A few months ago, a patient who had recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure came to see me for the first time. She was concerned about her new diagnosis. In fact she was so concerned that she kept checking her blood pressure several times a day which made her even more anxious. Over a period of several months her anxiety became debilitating. She became depressed and noticed that her blood pressure kept going up. I remember the defeated look on her face when I first saw her. I changed her medication regimen to better control her blood pressure and explained to her that she should not get anxious about her blood pressure because the anxiety itself can cause her blood pressure to rise. Because she was a computer scientist I used the concept of a negative feedback loop to explain this phenomenon:
As you can see she was caught in this negative feedback loop which kept escalating. On her second visit, I showed her that the new regimen controlled her blood pressure beautifully. I also explained to her that this negative feedback loop needed to be broken. Even though she understood, it took her another month and another visit for her to be almost entirely cured of anxiety. When I saw her today she looked fantastic. She was much more at ease with herself. Once again I reminded her of the negative feedback loop she had created which we had broken. This time however, I also showed her a positive feedback loop which I asked her to practice for the next few months:
I assured her that when I see her in three months we will be able to cut down on her medications for her blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. She was excited. Although there are medications for depression and anxiety, the best treatment is to understand the causes yourself and to turn the existing negative feedback into a positive ones. In most cases you cannot do this yourself because it is difficult to step back from your own situation. I would recommend talking to a counselor or your doctor.