Do you tense up at the sight of hospitals or become slightly sweaty when someone mentions that you should pay a visit to the doctor’s office?  Have you ever received a slightly elevated blood pressure reading when meeting with your general practitioner even though when testing at home or elsewhere everything was within normal limits?  If so, you might actually suffer from a little-known psychological condition known as “White Coat Hypertension”.

In essence, this only means that you’re providing a false positive to your doctor when he/she sits you down and takes your blood pressure readings.   Naturally, it is believed that anxiety is the culprit here, with stress added causing the rise in BP, which in turn makes it appear that you are a bit unhealthier than you really are in all actuality.  At this point the question then becomes, how is a physician supposed to get an accurate blood pressure reading if the patient tenses up every time they come to visit?  24 hour ambulatory monitoring or home blood pressure monitoring is the solution, of course.  With this method, doctors are able to determine exactly what a person’s blood pressure looks like during the course of an average day.

Misreadings can also be related to a host of other factors as well, including:

  • The presiding doctor using a cuff size that’s much too small for the person’s arm, thus triggering them to panic which in turn produces higher than normal readings
  • The patient having ate something which caused this elevation in blood pressure.
  • If the patient is talking while the reading is taking place
  • Etc.

Studies have shown that a significant portion of the Earth’s population receiving normal doctor care have been seen to suffer fits of anxiety when visiting their clinic(s) (15% to 30%).   Apparently this phenomenon isn’t limited to instances where stress is caused by unfamiliar environments, as even those who are regular visitors to some office will show signs of white coat hypertension.

Overcoming white coat hypertension

Those that suffer from this situation are probably interested in just conquering the condition as easily and quickly as possible.  Although it isn’t always considered t be easy, it is definitely possible to tame white coat hypertension as, again, it really is just a psychological phenomenon.  You really have to want to face your fears head on and run “headlong into the line’s den”, as they say, to achieve this, of course.  In some instances a person’s fear of doctor’s, clinics, hospitals, needles, etc can be so severe that to overcome anxieties the help of a qualified therapist is necessary.   Once again, this is really something you should feel free to openly discuss with your presiding physician.  In other cases it might simply be a matter of trust, where changing your doctor clears everything up and allows you to get the most out of your healthcare experience.

Why should you care?

Prevention is always the best course of action and if you can’t get accurate data to your physician then they can’t make an accurate diagnosis.