Physical and mental health are closely related. Certain medical conditions can increase a person’s risk for some types of mental health concerns, and various mental illnesses have been linked to a decline in overall well-being. One example of this mind-body connection involves the category of anxiety disorders. Many people who have anxiety disorders experience distressing physical effects. But the relationship between anxiety and physical responses isn’t always clearly understood. Common questions include, Are these physical symptoms the direct result of the underlying mental health concern? Can physical symptoms of anxiety lead to long-term damage? Can anxiety cause high blood pressure?
What is High Blood Pressure?
To understand if anxiety can cause high blood pressure, it can be important to learn a bit about this physical condition. As blood moves through the body, it exerts pressure against a person’s artery walls. This pressure is not always consistent. In fact, it will usually fluctuate over the course of a typical day. Blood pressure may rise or fall depending on several factors, including what a person has eaten and if they have exerted themselves. Some medical conditions can affect blood pressure, as can a person’s state of mind.
Though it is normal for a person’s blood pressure to increase from time to time, extended periods of elevated pressure can lead to a condition called hypertension. This condition is commonly referred to as high blood pressure.
Hypertension is a serious and unfortunately common concern in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 116 million Americans, or almost half of the nation’s adult population, have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure’s continued impact on a person’s artery walls can lead to a wide range of serious problems, including:
- Heart failure
- Kidney damage
- Vision loss
- Sexual dysfunction
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
As noted earlier on this page, mental health concerns and state of mind can affect how a person’s body functions. In the case of anxiety disorders, potential physical symptoms include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Sensation of being choked
- Elevated body temperature
- Excessive perspiration
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Muscle tension
- Headaches and stomach aches
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Tingling in hands and feet
The types of physical symptoms a person feels, what causes these symptoms to begin, and how long they last can vary depending on which anxiety disorder a person has. Common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia, panic disorder, specific phobia, separation anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia.
Can Anxiety Cause High Blood Pressure?
The quick answer to the question, “Can anxiety cause high blood pressure?” is no. But this answer can be a bit confusing and possibly misleading. So, let’s take a closer look at how anxiety does and doesn’t affect blood pressure.
One of the anxiety symptoms listed in the previous section is “elevated heart rate and blood pressure.” This means that in certain circumstances, people who have anxiety disorders may feel their heartbeat increase. This, of course, will cause a boost in blood pressure.
In such circumstances, this means that anxiety can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. In some cases, these temporary increases can be dramatic, or even dangerous. But the key word in the previous two sentences is “temporary.” Hypertension (the clinical term for high blood pressure) refers to blood pressure that consistently exceeds the safe limit. A temporary uptick in blood pressure does not qualify as hypertension.
Having said all of that, this doesn’t mean that there is no possible connection between anxiety disorders and hypertension. A 2015 study in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found a potential association between anxiety and high blood pressure. This study found that people who have anxiety may also be at elevated risk for hypertension. The authors acknowledged that their research did not find a direct cause/effect relationship between anxiety disorders and high blood pressure, and they noted that the topic merits further investigation.
How are Anxiety Disorders Treated in Nashville, TN?
Anxiety disorders are often treated with a combination of prescription medication and therapy. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and benzodiazepines have all proved to be effective at easing certain symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Therapy for anxiety can help people manage remaining symptoms and make healthy behavior changes. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Spravato treatment, neurofeedback therapy, biosound therapy, AlphaStim therapy, and other services can be beneficial components of effective treatment for anxiety.
The specific elements that may be included in a person’s customized anxiety treatment plan should be determined by factors such as which type of disorder they have, what types of symptoms they have been experiencing, and whether or not they have a co-occurring mental health concern. This is why it can be so important to receive care from a provider who will conduct a thorough assessment and develop a customized course of treatment.
Begin Anxiety Treatment in Nashville, TN
Arbor Wellness is a respected provider of quality clinical programming for adults whose lives have been disrupted by anxiety disorders and other mental health concerns. Our treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee, is a safe place where adults receive personalized services from a team of dedicated professionals. Anxiety disorders are treatable conditions. When you get the care you need, your life can get much better. Give us a call or visit our admissions page today to learn how we can help.