Does Anxiety Cause High Blood Pressure?

When you consider common symptoms of anxiety, such as a pounding heart, sweating, and dizziness or lightheadedness, it seems obvious that anxiety can cause high blood pressure. And indeed, periods of high anxiety do cause temporary spikes in blood pressure that can be quite dramatic.

You may think that people with chronic anxiety have a constant increase in blood pressure, but they seem to adapt in a way to their body’s constant increase in stress hormones. Instead of experiencing high blood pressure all the time, chronic anxiety sufferers only see the same temporary increases during periods when their anxiety is even greater than usual--they do not have a chronic increase in baseline blood pressure.

Although these increases in blood pressure are temporary and do not cause long-term or chronic high blood pressure, known as hypertension, they can still be cause for concern. Frequent episodes of anxiety-induced high blood pressure can cause as much damage to blood vessels, the heart, and kidneys as hypertension does. This damage, whether caused by multiple short episodes or gradually over time, is cumulative and results in an increased risk of organ damage, heart attack, and stroke.

Anxiety sufferers should also be conscious of unhealthy lifestyle habits that may increase blood pressure, like smoking, drinking, and overeating. Some people develop these habits as coping mechanisms in response to their anxiety symptoms, and they can lead to blood pressure problems. In addition, some medications used to treat anxiety, like SSRIs, can increase blood pressure in some people and in combinations with certain other medications.

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