” The blood froze in my veins” or “My blood curdled” — these common figures of speech can be taken literally, according to the latest studies. Indeed, more literally than some of us would like. For it turns out that intense fear and panic attacks can really make our blood clot and increase the risk of thrombosis or heart attack.
Earlier studies showed that stress and anxiety can influence coagulation. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time — fear of failing the math’s test, dread of going down into the dark cellar or, in a more general sense, trepidation about what the future holds.
But some people are gripped by powerful fears when confronted by quite normal everyday situations. For example, sufferers of agoraphobia frequently have panic attacks when caught up in a crowd. The symptoms can be dramatic: palpitations, sweating, shaking, blind panic or fainting — even leading to death.
Another anxiety disorder frequently encountered can be described as social phobia. Those affected fear above all situations in which they become the centre of attention in a group. They begin to stutter or turn red. In order not to avoid embarrassment, social phobia sufferers may become recluses, shying away from human contact and staying at home.
The medical researchers in Bonn researched and produced a clear result: The group of anxiety patients showed a much more highly activated coagulation system than the healthy control group.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every patient with a marked anxiety disorder must now worry about having blood clots. But, we do need to avoid and cure the anxiety disorders, to protect our blood better.