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Can high blood pressure cause anxiety?

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Hypertension and anxiety Panic attacksOther mental health conditionsTreatmentsSummary
Ever suspected there is a link between high blood pressure and anxiety? Research suggests they may be connected.
Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
Updated on

High blood pressure (hypertension) means the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries is too high.

Hypertension is common, affecting nearly half of all adults in the United States. Most of the time, there are no symptoms — in fact, many people are unaware they have it.

While it’s a physical health condition, recent research suggests mental health issues such as anxiety and panic attacks may have a connection with hypertension in some people.

This article discusses the possible connection between high blood pressure and anxiety, panic attacks, and treatments for hypertension.

Hypertension and anxiety

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Anxiety is associated with worry and fear. It can be a natural and healthy response to dangerous situations. Anxiety disorders are when anxiety levels become long term, frequent, or significant and interfere with your daily life and mental well-being. 

2015 review looked at 13 studies and found a link between anxiety and hypertension. The researchers reported a bidirectional relationship, which means that anxiety can cause high blood pressure, and high blood pressure could also cause anxiety.

Anxiety can increase your blood pressure in the short term as your body prepares to respond to a threat. The authors suggested that long-term anxiety may lead to resistance in your circulatory system, leading to hypertension.

Recent studies suggested that people with high blood pressure are more likely to experience anxiety than those with typical blood pressure. 

For example, a 2022 study on over 3,000 older adults ages 60–80 in China found that those with COVID-19-related anxiety had higher blood pressure. 

Similarly, a 2018 study on 226 people in Nigeria concluded that anxiety could increase blood pressure — even after accounting for other hypertension causes, like family history. 

One possible explanation for this link is that hypertension can cause changes in the brain that affect your body’s stress response. In addition, people with hypertension may experience symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and dizziness, which can further contribute to feelings of anxiety. 

Yet, more research is needed to understand the connection between anxiety and hypertension better.

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Can high blood pressure cause panic attacks?

Panic attacks are sudden and intense episodes of fear. A specific situation or sometimes out of nowhere with no discernable cause may trigger these attacks.

While there is no clear evidence that hypertension directly causes panic attacks or the other way around, some studies have demonstrated a link between high blood pressure and panic disorders.

For instance, an older study from 2010 of 40 people concluded that people with panic disorder had higher blood pressure levels than people without the condition.

In addition, a 2021 review that included 10 studies found that people with panic disorder are more likely to develop hypertension, though the researchers highlighted the lack of extensive, well-designed studies. 

A possible reason behind this link is that panic disorders can affect your body’s stress response, which can then increase blood pressure levels.

More studies are needed to learn more about panic attacks, panic disorders, and blood pressure. 

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Other mental health conditions

In addition to anxiety and panic attacks, hypertension may have a link with other mental health conditions.

For example, a 2021 review found that stress may more than double the risk of high blood pressure. 

According to the American Heart Association, chronic stress may lead to high blood pressure through increased adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones may affect your heart rate and blood pressure.

Further, an extensive 2015 review, including 41 studies and more than 30,000 people, concluded that hypertension often presents alongside depression

What’s more, research suggests that there can be links between high blood pressure and mental health conditions, such as:

While studies increasingly demonstrate these connections, researchers are yet to find the exact mechanisms behind them. Hypertension could be related to increased stress and certain medications. It is hard to consistently follow a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a healthy diet. 

Hypertension treatments

Your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medications, such as:

Whether or not you have any mental health conditions, it is advisable to speak with your doctor if you have hypertension. They can develop a treatment plan that is best suited for you.

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High blood pressure is a common health condition that affects the body’s arteries. While it is primarily a physical condition, research suggests that mental health issues in some people, such as anxiety and panic attacks, may cause high blood pressure.

Regularly monitoring your blood pressure and aiming to keep it within a healthy range can help you stay healthier. If left unchecked, hypertension can lead to serious health complications, including an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

By working closely with a doctor, you can receive a treatment plan that addresses your physical and mental health needs keeping your mind and body healthy.

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