Tag Archives: anxiety

Is White Coat Hypertension Causing You Undue Worry?

Over one third of Americans suffer hypertension: the silent killer. We took a look at masked hypertension (when someone experiences higher ambulatory blood pressure readings than those in the doctor’s office) in our last post, and up next, we’d like to check out its opposite phenomena: white coat hypertension.

White Coat Syndrome

White coat syndrome (or effect) refers to a fairly common type of nervousness or anxiety people experience when visiting doctors. The term ‘white coat’ derives from the fact that medical doctors traditionally wore white jackets. This type of anxiety can spur from a distrust of doctors based on bad past experiences, a worry of receiving the wrong treatment, or perhaps from a fear of hearing bad news from a doctor. It is common to feel stressed about visiting the doctor, especially if you are waiting for results or undergoing an examination. It is estimated that nearly 20% of Americans suffer from some degree of white coat syndrome.

What is White Coat Hypertension?

White coat hypertension is an offshoot of white coat syndrome. It occurs when a person is anxious to have their blood pressure taken or be examined by a physician, so their blood pressure numbers present much higher in the doctor’s office than if measured at home. Generally, a person’s blood pressure should only vary by a few millimeters of mercury (mmHg) when taken at the doctor’s office versus at another location. This means no more of a variance than 10mmHg for the top number (systolic) and 5mmHg for the bottom number (diastolic). People with white coat hypertension may have a large fluctuation in their readings at a doctor’s office and relatively normal blood pressure when measured throughout the day at home.

Could White Coat Hypertension Lead to A Misdiagnosis?

While it is possible that a doctor may misdiagnose a person experiencing white coat hypertension as having actual hypertension, this would likely be a rare occurrence as most physicians would double check with ambulatory readings (using a portable blood pressure monitor at home). If a doctor suspects high blood pressure due to several in-office readings, they often suggest home monitoring for a 24-hour period or longer to cross check with their own readings to ensure the diagnosis is accurate before proceeding with treatment. If your doctor does not suggest home monitoring before trying to prescribe blood pressure treatment, you should certainly request it.

What Can be Done To Prevent White Coat Hypertension?

If you know you are experiencing this phenomenon, it is important to try to de-stress before entering a doctor’s office. You should also let your doctor know that your home readings have been in the normal range so that no unnecessary treatment ensues. If you are having trouble bringing your anxiety level down before visiting a doctor, take a look at some of our stress busters. People with more severe white coat syndrome may need to seek psychological therapy to figure out the root of their fear of medical environments and work toward dealing with it.

Can White Coat Hypertension Turn into Hypertension?

Yes. While it is common for everyone’s blood pressure to fluctuate during the run of a day, it is possible that someone who experiences significant stress-related blood pressure spikes may go on to develop high blood pressure. For this reason, you will likely continue to be monitored by your doctor (and at home) to ensure your blood pressure is in check in the future as well.

Thanks for visiting DocChat! Remember, our qualified, board-certified doctors are standing by 24/7/365 to assist with any of your health-related inquiries! If you find it difficult to physically go to the doctor, telemedicine may be worth a try for you!


12 Surprising Ways Anxiety Manifests Itself Physically (Part 2)

Anxiety and anxiety disorders like panic, social or generalized anxiety affect millions of Americans. Aside from causing nervousness, distress, mood changes and worry, anxiety can also cause physical symptoms that may mimic many physical health conditions. Even those of us who don’t have underlying anxiety disorders may still be dealing with a little too much anxiety or have the occasional panic attack. In our last post, we looked at how anxiety can cause palpitations, excess sweating, urination problems, chest pains, tachycardia and stomach problems. Let’s take a look at the next few physical symptoms it can cause:

  1. Shortness of breath can be caused by many different health conditions such as congestive heart failure or asthma, but sometimes severe anxiety can cause shortness of breath. This usually occurs when the person is not aware they have been breathing irregularly for some time because they are in a state of stress or anxiety. Maybe they are taking shallow breaths or breathing from their chest instead of deeper from the abdomen. This would lead to a feeling of not taking in enough air, which in turn may cause even more anxiety, creating a loop. If you have evaluated and medical causes of breath shortness have been ruled out, talk to your doctor about better managing your anxiety today.
  2. Lethargy or fatigue – Many things can cause fatigue such as medications, health problems, lifestyle habits or stress and anxiety. If your system is in a perpetual state of anxiety or stress, your cortisol levels are all out of whack. The body’s natural response to this roller coaster is to feel exhausted and worn out. If you are struggling with fatigue, it is best to get it checked out so you can rule out any potentially serious causes, or get some help if your anxiety is causing you to be too tired.
  3. Trembling or twitching – Severe anxiety or panic can cause bodily trembling or shaking, due to soaring adrenaline levels. This can be very startling symptom to experience if the person is not used to it, and may trigger even more anxiety. Anxiety-associated trembling is often referred to as essential trembling. There are medical causes for trembling as well such as multiple sclerosis, so it is important to mention any trembling or shaking to a doctor.
  4. Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) – We have all experienced excess sweating brought on by a stressful event such as public speaking at some point in time, so most people are aware stress and anxiety can make one sweat profusely. If you are noticing that you are often sweating more than normal, it may be time to check in with a doc.
  5. Tension-based headaches or muscle aches – If you’ve been stressed or overly worried for some time, it can start affecting the muscles in your upper body. You may feel an aching or strained neck, tense shoulders or jaw, or perhaps a persistent tension headache. That is often because when a person is stressed, they hold their body in a more uptight manner, often with the shoulders up farther toward the neck than a non-stressed person would. They may clench their jaw unknowingly, which can lead to jaw and head pain. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should check in the with a doc to see if they may be anxiety-rooted or due to another condition.
  6. Difficulty swallowing – While certain conditions such as a hiatal hernia can cause a lump in the throat, anxiety can also at least give the illusion of one. The term Globus sensation refers to the anxiety-driven sensation of having an obstruction in the throat when there is none. It can feel very physical, even causing some people to be stomach sick. One example could be if a person sees a stray hair near their food and starts worrying they’ve swallowed a hair, getting the feeling that there is one stuck in their throat. Even though they did not swallow the hair, it can feel very much like they did.

There you have our 12 physical signs of anxiety! Thanks for visiting DocChat, we hope you drop back again soon!




12 Surprising Ways Anxiety Manifests Itself Physically (Part 1)

Anxiety can be tricky, perhaps even the chameleon of mental health issues. It can manifest itself mentally, emotionally and physically, often mimicking symptoms of physical health conditions and confusing everyone in its wake. Most everyone will have little surges of anxiety from time to time, but some people battle excess anxiety daily, which can be tiring and perplexing. Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million American adults, and this is a modest estimate. Even those who don’t have underlying anxiety disorders may still have a little too much anxiety or have the occasional panic attack. Let’s take a look at the first 6 of our 12 physical signs that you could be dealing with too much anxiety:

  1. Heart palpitations – Many people don’t realize that anxiety can actually affect how the heart beats. If you feel flutters, the sensation of ‘skipped beats’ or a sensation of thumping, anxiety could be the culprit. More often than not, palpitations are nothing to worry about. However, in some cases, these feelings can be symptoms of arrhythmias (disorders that cause potentially dangerous irregular heartbeats), so it is important to talk to a doctor if you are getting palpitations.
  2. Chest painUp to 40% of those suffering a panic attack will experience some kind of chest pain. It can take the form of quick shooting or darting pains, slow burning aches or a crushing feeling. It is important that anyone experiencing chest pain is medically evaluated to rule out any underlying or emergency heart problems. More often than not, people who wind up in the ER for chest pains are not having a heart attack. There are many non-cardiac conditions can cause chest pain, but it is important to check it out nonetheless.
  3. Raised heart rate (tachycardia) – When you are afraid, anxious, or stressed out, the brain sends out the ‘fight or flight’ signal to the heart to speed up in anticipation of potential danger. If you notice your heart racing routinely, you should check in with the doc to make sure you don’t have any other health issues, or to discuss potential treatments for anxiety.
  4. Dry mouth – Anxiety can reduce the amount of saliva produced by your salivary glands, which leads to the feeling of a dry or parched mouth. Dry mouth can also be caused by antidepressants or other medications, as well as certain conditions (such as Sjogren’s syndrome).
  5. Polyuria (frequent urination) – If you are chronically or overly stressed, you may find an increased urge to urinate. Like many of the symptoms on this list, polyuria can also be a sign of more serious health conditions such as diabetes, but a surplus of anxiety can certainly cause you to keep running to the washroom.
  6. Gastrointestinal problems – sometimes people who have extra anxiety struggle with diarrhea, constipation, or a touchy stomach. Their symptoms can be similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, or a person may have both anxiety and IBS, as the stomach and brain are closely linked.

That concludes Part 1 of our look at how anxiety can cause physical symptoms, but stay tuned next for a look at the next few! Thanks for visiting DocChat, remember, our excellent board-certified doctors are standing by 24/7/365 for any health-related questions you may have.

11 Signs That You’re More Stressed Than You Think (Part 2)

Unrestrained stress can cause a multitude of unpleasant physiological symptoms and can exacerbate nearly all health problems, both mental and physical. Is your stress level creeping higher than you realize? In our last post, we looked at such signs as negative thought loops, being your own worst enemy, being out-of-control of your emotions, unexplained fatigue and eating too much or not enough. Next up are:

  1. Your brain is a puddle of goo – If you’re finding it hard to concentrate on tasks at hand, repeating yourself unknowingly, procrastinating or forgetting every little thing, chances are you’re on stress-mode autopilot and don’t even know it. Our brains can’t function optimally when our cortisol levels are constantly on the rise.
  2. Your sleep schedule is thrown off – Most people who are chronically stressed have sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too much or not sleeping enough, going to bed way too late or waking up much later than you should be, you need to check in with yourself. Sleep is one of the cornerstones to good health. So, if you’re not sleeping well, figure out what’s bothering you and try to get back on track.
  3. You’re never “in the mood” – Has your libido taken a nose dive recently? If you have too much stress in your life it often impedes sexual function. When the body is in a state of hyperawareness, your cortisol levels are soaring which can seriously snuff out any desire for romance.
  4. Your head hurts – Are you getting more unexplained headaches than usual, perhaps of the tension variety? Chances are that unchecked stress is to blame!
  5. Your heart is misbehaving – Stress and anxiety can actually cause your heart to palpitate (the feeling of ‘skipped beats’, as well as race too fast (tachycardia). Have you been aware of your heartbeat lately? Does it feel like its not beating as it should? You may be anxious or stressed. It is important to let your doctor know so he or she can rule out more serious issues such as arrhythmias, but more often than not these symptoms are caused by stress.

Other symptoms of stress include stomach discomfort, aches and pains, itching or frequent colds. If you’ve been experiencing many of these symptoms, it is time for a stress tune up. Unchecked chronic stress can be a killer. It is linked to (or known to worsen) such serious conditions as depression, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, asthma and more. If you’re constantly riding a stress wave, you’re playing with fire. Check out our stress busting tips to help you lower your levels, or if you can’t seem to manage your stress, talk to your doctor about a referral to a mental health professional soon. Thanks for visiting DocChat!



Tips To Help Your Child Lessen Anxiety

The Difference Between ‘Normal Anxiety’ And a Problem

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, including children. In healthy doses, anxiety is a normal part of growing up and adapting to an ever-changing environment. A child may experience bouts of anxiety lasting a few days or even a few weeks in response to a particularly stressful situation such as an upcoming exam, public speaking event, transfer to a different school or town, or important sporting event. If, however, your child is experiencing symptoms of anxiety regularly to the point where their anxiety interferes with his or her eating or sleeping patterns, disposition, school attendance, daily activities and enjoyment of life, you should talk to a psychologist as they may have a disorder. Check out our article on childhood anxiety disorders here.

What Can You Do To Help With Your Child’s Anxiety?

It is important to seek medical treatment if your child is displaying many of the symptoms listed above, as the doctor can perform tests to determine a diagnosis, and then provide your child with any necessary medication or therapy resources he or she may need to move past the symptoms caused by their disorder. However, there are things you can do to try to lessen your child’s worrying, including:

  1. Don’t quickly dismiss your child’s thoughts and worries, take the time to hear them out, and let your child know their worries can be faced. It is important your child feels they can express their anxieties to you or another trusted adult, keeping them inside will only lead to more mental and emotional turmoil.


  1. Listen and empathize, but don’t provide too much reassurance or enable your child’s worrying, but instead support and encourage your child to face the situation they are concerned about to show them things will be okay.


  1. Don’t enable your child’s anxieties by letting them avoid the things they are worried about such as school, a sport, a family get together or a test. Letting your child’s anxiety rule what he or she does or doesn’t do in life won’t get them further.


  1. Check on the anxiety levels of the authority figures in your home. Do you or your partner excessively worry? Often times adults unknowingly model behaviours that children pick up on and emulate.


  1. Show your child it is okay to be imperfect and help the learn they can’t always make the best decision, get the best grade, win the competition. Sometimes they will make mistakes, and they need to come to terms with that. Perfectionism goes hand in hand with high levels of anxiety. This can be a good combination for achieving goals but can be very hard on a person over time.


  1. Face your own fears and learn to curb your own worries to provide a positive role model for your child about overcoming worry.


  1. Reward your child’s positive thinking and fear-facing behaviors with small things like stickers for their collection to help encourage them to continue this behavior.
  2. Help your child learn deep breathing techniques, yoga or mediation to help them decompress and clear their minds when they are especially worried.


  1. Encourage your child to take up an “outlet hobby” such as painting or sculpture, coloring or writing. It provides your child with an outlet to purge some of their negative thoughts and worries. Writing can be especially helpful, keeping a journal or diary can help your child get his or her worries out of their system.


  1. Teach your child to focus on the positives. Often over-worriers are constantly berating themselves, being their “own worst enemy”. This thought process is not only exhausting, but also damaging to the child’s self-concept. They will continually struggle with confidence until they learn to be easier on, and kinder to themselves.


  1. Develop a steadfast bedtime routine with your child. This will help them get better at sleeping and turning off their minds.

For more information and help on the topic of worrisome children, check our WorryWiseKids. Thanks for visiting DocChat! We hope you’ll return again soon.






Is Your Child Just a Worrier Or Fighting A Disorder?

Anxiety is a growing mental health epidemic in people of all ages, but a surprising number of children and teens are struggling with an anxiety disorder. The Anxiety And Depression Association of America (ADAA) asserts that 1 in 8 children will be affected by an anxiety disorder. It is important to know the signs of anxiety disorders for children, as they present differently than in adults. Here is a quick look at the signs and symptoms of the different types of anxiety disorders in children.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s way of alerting your system to a potential threat so you can face it (fight) or escape it (flight). While prehistoric anxiety was tied to actual predators and physically dangerous situations, modern anxiety has more to do with social threats, health issues, or uncomfortable stressful situations such as public speaking. Anxiety brings on feelings of nervousness, agitation, fear, angst, tension or distraction. Every child experiences some anxiety as a normal part of life and development, but if your child’s anxiety becomes routine, or starts interfering with their everyday activities and quality of life, they may have an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of Common Youth Anxiety Disorders

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    GAD causes excessive, persistent and intrusive worrying about the future, bad things happening to people they love, physical illness, if their parents might get a divorce or become ill, natural disasters, and school performance just to name a few. GAD children spend an disproportionate amounts of time focused on troublesome thoughts to the point where worrying may interfere with social development, sleeping, homework and leisure time.
  2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    Youth OCD causes repeated and unwanted images, thoughts, obsessions or urges that make them anxious, and subsequently engage in compulsive behaviours in an attempt to reduce the anxiety and rid them off the intrusive thoughts. Children suffering from OCD may constantly count aloud, over-wash their hands, engage in repetitive gestures, pacing back and forth or other strange rituals. They may think that engaging in these compulsions will prevent bad things from happening, such as: “if I count back from 100 seven times in a row, I will never be involved in a car accident.”
  1. Panic Disorder
    This disorder is marked by a child experiencing sudden and often unprovoked panic attacks, followed by weeks of worrying when the next attack may occur. During a panic attack, your child may experience a rapid heartbeat, sweating, acute anxiety and tremors, among many other unpleasant symptoms.
  2. Social Anxiety Disorder
    Social anxiety disorder manifests itself in children or teenagers who are so intensely fearful and apprehensive of social blunders or not being accepted that they avoid any social situations at all costs. That may mean your child will fake stomach pains to avoid going to school or attending a sleepover, won’t attend parties, perform or even speaking to other people. Children who suffer from extreme social anxiety may even engage in selective mutism (when a child has the ability to speak and does so when comfortable, but chooses to stay completely silent in stressful or social situations).
  3. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 1
    PTSD occurs when a child is involved in a traumatic event such instances of abuse, a natural disaster, witnessing a crime, traumatic family events such as a death or divorce or a car accident. PTSD presents in children as such symptoms as flashbacks, jumpy behaviour, night terrors about the incident, fear and avoidance of triggering situations or people, “time skew” (when children misremember the incident and timeline, this symptom is mostly exclusive to children), anxiety and aggressive behaviours (especially in teens).

Thanks for visiting DocChat! Catch our post “Helping Your Child Decrease Anxiety” soon for tips to help your child deal with their anxiety.

The Many Faces of Anxiety

When you think of anxiety, you may think of frantic worrying, erratic thoughts and hair-pulling stress, but anxiety can manifest itself in different ways for different people.

Is Anxiety Another Word For ‘Worry’?

Anxiety can be limited to uncontained worries, but it can also encompass such emotional symptoms as general feeling of unease or apprehension, nervousness (typically because of an upcoming an event or issue), concern, fear, agitation, angst, tension, or even disorientation. Anxiety is often described as the feeling of “butterflies” in one’s stomach. Most fleeting, or isolated anxiety bouts are because of stressful events such as family or friend conflicts, moving, losing or gaining a job, or losing relationships through death or insurmountable conflict (for example divorce). Certain situations such as living and coping with a serious medical illness or a perpetually over-demanding job may lead to long-term stress and anxiety which may require treatment.

The Many Symptoms of Anxiety

Concentrated or prolonged anxiety can have physical effects on the body. Anxiety goes hand-in-hand with stress, which we all know causes physical strain as well as mental. Some physical symptoms of acute or persistent anxiety include:

  • Tension headaches
  • An elevated “pounding” heartrate
  • Muscle tension, especially in the neck and shoulders
  • Forgetfulness or confusion
  • Diaphoresis (excessive sweating)
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bouts of dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal or urinary problems

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should check in with your doctor or one of our certified DocChat physicians, as some of them can be related to other potentially serious health conditions.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

So are your worries just worries? Or is something larger at play? Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a condition marked by constant, and disproportionate or irrational worry about various areas of life. On average, someone who is acutely anxious spends approximately an hour a day focused on a couple particular stressors that are going on in life, while someone with GAD may spend over 5 hours a day worrying and obsessing about an array of topics. Such topics may include: how others feel towards them, if their pet is okay, if everyone they love is okay, if they may have said something to offend the cashier earlier, if there is something unknown wrong with their physical health, and the list goes on. The lives of GAD sufferers can be severely impacted by uncontrolled anxiety and often require medication or other therapy.

Other Types Of Anxiety Disorders

  1. Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder, where a person is extremely fearful and apprehensive of social situations. This doesn’t include people who are just socially awkward or would rather stay home to watch Netflix. It usually involves serious fear and worry about interacting with others, to the point that a person may need exposure or talk therapy or medication to undergo even menial social tasks such as shopping at the mall.
  2. Panic disorder is an anxiety-based condition where frequent and often unfounded panic attacks occur. There are varying degrees of this disorder, ranging from infrequent spontaneous attacks to debilitation, where the sufferer lives in constant stress and fear of when the next attack may strike. Often medication is prescribed when the disorder begins to interfere with the person’s day-to-day activities.
  3. Phobia disorders are also classified as anxiety disorders. An example would be agoraphobia: the intense, debilitating fear of leaving the comfort and shelter of one’s home. This phobia is usually comorbid with social anxiety.

Is Anxiety Ruling Your Life?

If you are experiencing more than just the occasional bout of anxiety and you feel like it is impeding on your life or preventing you from keeping up with daily activities, it is time to speak to your doctor or one of DocChat’s highly qualified physicians. A doctor can talk to you about potential treatment options such as therapy, medications, or other stress management tactics that may help you control your anxiety instead of having it controlling you.

Thanks for visiting DocChat! Keep an eye out for a future post on ways to cope with anxiety!