How to Overcome “White Coat Syndrome”

If just the idea of seeing a doctor sends you into a panic, you might be suffering from what is commonly referred to as “white coat syndrome”. Also known as white coat hypertension, white coat syndrome is used to describe a condition that causes patients to have elevated blood pressure exclusively in clinical settings. Stress and anxiety play a huge role in the development of white coat syndrome. If you had a bad experience with medical diagnosis and treatment in your childhood or early adulthood, it’s very possible that now you are subconsciously afraid of all doctors because they remind you of your past trauma. However, white coat hypertension can’t always be linked to a specific event or time period. It can manifest in people who are nervous about getting sick or in people who lead unhealthy lifestyles.

Signs You Must Be Suffering from White Coat Syndrome

Since most people get a little nervous when going to the doctor, diagnosing your condition as white coat syndrome can be tough. One of the most common symptoms of white coat syndrome is extreme anxiety. For example, people who need urgent care but put off getting it because they feel crippled by their anxiety usually have white coat hypertension. Keep in mind that your case might be a little less extreme. If you are capable of going to the doctor but feel an irrational fear until your appointment is over, it’s very likely that you have white coat hypertension. While most cases of white coat syndrome are characterized by fear and anxiety, they can also be affected by unhealthy lifestyle choices that are naturally associated with hypertension like smoking or caffeine consumption. Regardless of the cause of your particular case, it’s important not to ignore white coat hypertension.

Conquer Your Fear

Following a few simple tips can help you overcome your fear and get the medical treatment you need to stay healthy and happy throughout your life.

1. Try to pinpoint the exact source of your symptoms.
Did you lose a loved one to a difficult sickness or a medical mistake? If you can narrow down the event that triggered your white coat syndrome, you can focus on treating the problem at its root.

2. Find a stress-relieving method you can use on the go.
The more you focus on your fear of doctors, the more nervous you are going to feel when you get to your appointment. Meditating or using other mind relaxation methods can help you stay calm in high-stress situations.

3. Ask a friend or a family member to come with you to your doctor appointments.
Being around someone who knows how to comfort you can help you control your white coat syndrome symptoms until you get used to being in a clinical setting without feeling extreme fear or anxiety.

4. Try to go to the same doctor.
Unless you need a specialist, you should see the same primary physician for your check-ups. Seeing a doctor that you already know and trust in a familiar setting can do wonders for your confidence.

Keep in mind that white coat syndrome is a complex condition, and it won’t disappear overnight. Don’t give up if you don’t see immediate progress. With a little work and a lot of patience, you can conquer your fear and learn how to control your symptoms.

About the Guest Author

Melanie Radin is a healthcare administrator and writer from Boston, Massachusetts. She is a regular contributor to ACEHSA, as well as other healthcare resources such as Top 10 Best Online Healthcare MBA Degree Programs.