Feeling nervous about visiting the doctor or dentist is a common issue for many people. Being in a medical environment coupled with a fear of getting bad news can cause sweating, a racing heart, and higher blood pressure — known as white coat syndrome.
It can also cause low blood pressure and lead to fainting. Other symptoms include visible distress like crying or using humor or aggression to mask anxiety.
Yet fear of sitting in the dentist’s chair or doctor’s waiting room often results in avoiding or delaying treatment. This can lead to certain medical conditions getting worse over time, making it harder to treat them, and potentially risking your life by not getting treatment in time.
Here, we look at some of the most common fears to help dispel myths and help you work through them to get the medical treatment you may need.
What is white coat hypertension?
For some, a visit to the doctor can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. It’s not a problem if it only happens occasionally, however, one study found that people with white coat hypertension had an increased risk of heart attack or heart failure and stroke.
All this makes it even more important to work through your fears so you get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for your elevated blood pressure.
Causes of Anxiety
There are lots of reasons why people would feel anxious about visiting a healthcare professional. The top reasons include:
- A past traumatic experience
- The feeling of an invasion of personal space
- Anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Loss of control
- Trust issues
- Anxiety associated with other conditions like agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder or claustrophobia
Ways to Overcome Your Fears
When it comes to overcoming fear, it’s important to let your medical practitioner know that you are suffering. An open discussion about the problem can help the dentist or doctor work to tailor a specific treatment plan. Using certain coping mechanisms can help people get through an appointment or procedure. These include…
1. Deep breathing: Sometimes when you are feeling stressed or anxious, it’s common to breathe too fast and shallow.
This can cause an increased heart rate and dizziness. This can trigger a stress response from your body and cause a panic attack.
Take note of your breathing, and try to slow it down. When you feel anxious, try inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
Then, exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow out air, purse your lips, and keep your jaw relaxed. Repeat this a few times.
2. Visiting a psychologist: If the issue is serious, and you can’t bring yourself to make appointments, it could be worth visiting a psychologist to overcome the reason behind the anxiety. Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy can be successful in overcoming certain issues.
3. Find a distraction: Sometimes distracting yourself will help ease anxiety related to an appointment. Try looking at a screen to distract yourself or listening to your favorite music. What you use is up to you – as long as it holds your attention.
4. Bring a loved one or friend: Sometimes having a familiar face to come along with you will help alleviate some of the stress. Loved ones are the people who know you best, so they could help calm you down when you start to feel uncomfortable.
5. Meditation: There are thousands of studies that show mindfulness meditation can impact positively on mental and physical health. Being able to meditate is a great way to acknowledge and understand your feelings. Meditating is not about turning off your thoughts or feelings but learning to observe them without judgment.
It’s basically like rewiring the brain to enhance positive traits and diminish negative ones like fear and stress. There are plenty of websites and apps, like Headspace and Calm, that can help teach you how to meditate.
6. Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a style of therapy that will help you change your attitude towards a certain experience. The therapist will guide you into a relaxed, focused state and ask you to think about your situation and experiences positively to help you change the way you think and behave.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.