GAD Can Anxiety Cause High Blood Pressure? By Sarah Sheppard Published on December 12, 2022 Print Maskot / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Anxiety and High Blood Pressure Complications Diagnosis Treatment Anxiety is a natural response to stress or perceived danger and is often associated with fear and worry. If you’re feeling anxious, you may experience physical symptoms, such as sweating, shaking, nausea, or muscle tenseness. These symptoms may not go away if you have a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and this can raise blood pressure, just as chronic high blood pressure or hypertension can cause feelings of anxiety. We all experience anxiety on occasion, but if you have been diagnosed with GAD and high blood pressure, you’ll want to seek care. A healthcare provider can offer stress management strategies and ways to prevent blood pressure spikes. This article discusses the connection between anxiety disorder and high blood pressure and what a diagnosis and treatment look like for both conditions. The Connection Between Anxiety Disorder and High Blood Pressure When you’re faced with a stressful situation—a public speaking engagement, an unexpected call, a panicked crowd, or even a high-pressure work environment—your fight-or-flight response can be triggered. According to Michael Wheaton, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College, this may cause your heart rate to speed up, your body to sweat, and your blood pressure to rise temporarily. "Your body is increasing your heart rate and physiological arousal to be able to manage a potentially dangerous situation, and as a natural consequence, your blood pressure increases during this time," says Wheaton. "Typically, your blood pressure returns to the normal range as the anxiety passes." If you have an anxiety disorder, these spikes can occur more frequently and lead to various physical symptoms, such as irritability, muscle tension, fatigue, and/or difficulty sleeping, as well as high blood pressure. Your body is increasing your heart rate and physiological arousal to be able to manage a potentially dangerous situation, and as a natural consequence your blood pressure increases during this time. Typically your blood pressure returns to the normal range as the anxiety passes. — MICHAEL WHEATON, PHD Those with hypertension are also more likely to have or develop an anxiety disorder, depression, and other mental health conditions—and studies have shown that 37.1% of patients with pulmonary hypertension (PH) experience anxiety. Physical Symptoms Associated with Stress Complications of Anxiety and High Blood Pressure Unmanaged stress or anxiety can have a negative effect on your cognitive functioning, your immune system, gastrointestinal (GI) system, and your cardiovascular system. Unfortunately, some people use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with their chronic stress or anxiety and engage in the following behaviors: SmokingPoor sleepAvoiding exercisePoor dietDrinking alcohol to excess These can have a negative impact on overall health and well-being and can contribute to hypertension, poor heart health, and severe health complications. This may be, in part, why anxiety disorder and high blood pressure are so closely linked. When to See a Doctor If you’re experiencing severe headaches, vision problems, chest pain, confusion, shortness of breath, trouble concentrating, fatigue, changes in sleep or diet, or irritability, these could be signs of anxiety or high blood pressure. Diagnosis of Anxiety and High Blood Pressure Anxiety can be challenging to monitor. Excessive monitoring can have paradoxical negative consequences, according to Dr. Wheaton, as the process of noticing changes in your body's functioning might cause anxiety. This could then cause more anxious arousal in an escalating cycle, and these escalatory cycles of arousal and anxiety can culminate in panic attacks as experienced by individuals with panic disorder. Often the best thing you can do is look at the underlying causes of your stress and anxiety to best manage them. Questions to ask yourself: Do you feel uncomfortable at work?Do you get anxious around certain people?Do certain activities, like driving, making certain phone calls, or going to crowded events make you uncomfortable and stressed? What Is Rumination? Treatment of Anxiety and High Blood Pressure If you want to address your anxiety and blood pressure, some practitioners offer a treatment that involves biofeedback, in which physiological monitoring of your bodily arousal is made observable to you so that you can notice that your body is becoming tense and anxious, Dr. Wheaton explains. “The idea is that with practice, you could learn to control your bodily response, easing tension and slowing your heart rate down to enter a more relaxed state.” Unless you’re visiting your healthcare provider's office frequently or using your own at-home blood pressure monitor, it’s hard to know if your blood pressure is elevated. We do know, however, how to recognize the signs and feelings of stress and anxiety—and you can take action to protect your health by implementing healthy habits and simple stress management techniques. Exercise regularly: This can be as simple as taking a walk, practicing yoga, or spending time in the gym. Eat a healthy diet: Try to lower your intake of foods high in saturated fats and incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily meals. Get quality sleep: If this means starting your night routine earlier or setting your phone outside of your room, make sure you get plenty of sleep. Try deep breathing: Find a quiet place free of distractions, such as your bedroom, couch, or even outside. Relax your muscles: Dr. Wheaton recommends progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), an anxiety-reducing technique in which you alternate between tensing and releasing muscles throughout the body. Practice mindfulness meditation: This can be used anywhere, at any time. Slow down your thoughts, calm your breath, and focus on your body in the present moment. Visit a therapist: Mental health professionals can help you develop coping strategies or recommend a more comprehensive treatment plan. How to Manage Your Anxiety A Word From Verywell If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, look for ways to better manage the stress in your life. This may require adjustments to your behavior, lifestyle, or work/life obligations. Do what you can to minimize stress and anxiety. If you can’t or if stress management techniques aren’t working, let your doctor know. “Meeting with a treatment provider could be helpful to differentiate anxiety-related bodily arousal (which typically involves temporary benign increases in blood pressure) and more serious medical concerns such as hypertension,” Dr. Wheaton says. If you or a loved one are struggling with stress, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Stress is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be a part of your every day. If you have hypertension or if you're feeling stressed on a regular basis, it’s time to slow down, evaluate your behaviors, habits, and stressors, and make some necessary changes so you can better care for your overall health and well-being. Know that there are tools, resources, and services out there to help you manage high levels of stress and anxiety. 7 Alternative Treatments for High Blood Pressure 4 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Kretchy, I. A., Owusu-Daaku, F. T., & Danquah, S. A. (2014). Mental health in hypertension: Assessing symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress on anti-hypertensive medication adherence. 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