor's office. As others of you have said, we need to be more assertive and put ourselves back in control! Way easier said than done for me, but I do appreciate all the support here.


Apr 23, 2016
Be Assertive!
by: KB801

It really pays to be assertive, especially with nurses, (mine is male) that over react to our problem - I practically got into a yelling match with him on my first visit a year ago and Im so glad I did! I was normally very passive in years past, but no more. I told him I wanted to discuss my BP phobia with the Doctor before he took it - he told me the Dr. wouldnt see me unless I let him take it. I said "fine, but I want to hear it from the Dr" When I got to see the Dr he was very understanding. I did eventually let him take it and of course it was about 35% higher than at home and for the first time top number over 200 - that night at home diastolic 75! Spikes are not really harmful, or cave men would have died every time an animal came after them! The Dr. now lets me give him my home readings and NOT take it at his office - If your Doc doesn't,find one that does. It helped for me to show him this site and other comments - I printed it out on last visit.

I do take some BP meds as it helps control it (years ago "normal" was your age + 100 for systolic and anything under 100 for diastolic. So 166/99 would still be okay back then Today they have a nervous breakdown at that level.

I take atenolol which is a beta-blocker and fairly harmless with lots of benefit - it lowers your heart's need for oxygen, and also stops the physical reaction to fear a lot - And it is much easier to deal with without those physical symptoms - I used it before speeches (my other phobia) and it worked like magic.

Hang in there everyone.

Apr 27, 2016
Blood Pressure Phobia
by: Melvin

Oh Thanks reading all your comments friends. I felt better that I am not the only one I am fit and work out a little heavy as well. But when I check my BP with a doc I get into a panic situation and the BP shoots higher every time I take I dont know how to conquer this

Apr 27, 2016
Hi, Melvin
by: Noreen

Please read everything everyone else has written. I believe you will find some answers!

Apr 28, 2016
Check up today went well!
by: Judy W.

Please people don't ignore your high blood pressure. I, like you, have become very phobic about it. As soon as that cuff is on my arm, I panic and my numbers shoot up. I did however, tell the doctor and nurses and physician's assistant about it. They are all aware. They work with me. If you don't have a doctor that'll do that, shop around until you find one that will. Believe it or not, a good doctor understands. Mine did today, and he told me a lot of people have the "white coat syndrome"...then he told me to take a deep breath and exhale and relax. When I walked into the office I was 148/72. When I left, after he retook it, I was 138/74. I am on two different blood pressure medications and I think if I have those numbers at a doctors office when I'm highly stressed, I'm probably a perfect 120/70 at home. But I chose not to ignore the high bp, because it is a silent killer. It really is. You can stroke out or have a heart attack. Please don't give up. I've read some comments from some here that won't go to the doctor because of this, and that's really very risky. Please don't do that and please don't be afraid of having to take blood pressure medication. It beats the alternative.

May 05, 2016
BP
by: Anonymous

I have the same thing ,, dont know why when i see a doctor my heart is pumping automatically , with deep sound ,, when check BP 100/160, its really scared ,, when come out its normal,

May 06, 2016
Update
by: Librarian

I went to the doc today, and was up front and direct with the nurse about my BP phobia. She said, "so do we not take it?" I was surprised she offered that! I said that no, you take it, but I'm warning you it will be high. It was something over a 100, but she so kindly said, "it wasn't that high!" And, "we have a lot of people like you."

Plus, I had my "homework" - list of home taken BP with mostly 117/75 type numbers. The doctor is so nice, she talked and talked to me and quietly put the cuff back on and took it and it had gone down to something over 80. (I never remember the top number!!) She also said they have a lot of people like me, and treated it pretty matter-of-fact-ly.

I told her about this message board and how helpful and reassuring it is. I told her that sometimes the nurses look at you like you're going to die right there or something and it freaks me out. She said, "we don't do that. We KNOW there are lots of people with white coat syndrome."

I was so touched by her caring manner that I actually got teary eyed. I've had her as a doctor for a long time, but never have been quite so honest. Plus, this time I also had to talk about some acid reflux which may also be influenced by anxiety. So, we talked quite a lot and she just didn't seem like some arrogant non-caring physician. I'm grateful, and I hope the same for everyone out there.

May 10, 2016
WCHT and also at home
by: Anonymous

how amazing to find this list. i have been tormenting myself about this problem for years. very high when monitored by anyone, including me. so have no idea if it is high or not. have gotten over other phobias, but can't chip away at this one. nothing works.
my doc just started me on losartan---low dose. it is a high BP med that is potassium. if anyone finds something that works....please let us know.....

May 10, 2016
success I hope
by: Anonymous

Tonight after many months of hating my bp machine, I decided once again to have a go, I took my machine upstairs and laid on my bed. I put the thing on, put a pillow over it so I couldn't hear the horrible buzzing noise and put the telly on. I started the machine, panicked just a little and looked at the reading expecting the usual 160 or 179 over about 90 or 100. It was 121 over 67, I was so happy I took it about 20 times because I knew it would stay low. This is just as I'm about to start some therapy for the phobia! I will still go for the therapy as I know what I'm like and tomorrow I could go back to being frightened to death to take it but at the moment so pleased with myself, it's been a real problem. I haven't been feeling too well for the past week and I think that helped me make up my mind to do this tonight. Just hoping it stays this way, at least I can now tell the doc, she may even let me reduce my dose of bp tablet, it makes me feel horrible. Keep trying everyone, if I can do it anyone can!! x

May 23, 2016
I hear everyone
by: darla

I have been dealing with this phobia off and on since I was about 23 years old. I am now 58. There was a period of time in my late 30's and early 40's when it went away - not sure how but it resurfaced again around the age of 50. It's a nightmare. I have a primary care doctor who understands and has been helpful to not make me feel like a total idiot. But as we all know as you get older hypertension is not unusual. So now...both me and my doctor are concerned that I don't develop true hypertension which should be treated by medication. I am not opposed to taking the medication if I really need it, but how do you know? I don't think I have High BP. I feel totally normal and relaxed 99% of the time. But let me see a BP cuff or machine and I can feel the zinging sensations that rise the BP. This phobia makes getting my normal routine exams a nightmare. I still go to the dentist, but fret beforehand and I talk them out of even taking it. I have a doctors apt tomorrow for a normal exam for medication checkup (I have to take thyroid meds and cholesterol meds) - I told my boyfriend about my fear and he doesn't even understand. no sympathy there - which makes me feel even more weird. I was in the military in my 20's and that's when this whole mess started. I went to the hospital for a refill for my contraceptive meds and they took my BP - Ihad just walked across base and my BP was high (how high I do not know) but they freaked me out by almost telling me I had heart issues. I didn't. I did biofeedback back then and it helped a little but you have to practice that and I rather forget about the whole thing until it's time for a doctor visit. Once I fell on a hiking trip and split my head open. I self mediated my wound for fear of the BP - I am not afraid of doctors. I don't care what they want to do - just don't take my BP. Any wise words are welcome and thanks for listening.

May 23, 2016
ola fellow phobics
by: Anonymous

I'm so glad i found you! I've been through hell over my BP phobia. Its been going on for about 8 years. It started at the dentist. I also have a med phobia. So i went for a deep cleaning on one side and my bp was ok but when they were going to do the otherside I was scared. I saw the needles, remembered the pain afterwards and was scared. The hygenist takes my bp it was high she says, you could have a heart attack or stroke right now! She gets the dentist. The dentist gets on me about smoking and wouldn't work on my teeth. Scared me to death! I ran to my doctor! She calmed me down and i was fine. Now years later its a full blown phobia over some idiot dentist. I've moved to the city away from my small town doctor and its been a nightmare. So tomorrow I have a new doctor to see. I'm not going to let them take my bp. That alone will get me there. I have issues to deal with and I need to get over this fear of doctors and everything they do. Thanks for all your sharing its helped more than you know.

May 25, 2016
I made it to the Doctor!
by: Anonymous

I did it! I made it to the doctor. I was nervous and almost canceled the appointment. I was sure my bp went through the roof. I told the nurse about my phobia and asked if we could do the bp later. She started talking to me about everything. She got my history. Then out comes the cuff. She took it didnt tell me what it was but said she's seen worse and no it wasn't so high i needed the ER or anything. It's been 175/115 in the past. The Dr came in and talked to me about everything! 2 hours! He was awesome. I am so glad i found him. I have to see a specialist and asked the Dr if they had to take my bp. He said, Just tell them to not tell you what it is. Another tip, dont look at them when they take it. Tell them you have a phobia. Good luck folks. Just do it. If you believe in God take him with you and pray. A little one liner over and over works!

May 25, 2016
I did it too!!
by: Darla

I also had my doctors apt yesterday and dental apt today. My doctor's appt was at 3:30 so I had all day to think about it, but I was busy at work so didn't really think about it until the drive there. I checked in and sat in the waiting room for about 25 minutes. They called me to the back and the nurse said "Hi I'm so and so and I'll be taking your vitals today" I thought - like hell you are - hahaha. So she weighed me took my temp, height and all that. Then we went in the exam room. I just immediately told her that I wanted the Dr. to take my BP. I told her I have dealt with this for a long time with this Dr and she was very nice. She didn't get offended - talked to me about other stuff and left. The Dr came in and did my exam (well womeans) then let me get dressed then took my BP. It was 145/92 - he said - not bad for you. I told him I know how I feel when I take it (super anxious) and I know how I feel all the other time (calm as a cucumber) He said to still practice taking it at home and when I go to other places like the dentist / eye dr. Just tell them that I know it's high and my Dr does also. That helps. I wasn't as anxious about the dentist today. But I have to go back for a crown. Ugh!

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