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Psychological Factors in Essential Hypertension

Cemil Çelik, Barbaros Özdemir.

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Essential hypertension is one of the most emphasized psychosomatic disorders. Age, sexuality, excessive salt and alcohol consumption, lower activity level, fatigue, personality traits, emotional factors and stress are some of the risk factors for essential hypertension. The presence of emotional factors in the etiology of the essential hypertension and the emergence of psychiatric symptoms in the course of the illness has driven considerable attention from mental health workers on the disease for a long time. Some of the personality traits that make a person vulnerable to hypertension are being over controlled, being submissive, and hardworking. Hypertension is accepted to be a reaction against suppressed emotions and an adaptive and defense mechanism of the body. Among persons who are prone to hypertension, sympathetic nerve system is affected as a response to emotional stress and hypertension appears as a result of vasoconstriction and other autonomous responses. All at once, it was also shown that vasoconstrictor response continues much longer in hypertensive individuals than in normotensive patients. Autonomic response to stress almost always displays itself as hypertension in individuals who are prone to hypertension. Moreover, normotensive children of hypertensive parents also have elevation in blood pressures as a response to emotional stress almost without exception. The increase in sympathetic stimulus, re-modulation of bar receptors by structural and functional changes are the main features of the most commonly valid hypothesis in essential hypertension, currently. According to this hypothesis: as a result of emotional stress, inhibition over vasomotor center decreases and output of stimulus increases; epigenetic changes in endothelial structure of carotid sinus and/or aortic arch and/or vasomotor centers occurs; and finally stress increases sympathetic stimulus output. This situation leads to neurohormonal excitation; increases in systemic vessel resistance; and in turn increase in the secretion of vasoconstrictor compounds from endothelial cells of over-resistant vessels. Hypertension develops as a result of vasoconstriction. In the previous studies, emotional factors and particular personality traits are consistently confirmed for being predisposing factors in hypertensive individuals. In this article, we focused on the association between essential hypertension and psychological factors, and discussed the common pathophysiological mechanisms.

Key words: Hypertension, Hypertensive Personality, Stress, Anger, Psychosomatic Disorders

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