Do Beta-Blockers Help Anxiety? How They Work, Benefits, a Guide

Posted June 24, 2020 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

While several medications are prescribed for off-label use, one common medication is a prescription for beta-blockers to help anxiety. But do Beta-blockers help with the effects of anxiety? This article will give a clear understanding of whether or not beta-blockers help anxiety, how, its effectiveness, benefits, and more.

Here’s the quick summary for you on whether beta-blockers help with anxiety, then we’ll get into some more of the details.

Do Beta-Blockers Help Anxiety? Beta-blockers can help alleviate the effects of anxiety, but effectiveness can vary. Beta-blockers are more effective in controlling the physical aspects of anxiety over psychological aspects. They work by blocking the hormone epinephrine that supports a body’s fight-or-flight response, which causes anxiety.

It’s often confusing when doctors prescribe certain medications for somewhat “off-label” use.

Off label refers to a situation in which a doctor prescribes a medication for a health condition for which the medicine is not explicitly approved for. Beta-blockers to help with anxiety is one such use.

Are Beta-Blockers Actually Prescribed for Anxiety?

Do Beta-Blockers Help Anxiety

Beta-blockers are primarily a class of medications that are used for the treatment of heart-related health conditions. This includes:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeats

We should also mention that the food and drug administration (FDA) has not approved beta-blockers for the treatment of anxiety.

However, many doctors prescribe beta-blockers as an off-label treatment for people with anxiety. Doctors often make this off-label choice when the patient faces complications, ineffectiveness, or feels unsafe with other anti-anxiety medications.

There are many beta-blockers available, among which acebutolol (Sectral), bisoprolol (Zebeta), carvedilol (Coreg), propranolol (Inderal), atenolol (Tenormin) and metoprolol (Lopressor) are the most commonly used.

Among these, propranolol and atenolol are the two common beta-blockers that are often prescribed to help anxiety.

Not only are we seeing the doctors prescribe beta-blockers for anxiety, but self-medication with beta-blockers is also becoming popular. Whether or not beta-blockers are effective for treating anxiety, self-medication can be dangerous and can bring about several side effects.

Now to the question of how beta-blockers work and finding the relationship on how it can also treat anxiety. 

How Do Beta-Blockers Work to Treat Anxiety?

The core function of beta-blockers is that they prevent epinephrine or adrenaline (stress hormones) from making contact with the heart’s beta receptors. This is why they are called beta-blockers. This prevents heart-related conditions, such as high blood pressure.

Do Beta-Blockers Help Anxiety

Beta-blockers also help in dilating and relaxing the blood vessels, allowing for more blood flow.

Epinephrine is the hormone we are dealing with when it comes to how beta-blockers help anxiety. Epinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that supports a body’s fight-or-flight response, which in turn causes anxiety.

So, when beta-blockers block the contact of epinephrine from the heart’s beta receptors, the effects on the body are reduced. This will then reduce the intensity of anxiety one is going through. 

On the other hand, many people who go through anxiety, report symptoms of fast heartbeats and high blood pressure.

Therefore, not only do beta-blockers help with anxiety, but they also limit the symptoms one might have with anxiety, such as high blood pressure. So, ultimately, the severity of one’s anxiety is kept under control, lessening the physical effects one often experiences from their anxiousness.

Beta-blockers help reduce the intensity of a person’s anxiety, as well as the physical effects of the anxiety.

In a nutshell, beta-blockers don’t cure or treat the underlying conditions of anxiety. Still, they do help to reduce, limit, and control the intensity of the symptoms of anxiety and how one’s body reacts to anxiety.

Some of the body’s reaction to anxiety includes a fast heart, difficulty in catching your breath, tremors, shaky voice, sweating, and dizziness – beta-blockers help to control these reactions.

This does not mean, and we do not advocate that beta-blockers can be a long-term solution for treating anxiety. Beta-blockers only work best as a short-term treatment of anxiety.

For example, a patient can take beta-blockers when they’re about to give a public speech or before doing anything that causes a high level of nervousness or anxiety. This is a periodic use only and not a long-term regular medication routine.

Effectiveness of Beta-Blockers in Treating Anxiety

Research suggests that even if the FDA has not approved beta-blockers for anxiety, they are still useful in treating at least the physical symptoms of anxiety. 

Do Beta-Blockers Help Anxiety

Other research emphasized that beta-blockers are less effective in treating the psychological symptoms of anxiety. It also concluded that beta-blockers only help anxiety by easing the physical symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat and tremors.

And a further source found out that the use of short-term propranolol (a beta-blocker) for treating different anxiety disorders was similar to that of benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines are a first-line medication taken for the treatment of anxiety. However, propranolol did not perform better than benzodiazepines. This research also found that there’s no real advantage of using beta-blockers or trying them before using before benzodiazepines in most people.

However, the same research also found that beta-blockers are less effective for the treatment of social anxiety/phobia.

So, as a conclusion, it could be said the adage of what works for one person may not work for another applies when it comes to beta-blockers.

It is unlikely that every person’s way of reacting, performing, and functioning is not the same. But even if beta-blockers work well for treating a patient’s anxiety, they may also need some additional treatment.

This is because beta-blockers focus more on treating physical aspects of anxiety and not the psychological aspects. Also, beta-blockers are really only a short-term solution for treating anxiety.

With that being said, below are some of the benefits of using beta-blockers to treat anxiety over anti-anxiety medications.

  • Beta-blockers are fast-acting, providing immediate relief from anxiety 
  • They work well for acute and short-term anxiety issues 
  • Can easily relieve physical symptoms which many often experience in anxiety 
  • Can be a perfect alternative for patients who experience serious side effects from other anti-anxiety medications
  • Can be a handy option for people who have heart conditions alongside anxiety 
  • It helps in reducing tremors. This can boost the self-confidence of people who are anxious to perform or speak openly.

Conclusion

Overall, beta-blockers help anxiety, but as with most other medications, the effects may be vastly different for each patient that is taking them.

Beta-blockers used to treat anxiety should not always be seen as a cure. Beta-blockers alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, but a patient should consult their doctor about the underlying, or psychological causes in order to find a lasting replacement to beta-blockers.

We hope this has been helpful in understanding how beta-blockers help anxiety. For more information and medical advice, always consult your doctor.

If you are struggling to afford your prescribed medications, then Prescription Hope may be able to help. The team at Prescription Hope works with pharmaceutical companies to provide individuals with their medication at a set, affordable cost. Enroll with us and pay just $50 a month for each medication.



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