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Conquering fear of blood pressure machines?

I know I am not the only one who absolutely freaks out when having my blood pressure taken.  Every time I go to the Dr's office, they always comment on how high my pulse and blood pressure are (last week when I went it was 127/92 and pulse of 133!)  Ha...and those numbers arent even unusual for me!  I know the pulse is high, but I don't worry about it as much just because I take it frequently at home now, and know that it is usually in the 80's when I'm at home.  But the blood pressure...ugh!  I am just convinced that I am going to have a really high reading sometime and that I'm going to just kill over.  And the docs and nurses make it worse by always saying "well, your numbers are a little too high for your age, even though you are nervous" (I just turned 30).  

So...has anyone successfully conquered their fear of having their blood pressure taken?  How did you do it?  I really want to get over this. I mean, I feel like i try to do everything right...I eat fairly well, I'm definitely not overweight, dont smoke or drink, somewhat active...the only thing I have trouble with is my anxiety.  Ugh...this is frustrating!
164 Responses
Avatar universal
thanks so much for sharing everyone, I was starting to think I had completely gone off the deep end with my BP phobia!! I was NEVER been afraid of having my BP taken until a year ago a silly nurse told me my reading of 120/80 was HIGH for my age (I didn't know anything about what a normal reading was at that point... of course that WASN'T even high) and now every single time I get it taken it's like 140/95 and my heart is racing at 150 bpm. When I take it at home a few times in a row, I can get it as low as 115/70, I just cannot for the life of me stop the panic attacks from happening whenever I go to the doctor and have it taken by someone else. Like others have said it is about 50% a fear of comments from the nurses or the doctor, or fear they will tell me I need medication. I seriously think about all the times I will have to have my BP taken in the future and proceed to freak out about them months in advance... it's as bad or worse than the needle phobia I used to have as a kid. Now if only we could collectively come up with a way to get over this...
Avatar universal
I feel like laughing to know that I'm not alone in this irrational fear. Next time I'm in a dr's office, I'll think of all of you, feeling the same way and take strength from the fact that it's not just me! I'm having a minor outpatient surgery next week and have to see a cardiologist tomorrow because, you guessed it, my heart rate was about 120 while getting my pre-op evaluation. I've had this problem since I was little--first it was just about doctor's offices, and the past 10 years, it's focused solely on the blood pressure machine. Fear of a high reading, which makes the reading high. It's a vicious cycle.
  My phobia is the result of behavioral conditioning, I'm certain. For most of my childhood, I had  many emergency room visits for asthma and acquaint medical settings with needle sticks, an adrenalin rush, pain, discomfort and a lot of negativity. It's very hard to overcome this. Someday I hope to pursue behavioral conditioning therapy for this and remedy it.
Here are the things which have helped me.
1. Get a good doctor. It makes a big difference to see the same provider at each visit. You can develop a rapport and your freakout won't come as a shock to them.
2. Monitor your own bp/heart rate at home. I use a battery-operated wrist cuff, which I feel is my 'friend' while those giant old-fashioned doctor's office monitors are just plain evil. I keep a record of my readings and go over them with my doctor at visits so that she can get a better assessment of how my bp meds are working. I spent several years on a high dose of heart meds that I didn't really need, because of seeing a provider who was dismissive of my history/phobia. A good doctor will listen and try to help make things easier for you.
3. Long slow exhalations while they are squeezing the cuff will help lower your reading and relax you. Keep your "out breath" longer than your "in breath."
4. I ALWAYS tell the nurse/dr. that it's going to be high, that I'm nervous and try to make a joke out of it. Smiling and laughing help decrease anxiety.
5. have them take your BP again at the end of your visit. The first one is usually the worst one. Once that's over, it's tends to go down.
6. I also have a general anxiety disorder, for which I'm now taking 10 mg of Prozac, and it has changed my life. My fears are manageable. I still get nervous, but I can anticipate and detach from the feelings, rather than drowning in them. I am still anxious but I can get through my appts., rather than running out of the office (yep, it's true), crying, or hiding in a stairwell because I couldn't face the ordeal of a simple BP reading.
7. You can plan to give yourself a little reward after your visit.  It's nice to have something to look forward to. A special dessert, or manicure or new CD, half an hour of bookstore browsing, whatever you like.
8. If you have a partner who will go with you, it helps to have a loved one nearby holding your hand. When I was pregnant, the midwives would always take my husband's blood pressure too, and it helped cut the tension.

Hope my tips help!
Avatar universal
I can't believe others have this problem. I'm sitting here crying. I never had high blood pressure but when I had a 4 month old baby at home, I became pregnant again and was pretty freaked out about it. The nurse at my OB/GYN went to take my blood pressure and I began throwing my arm in the air. She managed to come up with a 190/90 or so and that stayed on my records and each doctor I saw would bring it up. I was so silly, I never mentioned that I was moving my arm to get away from it when she did it - it just did something to me and now I'm deathly afraid of getting it done. It's all so silly and I don't even know why I'm afraid. My mom worked for a doctor when I was a child and whispered about patient's problems and I would ask her about it, she would say "you don't need to worry abou this until your an adult" - then I became an adult and all these things are unresolved.
I also dealt with anxiety, I've conquered most of it through my relationship with God but this is the last unconquered problem. I'm almost 65 and I stay far away from doctors just because of this - this is so wrong!!!
I also went through a few semisters of nursing school and I picked up how to do BP's really quick but I freaked when they practiced on me. I really want to get over this!!!
I totally understand
Avatar universal
it is so comforting to have others experience the exact same thing you do and guess what I am a nurse.  unlike many i dont have problems w/home monitoring myself or a close nurse friend. but bar the door katie outside of that circle!!  absolute 100% once that cuff goes on the readings go from 112/60 at home to spike to 150/100 or higher.  and how about this, went for a minor surgical procedure and it got cancelled. my mistake, should have gone to hospital instead of surgi center because they were so inexperienced, it was "new" facility and from the first step in the place I could tell they were disorganized and the electronic BP readings were so high. they even gave me meds IV to bring it down but ended up not getting procedure. Guess what as you all well know even if you have no medical training- as soon as i was home, that stuff was dropping my BP so fast and my own MD was mad because he said you could have gone into shock with it dropping too low. he changed my med and have not had any trouble since so definitely a better med has helped even better numbers at home. so you know now its a real problem as I see that I cannot even relax enough in the Dr's office being older to get it back down.  My own MD is great always takes the home readings and puts them in my records and it helps to have him validate that i am not alone and he has many pts like this.  I have survived breast cancer, mastectomy, life tragedies and yet who would think one velcro laden BP cuff would induce such painc. like many, as a child at 4yrs of age was wheeled away down a hall for a hernia repair surgery screaming for my mother, i am 52 so those of you old enough with your own children can relate to how different it has been for the last 25 yrs.  the trauma is still there relived in this one aspect.  I have thought of hypnotherapy but sounds like that is not effective.  I have tried breathing and relaxation but it is a runaway locomotive when the situation arises.  and think how many times i have had to be in situations to have mine taken as a nurse.  So you are not alone and i think i will follow everyone's advice and just say up front.  most of you dont know maybe that your MD's office is staffed with medtechs and may not have the knowledge base of hemdynamics or BP "white cuff" anxiety to be aware to be sensitive.  I know those off hand comments... just relax!!!! what an oxymoron when you are in that situation.  Good luck to all and remember, there are those of us in nursing who are understanding of this.  I have taken care of my health, with good cardio exercise and healthy eating, never a smoker and good cholesterol results.  be kind to yourselves!
Avatar universal
I cannot believe other people feel this way but it helps me too.  I really freak out when the automated thing starts blowing up -- in fact, my BP is often LOWER at my doctor's office because they have the hand pump.  I once took my BP at a store and freaked out halfway through that the thing wasn't going to stop inflating... my reading was like 190/100.  I think I'm going to try taking my BP every day and see if I can get used to the buzzing.

I have had high readings at the doctor off and on, and now I'm addressing it -- my doctor is taking me off of my BC and I'm addressing my alcohol issue (I drink a little too much -- not like a fifth a day or anything but 2-5 drinks every day).  
Avatar universal
Thank you everyone for your experiences.  I also fear the blood pressure machine because I hate the way it tightens on my arm.  i recently bought a writ cuff and was amazed at how comfortable it felt.  I can still feel myself get anxious as I take it, but the readings are much lower that with the regular machine.  I know it's a mind over matter issue but I still can't control the fear.
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