What mental health disorders increase your risk of high blood pressure?

by Rebecca Israel, MS. Reviewed by Charles Li, MD

July 21, 2020

  • A variety of mental disorders are associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.

  • Individuals who suffer childhood traumas are at greater risk for mental disorders and high blood pressure.

  • Mental disorders that increase the risk of high blood pressure are most likely disorders that worsen already risky health behaviors.

mental disorders and high blood pressure title

High blood pressure is a condition that puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. It does not usually cause symptoms. But it can be serious.

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Certain chronic conditions are linked to high blood pressure, like kidney disease and sleep apnea. People who are obese, have diabetes, or are inactive are at the greater risk for high blood pressure. Newer research has explored mental disorders as another risk factor for high blood pressure.

Depression, anxiety, impulsive eating disorder, and substance abuse disorder

To measure the association between high blood pressure and mental disorders, researchers collected population surveys from 19 different countries with a total of 52,095 participants. They looked for participants who had been diagnosed with a mental disorder and high blood pressure.

Participants with depression, anxiety, impulsive eating disorders, and substance use disorders had increased odds of high blood pressure.

Source: Associations between mental disorders and subsequent onset of hypertension

Participants with depression, anxiety, impulsive eating disorders, and substance use disorders had increased odds of high blood pressure. Interestingly, depression was only significantly associated with high blood pressure in participants who received their diagnosis after turning 21 years old.

It is important to note that the top 3 mental disorders associated with high blood pressure involve the over-consumption of food or the consumption of harmful substances. Binge-eating disorder has the highest risk for high blood pressure. This makes sense, because overeating and a poor diet are already known risk factors for high blood pressure and a variety of other conditions. Similarly, excessive and regular consumption of alcohol and drugs can hurt almost all the bodily systems. In these cases, the mental disorder is worsening an already risky health behavior.

Early childhood trauma and high blood pressure

From the same survey database, researchers analyzed the relationship between childhood trauma and high blood pressure. Childhood trauma dramatically increases a person’s likelihood of mood, anxiety, and personality disorders.

Children who experience 2 or more childhood traumas are more likely to have high blood pressure in adulthood.

Source: Early childhood adversity and later hypertension: Data from the World Mental Health Survey

Top 5 Childhood Traumas Associated with High Blood Pressure in Adulthood

Key takeaways

It is difficult for researchers to design a study that measures mental disorders and high blood pressure without the influence of other factors. As we mentioned, it is possible that individuals with certain mental disorders are more likely to participate in health behaviors that increase their risk opposed to the mental disorders themselves being directly correlated with high blood pressure. For example, mood and anxiety disorders are known to alter sleep patterns, chemicals in the brain, and immune responses. It is logical to presume that symptoms like these are more likely to be responsible for the increased risk of high blood pressure.

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