Beta Blockers for Anxiety – Can They Really Help You?

Beta blockers are basically medications used to treat certain conditions such as high blood pressure, myocardial infarction, abnormal heart rhythms, overactive thyroid symptoms, migraines and glaucoma.

They are commonly referred to as beta-blockers though their full name is beta-adrenoceptor. The medicine comes in various types such as: atenolol, sotalol, acubutolol, celiprolol, esmolol, labetalol, nebivolol, pendolol, metoprolol, timolol and propranolol.

Even though they are usually used to treat heart problems, people often use them to treat anxiety.

Beta Blockers for Anxiety? How do they work?

Beta blockers function by blocking particular nerve impulses. This helps to release a neurotransmitter which is a chemical component that stimulates beta receptors. The receptors are basically very tiny structures which are found on various parts such as brain, blood vessels and the heart. Once the receptors are stimulated, certain effects are manifested, for instance, they can increase the heart rate.

In essence, the beta blocker “sits” on the receptors and blocks certain nerve transmissions from being stimulated. If you are anxious, the receptors in the heart are blocked and this in turn reduces the heartbeat rate.

Due to the effect they have on the heart cells, in addition to anxiety, that's why they are also used to treat heart failure, reduce the risk of heart attacks, control any abnormal heart rhythm, and prevent angina pains and to lower blood pressure.

Do beta blockers for anxiety work?

Beta blockers may help, but they are not the most effective solution. They only work to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, such as faster heart rate and shaking.

However, beta blockers are usually helpful when taken about one hour before a situation if you have a specific social anxiety. It is reported that some musicians take beta blockers before performing. According to Heather Moehn in the book Social Anxiety, if taken daily, these medications are not effective to treat generalized social anxiety.

The Good and the Bad Sides of Beta Blockers

There are many medications suggested for anxiety disorders, however, many people prefer beta blockers because they have fewer side effects. Research done indicates that beta blockers help to reduce stress levels. When the stress is relieved patients are able to calm down and this prevents increases in heart beat and blood pressure which in turn reduces anxiety.

People who have been given beta blockers to help deal with hypertension are advised to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet and learn ways to control their stress levels such as seeking counseling. Beta blockers are also given to people with performance anxiety. They help to reduce the rapid heartbeat and shakiness which is what causes anxiety.

However, beta blockers are not without side effects.

People react differently and not everyone exhibits the same side effects. Some people have been known to experience depression, delirium and even sexual dysfunction. For others, the heart can beat very slowly causing dizziness and some people even faint. The small blood vessels can be constricted thus reducing the circulation of blood to the hands and feet, some individuals develop cool feet and hands after taking beta-blockers for anxiety.


Patients are advised to avoid alcohol consumptions when taking beta-blockers for anxiety especially the atenolol type. It is advisable to seek medical advice since an overdose can cause seizures, fainting, dizziness, colored fingernails, shortness of breath and weakness.

If you really want the most effective way of treating anxiety, then you should address the root cause of the problem. Beta blockers will not do that. Remember that anxiety, phobias and PTSD are physiological, not physical conditions. Taking medications like beta blockers for anxiety is simply treating the symptoms and ignoring the cause of the condition.


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