Anxiety and Propranolol – The Basics

Propranolol is a treatment that is used to address situational anxiety.

This is a specific type of anxiety that happens when stressful situations or events make us lose control of our ability to stay calm. It’s very common, especially when it comes to public speaking.

Other situations that can cause elevated anxiety levels include job interviews, important meetings, first dates, meeting new people or being in a new or unusual environment.

Situational anxiety can cause a range of physical symptoms such as a fast heart rate, shaky voice and hands, sweating and dizziness.

The Science behind Anxiety

The response to anxiety begins in the brain. If you experience a stressful event, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing (the amygdala) sends distress signals to its command centre (the hypothalamus).

The hypothalamus then sends distress signals through the nervous system to several important organs and tissues. Your body thinks you are in danger and it is trying to improve your ability to either fight or flee.

One of the organs to receive the stress signals are the adrenal glands. These glands respond by releasing the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream.

These ‘stress hormones’ are largely responsible for the immediate reactions we feel when anxious. As they circulate throughout the body, they give rise to several physiological changes.

These changes include a faster heart-beat (pushes blood to the muscles, heart, and other vital organs), more rapid breathing (lung capacity increases as the airways dilate), an increase in alertness (extra oxygen is sent to the brain) and a boost of energy (blood sugar and fats are released from temporary storage sites in the body and flow into the bloodstream).

These physiological changes can give rise to the physical symptoms of anxiety which include a racing heart, sweating and shaking.

Propranolol as a Treatment for Anxiety

Propranolol is a treatment that belongs to the beta-blocker family of medications. Beta-blockers are a class of medication that prevent the stress hormones from making contact with the heart’s beta receptors. In essence, Propranolol works by blocking the effects that stress hormones have on the body.

The main action of Propranolol is to reduce the heart rate and improve blood flow which can help during times of anxiety peaks. This should help alleviate some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. Propranolol won’t treat the underlying psychological causes but, by reducing the physical symptoms, it may in turn have a soothing effect on your mind.

Propranolol works best for managing short-term anxiety about specific events, rather than long-term anxiety. For example, you can take Propranolol before giving a public speech if that’s something that makes you feel anxious. Your body should end up being calmer, which in some cases, can help your worries to settle, thereby improving your performance.

Man Behind The Mirror offers Propranolol at a 40mg dosage which is effective if taken before stressful events. You may purchase our treatment here.

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Written by Mike Firth, GP and Medical Director

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.