Anxiety And Blood Pressure: Does One Cause The Other?

Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC

Published 01/08/2021

Can anxiety cause high blood pressure? Some are quick to assume it does, but it may not be that simple. Sometimes they can go hand in hand, but it depends. Anxiety could cause physical symptoms that could affect your blood pressure. In some cases, such influence may be temporary because the anxiety was triggered by something, and your body responded as a result. However, a person can have high blood pressure and experience anxiety that could affect physical and mental behaviors.

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The Key Is To Understand How Your Body Responds

While some suggest anxiety and high blood pressure have a connection, it helps to know how and why the body responds to stress. The body creates hormones when you’re under stress. It leads to an increased heartbeat and blood flow, also resulting in a blood pressure increase. In many situations, this is temporary because the body is responding to something that happened. For example, you could be anxious waiting for something to happen, or you just got some startling news from a friend. The same physical response occurs when you’re under pressure at work, school, or home to get things done.

Such instances describe a temporary increase in blood pressure with a physical response from the body. But things are different when you choose to respond to stress with things in your environment. Researchers claim there is little evidence to suggest stress itself leads to long-term high blood pressure. How you respond to stress when considering unhealthy alternatives could raise the risk of high blood pressure. Unhealthy habits such as smoking, consuming high amounts of alcohol, and eating an unhealthy diet are contributing behaviors.

Understanding behaviors happening when a person is stressed is essential. If you engage in unhealthy behaviors, you are increasing chances of developing conditions like depression, anxiety, and heart disease. If there is  a history of these and related medical conditions, your symptoms could worsen if not adequately addressed. These conditions may not be linked to high blood pressure, but hormones are influenced when you feel stressed and are putting pressure on the heart and arteries.

How you take care of yourself is essential. If you feel stressed or overwhelmed, you may not take care of yourself as you should. It may result in fatigue and forgetting to do tasks significant to your health, like taking your medication. Your blood pressure may increase when the body is under stress but goes back to normal when the stress subsides.

Anxiety And Blood Pressure Spikes

When a situation creates anxiety, blood pressure spikesYou can help yourself by understanding how the body is affected. When you feel anxiety, the body releases hormones in response. They affect blood vessels and lead to an increase in blood pressure. Some medical experts believe people may have high blood pressure due to anxiety, but more likely, it is a temporary boost that subsides after the anxiety threat goes away.

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If you experience anxiety more often, it may create high blood pressure because it could damage the blood vessels, heart, and other vital organs. People that experience high levels of anxiety are more likely to develop hypertension. Therefore, it is crucial to detect anxiety early in people with high blood pressure to minimize their physical and mental health risks.

Having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder are two different concepts. You can have anxiety by feeling anxious about something, and the feeling will pass. An anxiety disorder includes handling high levels of anxiety regularly, and it affects daily living. People with an anxiety disorder are at risk of engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as poor dieting, alcohol and tobacco use, and physical inactivity. Blood pressure spikes may also be caused by certain anxiety medications.

High Blood Pressure And Feelings Of Anxiety

Can high blood pressure cause feelings of anxiety? If you experience increased anxiety regularly, it could boost your blood pressure temporarily. Sometimes anxiety can do the opposite by lowering blood pressure. It occurs when blood vessels become more expansive. In some cases, people experience high anxiety levels for so long it made their blood vessels wider, causing hypotension or low blood pressure. In this case, some people are susceptible to anxiety or panic. They may have nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, and passing out or fainting.

People with high blood pressure or hypertension may not experience symptoms. A person may experience symptoms if their blood pressure is changing, but some symptoms are similar to anxiety. It may be challenging to distinguish them. If your blood pressure is very high, you are likely to experience symptoms. If you have reoccurring signs or severe symptoms, contact your doctor. It may signal an underlying condition that needs treatment. If you have concerns or want to know if high blood pressure causes anxiety, talk to your doctor or mental health specialist for an opinion.

How Is Anxiety Treated?

When you have anxiety, high blood pressure, or other preexisting conditions, it is essential to let your doctor or mental health specialist know. There are different options available, and the options best for you may depend on your symptoms and other health concerns. You can ask your doctor or mental health specialist if anxiety raises blood pressure to gain additional insight based on your health situation. Treatment options for anxiety include:

  • Several options available to treat anxiety provide relief from symptoms. Some are used to treat high blood pressure, while others are formulated to provide short-term relief. Some antidepressants used to treat depressive symptoms may help with anxiety. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and mention other medications you’re taking for other conditions to reduce the risk of side effects or complications.
  • Work With A Therapist. Psychotherapy has helped people manage anxiety by talking about their thinking patterns and causes behind their feelings. For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy guides reducing worries and channel thoughts to minimize one’s fears. People learn techniques they can use when in situations that trigger anxiety.
  • Change Lifestyle Habits. Changing your lifestyle by adopting healthy habits and breaking old ones may help reduce or prevent anxiety. Make changes where you see fit, such as your sleep, eating, and physical activities. Get to be earlier each night. Meditate. Drink more water to stay hydrated. Limit or avoid caffeine and alcohol consumption. Look for ways to deal with your problems head-on instead of pushing them aside. Focus your mind on more positive thoughts instead of negative ones.

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How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?

People with concerns about their blood pressure may ask, does anxiety cause high blood pressure, and if so, what can be done about it? Treatment for the high blood pressure may depend on your health and any other preexisting conditions. If you have concerns about your blood pressure or want to know if anxiety raises your own blood pressure, ask your doctor or mental health provider. Treatment measures for the high blood pressure may include:

  • Change Living Habits. Your doctor may recommend you make changes to your living habits to keep your blood pressure low. You may be required to change your diet to include less sodium intake. Along with healthier eating, if you smoke or use recreational drugs, you are urged to quit since they could contribute to blood pressure spikes. Regular exercise regulates oxygen and blood flow. You’ll also want to know your body mass index (BMI) and how to keep that number at a healthy level.
  • The type of medication used for high blood pressure varies. It can be used for different reasons, and some may need more than one depending on the severity of their blood pressure.

Self-Help Strategies To Help Manage Both

Managing stress may help reduce anxiety and encourage healthy behaviors to keep blood pressure levels low. As you practice healthy behaviors, you help manage stress and adopt positive habits leading to a better lifestyle. Options to help manage your symptoms include the following:

  • Look for ways to use your time better. Make it easier to meet deadlines and reduce the feeling of being rushed. Change your schedule accordingly by considering activities that are most important first. Making adjustments to your schedule won’t leave you pressed for time but should make it easier to get priorities done without pressure.
  • Practice deep breathing techniques when you need to relax. You can do this at work, school, or home. Taking a few deep breaths helps you calm down and reduce anxiety.
  • Engage in regular physical activity. Exercise is a natural way to boost your mood and relieve stress. Any exercise program should get approval from your doctor if you have high blood pressure.

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  • Relax using meditation and yoga. You can learn to relax and strengthen your body while naturally keeping your blood pressure low. Many apps are available, providing new and easy techniques for all ages.
  • Establish a regular sleep schedule. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll feel restless, irritable, and tired. Besides being low on energy, it won’t be easy to concentrate on tasks. Plenty of rest ensures your ready to take on the day.
  • Gain a new perspective. Instead of being quick to complain about something, acknowledge your feelings, and determine an appropriate approach to a solution.

When Should You Seek Help?

If you have personal concerns about high blood pressure and anxiety that affect your ability to meet daily priorities or have symptoms that do not improve, you can get help. If you experience headaches, vomiting, nausea, breathing difficulties, blurred vision, or rapid heart rate, contact your doctor. If your symptoms are severe, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

There is a link between blood pressure and anxiety.  A person could develop high blood pressure if they have serious anxiety symptoms. High blood pressure could result in anxiety, depending on certain factors. Getting help for one  will likely  improve the other. Contact your doctor if you have concerns.