What is the white coat syndrome?

Sometimes the worst sorcerers are not on the street but inside our brains. Networks for science

It is common that when going to a hospital service they take the most basic vital signs of the body, in order to detect any health problem: temperature, pulse, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
However, we are not aware that if we feel predisposed to get sick or our health condition worsens , our brain sends an alarm signal and generates stress which can raise our blood pressure just by thinking that things can go wrong.

What is a white coat syndrome?

Let’s go back to basics, a syndrome (APA, 2010) is a set of symptoms and signs that are usually due to a single cause (or set of related causes) and that indicate a particular physical or mental illness or disorder.

What is white coat syndrome or white coat hypertension?

White-coat hypertension is the transient increase in blood pressure that occurs in some people in healthcare settings: hospitals, clinics, and outpatient settings. Its importance lies in the fact that the measurement of blood pressure offers abnormally high values, which do not correspond to the actual tension figures, which can induce a false diagnosis of hypertension (Mancia, 1983).


Simply taking vital signs like measuring blood pressure can increase or trigger blood pressure. And this depends on the patient’s negative predisposition, which will lead him to present levels above his “normal” average. However, it is necessary to consider that this is an event that is due to multiple factors which influence the increase in blood pressure reading, all of them associated with an increase in the heart beat:

Psychosocial factors

Physical and / or emotional health states:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fear or fear
  • Fear of death or thanatophobia
  • Hypochondria
  • Reaction to the specialist’s expert (doctor or nurse)

Situational or environmental factors

  • Stress
  • Negative environment
  • Poorly calibrated blood pressure instruments


Temporary or transient increase when the blood pressure of a patient is taken while in the presence of the health professional, resulting in a false diagnosis.

The cerebral paradox

If my brain detects threats, the whole body will be alert, but if it detects peace and balance, it will be fortunately relaxed .
There are people who improve their state of health when a qualified person prescribes a supposed medicine which consists of taking sugar pills (placebo effect) , while others just by thinking that the medicines supplied by a professional or simply taking vital signs, if these do not correspond to the average values they can get sick, and they will interpret it as a negative state of health (nocebo effect). This is so because the brain builds its own reality in good and bad.
Can I be healthy and sick? Evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban states that: The brain can have two mutually incompatible beliefs. He calls it ” Brain Modularity or Modular Structure of the Mind ” and explains why people are wrong and contradictory, because some modules of the brain work best when they are wrong. We are very fast to detect inconsistencies in others, but we are designed not to detect our own inconsistencies (Redes, 2012).
The problem with this is that these modules do not communicate with each other and when one idea appears (being sick) it blocks the other (being healthy). This condition is not exclusive to health, it also occurs in other behaviors: I love or hate you, or the psychology of self-deception itself, I am intelligent when in fact I am not. Our interpretation of reality is forceful.



  • Emotional control with relaxation and meditation techniques .
  • Thoughts create reality in good and bad. Negative expectations generate detrimental effects and poor results (nocebo effect), while positive expectations generate pleasant effects (placebo effect).
  • Doctors
  • Having a good therapeutic relationship with the patient. It’s about building trust and empathy .
  • The doctor needs to have an adequate communication capacity for communication for the complete diagnosis (physical, emotional, and social) and competent treatment (Murtagh, 2008).
  • Train the patient to take their own blood pressure in a calm environment and at different times of the day to establish an average, which will be reflected in a more accurate reading.
  • If you are taking any antihypertensive treatment or any other medication, follow your doctor’s instructions.


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