White Coat Syndrome

If hypertension mysteriously manifests because a health professional slips on the cuff, you’re not alone. Nearly 20% of the population suffers from white coat syndrome, a condition that induces elevated numbers in the doctor’s office. But nerves that rattle at the sight of a stethoscope can affect more than readings on a blood pressure monitor.

Physician fears often keep patients from seeking care or getting screenings like cholesterol checks, mammograms, and colorectal exams.

So say “ah” to these coping methods:

Fess up. Don’t use lack of time or money as excuses for dodging the doc. Admit you’re scared, to yourself and your physician… then request honesty in return. Ask what to expect from your visit. If your MD doesn’t respond, get a new one.

Define the phobia. Are you afraid of painful procedures, poor diagnosis, or even incompetent staff? Are you embarrassed by your body, or worried you’ll be ridiculed for your lifestyle choices? Identifying your anxiety can help you minimize it.

Bring a hand-holder. The presence and support of a friend or spouse can not only get you to the appointment, but keep you calm while there. Talk to those who’ve had similar tests. Simply knowing someone else has worn that open-backed gown can make you feel less alone.

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