White Coat Panic

white coat Today I had a doctor’s appointment for a       routine visit, a regular check up. No big         deal, right? Wrong. I get so nervous when I go to the doctor. My doctor is really nice, and I’ve been going to him for five years. I’m not scared of him. Then why do I dread going?

Because I’m afraid my blood pressure will be high. It always is — at the doctor’s office.

I’ve had this problem for years, and can’t seem to resolve it. My doctors say I have White Coat Syndrome. They tell me not to worry, it’s relatively common.

Web MD states, “Even if setting foot into a doctor’s office doesn’t feel like walking into a lion’s den, your body may be priming for a threat. As much as 20% of the population suffers from “white coat syndrome,” in which blood pressure surges when measured in the doctor’s office.”

I’ve been treated for high blood pressure for twenty years and it’s under control. When I monitor it at home, it’s normal. It’s a different story at the doctor’s office.

Logically, I know I shouldn’t be anxious. The blood pressure cuff doesn’t hurt, and it’s a routine test. Everyone has this done, even children. But I can’t control my nerves. I tell myself, “Even if it’s high, so what? What’s going to happen?” The answer is, nothing. (I should note that my blood pressure isn’t dangerously high, just higher than normal range).

When the nurse takes my blood pressure, I breathe deep and recite a mantra, like, “Life is good.” It never seems to help. Inevitably the nurse gets a concerned look. I tell her, “Don’t worry. That always happens.”

I feel like I failed a test in school.

I’m fine for the doctor exam. I feel calmer as I talk to him. Just when I think I’m relaxed, he gets out the blood pressure cuff. Ugh. Usually my numbers are lower than when the nurse took it earlier.

I’m nervous the entire morning of my appointment, and to be honest, I start getting nervous the day before. I know how silly this might sound. But I can’t help it.

This morning I drank decaf coffee because I didn’t want to add to my jitters. While driving to the appointment, I listened to peaceful music and practiced my deep breathing techniques. Good, I’m going to be fine. I arrived and could feel the blood nervously pumping through my veins. Shoot. It’s going to be high again. It was.

My doctor wrote a prescription for a blood test to check my cholesterol and other routine levels. I get that done once a year. No big deal. The needle doesn’t bother me. At least the lab technicians won’t check my blood pressure.

Any suggestions as to how I can get rid of this fear?


 Image courtesy of bookofdoctors.com

2 thoughts on “White Coat Panic

    • Susan, that’s a good question. So hard to know, because it’s too difficult for them to explain the symptoms. I wondered that too with Talee because she had such severe separation anxiety. Thanks for the comment!


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