Washington, Mar 26 : Sayings about fear like "The blood froze in my veins" or "My blood curdled" really are more than just common figures of speech, say researchers who have found that intense fear and panic attacks really can make your blood clot.
The study was conducted by the Bonn-based research team around Franziska Geiser, from the Clinic and Policlinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, and Ursula Harbrecht from the Institute of Experimental Haematology and Transfusion Medicine.
Unlike previous studies that were based almost entirely on questionnaire surveys of healthy subjects, this was the first to conduct a careful examination of clotting in people suffering from anxiety disorders.
The boffins compared 31 patients who suffer from a severe form of panic disorder or a social phobia with a healthy control group.
They first took blood samples from the volunteers and then asked them to perform a number of tests on the computer after which a second blood sample was taken.
These blood samples were them measured, based on which the researchers concluded that anxiety patients showed a much more highly activated coagulation system than the healthy control group.
The increased coagulation tendency could, said Franziska Geiser, be the "missing link" that explains why anxiety patients have a statistically higher risk of dying from heart disease by a factor of 3 or 4.