White Coat Syndrome: What You Need to Know
White coat syndrome–the fear of going to a doctor–is an anxiety disorder that may affect up to 30% of all Americans–and can lead to serious consequences. It is especially difficult for people who need to visit an emergency room because their anxiety reflects in their numbers.
In popular articles, White Coat Syndrome is often described as the fear of having your blood pressure taken or experiencing high blood pressure at the doctor’s office. But it can extend to fear of mammograms or fear of learning why you’ve had a rough spot on your scalp for three months. If you find you’re neglecting your health due to White Coat Syndrome, seek advice from an expert who can treat your anxiety–preferably one who doesn’t wear a white coat.
Of course, many of us would rather not go to the doctors. But some anxious personalities take it a step further and avoid practically all visits to the doctor. Basically, these individuals would rather not know about a medical condition than deal with it, creating the perfect recipe for a potentially dangerous syndrome.
First, Tackling Blood Pressure Syndrome
According to an article on Resperate.com, White Coat Syndrome describes a patient whose blood pressure is consistently higher when measured at a clinic or doctor’s office, compared to normal at home blood pressure (higher than 140/90 mm Hg compared to lower than 135/85 mm Hg). In the article, Dr. Haitham Ahmed, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic, notes, “… if seeing a white coat increases your blood pressure, a lot of other stressors in life are expected to as well.” That’s why it’s important to get anxiety-induced blood pressure under control.
Four Ways to Combat White Coat Syndrome
Health and wellness experts–and those who suffer from this troubling syndrome– recommend these four ways to get your White Coat Syndrome under control.
- Try 4-7-8 breathing: Dr. Andrew Weill suggests this easy breathing technique to stop inner anxiety and calm down your body’s inflammatory reaction to stress. First, sit comfortably. Next, place the tip of your tongue just under your front teeth, expand your diaphragm and slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four. Then, hold your breath for a count of seven and open your mouth slightly and exhale for eight counts, drawing in your diaphragm. Repeat this exercise three more times.
- Guzzle your water: We all know drinking water is healthy. However, drinking a large portion of water at one time–rather than sipping H2O throughout the day–lowers blood pressure faster.
- Reach for a banana or two: Eating bananas or other potassium-rich foods like salmon, avocados and milk can help control blood flow and heartbeat. Depending on your body’s metabolism, your blood pressure may lower within an hour or two of eating a potassium-rich food.
- Practice at home–but don’t peek: A celebrity who suffers from White Coat Syndrome offers a tip that helps her overcome high blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office. She takes her blood pressure at home every day but never, ever looks at the results. This method separates the fear of the result from the feel of the blood pressure machine–and makes taking your pressure just another routine task like brushing your teeth.
 Resperate.com, “White Coat Syndrome: Causes and Treatments, “ Eli Ben-Yehuda, January 2019