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Taking Beta Blockers for Anxiety

The Benefits and Side Effects

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BETA BLOCKERS reduce the effects of adrenaline in the body and, today, many people are prescribed beta blockers to help with anxiety.

In times of stress and emergency the adrenal gland produces adrenaline (a stress hormone), which acts on various organs in the body in order to prepare us physically to deal with the situation. For example, one of the effects of adrenaline is to make the heart beat faster.


Anxiety Definition:-

The Collins English Dictionary describes anxiety as "a state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of possible misfortune, danger etc."

And to be anxious is to be "worried and tense."

Latin anxietas gave anxiety in English; the base is Latin anxius, from angere 'to choke'.


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In order for adrenaline to be able to do this, various organs have receptors (known as beta receptors) to accept the adrenaline and use it to behave differently in times of stress.

Beta blockers block these receptors. They stop various organs in the body (depending on the beta blocker used) from accepting adrenaline.

Originally beta blockers such as Propranolol (Inderal) were developed for people with heart problems. Taking them means the heart does less work generally and doesn't get over-worked in times of stress – a necessity for people with a weak heart or recovering from a heart attack.

Now, because of their ability to stop the heart beating faster, beta blockers have become widely prescribed for anxiety problems.


One of the main symptoms of anxiety is a speeding heart, which is part of the fight-or-flight response. In times of danger our body produces adrenaline to make the heart beat faster and pump blood and oxygen (fuel) to our major muscles (arms, chest and legs) more quickly to enable us to fight or flee.

Stopping the heart from beating faster makes us feel calmer and less shaky since the energy boost to our muscles (from the increased supply of blood and oxygen) which makes us feel 'jittery' and 'on-edge' doesn't happen without a fast heartbeat – a benefit that often leads to beta blockers being used for performance anxiety.

Beta Blockers and Performance Anxiety

Many performers experience anxiety whilst performing. In one study around 20% of the musicians taking part experienced marked distress during performances.

Most performers cope without drugs but many take beta blockers (usually Inderal), often illegally, to deal with stage fright.

Musicians, actors and sportsmen use them to help with steadiness, concentration and to reduce nervousness when performing. However, while beta blockers do help to reduce stage fright, many people believe that some nervousness is necessary to perform at the highest level.


With these obvious benefits, it may seem that beta blockers are the ideal solution for problems with anxiety... but it's not as simple as this.

Although they aren't physically addictive (as tranquilizers can be) they can soon become psychologically addictive. And we can quickly come to feel that we cannot do anything before taking a tablet.

Also, beta blockers only block the adrenaline from working – they don't stop it from being produced. And the question remains as to what happens to the extra adrenaline our body produces to help ready us for action.

Perhaps more importantly, long-term usage of beta blockers can alter the natural function of the heart and stopping this medication abruptly without medical supervision can be very dangerous. This may be a necessary risk if the alternative is a heart attack... but to deal with anxiety?

There are also many other side effects of taking beta blockers.

Beta Blockers Side Effects

1. Weight Gain
Taking beta blockers and weight gain is extremely common. We all need a certain amount of adrenaline and the natural boost it gives to our organs to be active. Perhaps blocking adrenaline leads to a more 'sluggish' system and weight gain.

2. Tiredness
For the same reason as above. Blocking the action of 'everyday' adrenaline along with any excess produced robs us of energy.

3. Depression
Again, we all need a certain amount of adrenaline to be vibrant and active.

4. Impotence/ED in Men and Loss of Libido in Women
Less adrenaline = less fire, spark, vibrancy.

5. Blurred vision
Another fight-or-flight response in times of anxiety is sharpness of vision. When in danger, we see things more quickly and more clearly in order to see any threat coming. Our eyes also have beta receptors.

6. Feeling Faint and Dizziness
This is caused by a slow heartbeat.

7. Other side effects when taking beta blockers can include:-
Diarrhoea and nausea
Cold hands and feet
Sleep disturbance.

Beta blockers can help us get through anxious situations, however it is important to realise that they are not a cure for anxiety problems. They dampen some of the physical symptoms but do not deal with the underlying reason for the anxiety.

As a temporary relief for dealing with stressful events, the short-term usage of beta blockers may be beneficial. But as for using beta blockers long-term to deal with anxiety problems... the risks may outweigh the benefits.




See also:-  Free Anxiety Medications eBook

Anxiety Meds: How They Work to Stop Anxiety... The Benefits and Risks Involved


Essential information for anyone taking or considering taking medication for anxiety. It's totally free to read on-screen, download and print – no personal details required. ›› More Details




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