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Blood pressure phobia

leazes profile image

For many years I have had a phobia to matters medical. For years I hated plasters after I fainted as an 8 year old while having one put on.

My father had a heart attack and died at 57 and I hated the sight of him wired up in hospital to all the machines (I was 11)

Getting my blood pressure taken has always been an issue. I remember having it taken in 1994 when I was 31 and it was through the roof. Went back a couple of weeks later but I had tonsilitis and it was back to 120/80 - probably because I was more bothered about my sore throat.

Similar instances have happened over the years and one where is was 220/130 in the office and then i was put on a 24 hour monitor and while wearing it went out for a few drinks with friends (therefore forgetting I was wearing it!) and again the 24 hour monitor came back normal.

This week I had a routine check and again massively high in the office. Told to come back next week to have it checked again but in the meantime check reading with my own monitor. However, as soon as I put the cuff on i get tensed up, my pulse rate rises to about 100 bpm and the readings are high. (about 160/100). I contacted the doctor and he put me on Amlodipine.

Although my BP has dropped very slightly to 149/102 with a pulse rate of 90+bpm, I still am very worked up and anxious about the BP and it's a.most as if it is a self fulfilling prophecy for it to be high. Even writing this makes me feel tense.

As an example I took my pulse rate while sitting at work and it comes to about 70 bpm and I feel fine. I also cycle 50 miles a week and am relatively stress free in work. I am a couple of stone overweight but at 56 need to reduce that.

So what can I do about this and have any others had similar episodes?

I will mention this to the nurse next week but looking for advice.......

12 Replies

Hi Leazes, I can sympathise massively with you, I am exactly the same. I have avidly avoided my BP being taken for years after similar experiences to you. Until only a few weeks ago I managed to find myself in the doctors surgery after a longish bike ride where my heart rate ( I always wear a heart rate monitor) went berserk. Ended up with an ECG at the GP's which was fine but he went to take my BP and it was 260/150.

I was sent straight to hospital in a massively anxious state and stayed for two nights until it went down. I was given amlodipine, ramipril and 2mg of diazepam on the first night and had my BP taken every hour. During the first night it went down to 149/100 as the Diaz kicked in. The next day it was high again and I was freaking out constantly, my anxiety was through the roof as well, thought I was going to die.

Every time the cuff went my pulse was up to 110 and my BP would be sky high >220/120. I explained to the consultant that I had health anxiety and that the situation was literally my worst nightmare, but they didn't seem too bothered just wanted my BP down, eventually I was given Doxazosin as well as the others and that seemed to bring it down.

I am awaiting a 24 hr BP monitor and ECG and an Echo as I seem to have an enlarged heart as well, so I definitely have high BP but not the level it presented in the GP surgery which I think is all anxiety related.

As the last few weeks have gone by I have been forcing myself to take my BP at home to "confront" the cuff and just get used to it. My BP has recently dropped to normal levels and on visit to the Docs the other day it was high again, I could literally feel the adrenaline as he put the cuff on. So he also agrees there is a large anxiety element to this.

The interesting similarity I have to you is I lost my father in law to a heart attack, he was 55, my wife (then girlfriend) was overseas and was an only child, and I had to deal with the hospital as my mother in law was in bits, I had to see him passed away at the hospital and then break the news to my wife who was 1000's of miles away. One of the worst things I have ever had done. I am pretty sure this is the root cause of this health anxiety. Maybe this is similar to you?

As said I definitely have high BP, probably had it years, I am 49, fairly fit (cycle 50 miles a week , well I did!) and bit overweight, don't smoke but probably drunk too much as well. I think all this together with the anxiety is probably my cause, although time will tell.

One thing I am now much happier about is doing something about it, as I have realised I am not going die, and that this whole incident is actually a huge positive, it's allowed me to deal with an issue that I had feared which is actually nowhere near as bad as thought and onward prognosis is hopefully good. I am also on the waiting list for CBT to help with the anxiety as I don't really want to take more meds for that.

Just try and remain positive, try taking your BP at home more, if it looks like its normal and the spikes are anxiety/white coat related your GP will see this and deal with it accordingly and you really have nothing to unduly worry about.

leazes profile image
leazes in reply to Thecyclist

Many thanks and the similarities are startling.

I have taken my blood pressure after these incidents before but this time the anxiety seems worse than in the past possibly as I am close to the same age as when my father had his heart attack and subsequent death.

I know it’s completely illogical but like most phobias that doesn’t matter.

Nice to hear I’m not the only one!


I posted on here about a year ago regarding my high blood pressure I knew was anxiety related. I have had a fear of doctors/hospitals since as far as I can remember, every time I stepped into the surgery my anxiety would kick in, even if I was going to support someone else. I have my BP done at the docs and it was 160/99, HR 100+ (my resting HR is 65-70). I was told to go home for a week a take it daily then come back with my results, this didn’t help. I worked myself up so much i thought I was going Crazy, I was convinced there was something wrong with me. At home as soon as I saw the cuff I would start panicking, sweaty palms etc. So off I went back to the docs and they wanted to run some tests, 24 monitor, 24 urine, ecg, kidney scan. All came back pretty much fine, my sleeping BP was 110/70 which doc said was good. I was referred to a therapist which didn’t really work. It became months of panic and obsession, it literally took over my life. But I was discharged and they said I had white coat syndrome. Being a hypochondriac I was convinced. I decided to take matters into my own hands and confront the machine. I decided to over expose myself to the machine so hopefully it got to the point that I wasn’t afraid anyone. Let me tell you, it worked!! I would take it at home, in a quiet setting everyone morning and evening, making sure I was breathing deeply, body was tensed, shoulders relaxed (I think this makes a huge difference to the reading) and didn’t write the numbers down and tried to ignore them. After all, they are just numbers, they arnt going to hurt you and if I do have high BP it’s super treatable. So I did this for a week, at first it was the same old high reading but then it suddenly started going down! And was the happiest person on earth! (Sounds stupid but I was jumping for joy). I kept doing it to the point where in the morning I would be half asleep taking it at table as I had just woken up and I didn’t even notice it inflating . I now try and do this every few months just so I don’t get into that state again, so far so good :) I definitely think over exposure to a phobia helps. X

Thecyclist profile image
Thecyclist in reply to Leylap31

I totally agree with you as well. It's definitely a case of confronting your phobias as it is in my case. I've been doing the same and as you say I am starting to not even register the cuff inflating. You just have to keep doing it until it become almost "meaningless". As you say it's just a number, even if it's off the scale as mine was. When I was admitted the nurse said it was the highest BP he had ever seen. Needless to say this sent me into overdrive and probably put my BP up even more. But I didn't die or have a HA or stroke.

I am just learning now that high BP is also very very treatable, with meds and lifestyle adjustments it really is not as bad as my mind made it out to be. I am just glad I caught mine when I did, if I hadn't of been wearing my heart rate monitor when cycling, God only knows what would have happened.

I don't think there is a lot you can do about it, if there was I would be doing it. My BP goes through the roof when taken in the doctor's office (and jeez you should see it at the dentist!) but when I take it myself in the pharmacy (AKA chemist) I am 125/65, not a problem.

My BP did rise to about 160/65 for a while and I went to the docs and told him my BP was higher than I wanted. He took my pressure (170/70) and concluded I had a very serious problem, put me on Lisinopril and told me to come back in a week. I did that. The second time, my BP was just as high as the first reading so he doubled my dose, which made me feel like a zombie. I wasn't having that and realized I had to take matters into my own hands so I slowly reduced my dose to 1/2 pill a day and measured 125/65 at the pharmacy. I told my doc I had reduced my dose to 1/2 pill and he said that was like taking no pill at all. Well, that was baloney, It had reduced my BP by 40 points, I had a very slight cough (a side office of Lisinopril) and I was now bruising (I never bruised before). So 1/2 does it for me and that's the way it is going to be. As for how do you reduce your BP when your doc takes it, well, I don't think you can and I would advise not to worry about it.

re leaz in reading your problem which appears it is called w c s (white coat syndrome) you actually have answered the question in how to get a solution or deal with the phobia in the parapraph -i felt the adrelion -- as he put the cuff on -- you should get in contact with a counsellor who consentrates in this area of dealing with phobias i have a problem to a lesser extent with needles and injections but is too long a story you note youself (when you had a few drinks and FORGOT you had the monitor on everthing was ok take it from there if you get my point good lucl ed

As an update to this.....after 3 months of getting high readings at the surgery (150/100) I was offered a 24 hour blood pressure check.

Just got back and told that my average 24 hour pressure was 114/77. So if you get the chance and you think you have white coat hypertension then it’s worth giving it a go.

Brilliant news Leazes, good to have it confirmed and that's a great average BP!

Hey Leazes I can relate what you are going through. I never had a problem with my blood pressure until I had an bad experience one day when i had an anxiety attack and my blood pressure rose which is normal. Blood pressure rises during the fight or flight stage when you are scared which is completely normal. But what i noticed is that when humans are really worried about something blood pressures rises. So ever since my bad experience I was afraid of getting my B/P taken. If i was to check my blood pressure in panic/stress mode than it would rise to 150/80 but when i am calm it will come down to 127/82. The cure to this white coat hypertension is to expose yourself to the fear until you overcome the fear and to stop worrying. So far I still get a bot panicky but God is going to deliver me and I believe he will deliver you to.

If the 24hr pressure test came back normal l wouldn't worry. You can try wearing a cuff on your arm for extended periods of time while in your home.

I am new here,I just want to say,thank you for helping me to not be

so alone & scared,,

onadiet profile image
onadiet in reply to Jasper25

Bless you. I know it is so scary and hard but we are all in the same boat. Just read what others say and do and try to live and eat healthily.

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