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How does Propranolol work for anxiety?

29th May 2019

Mental health is a topic being discussed more and more openly, with many people feeling freer to talk about their struggles with depression and anxiety. And while therapeutic treatments are certainly an option, there are situational anxiety medications on the market to help people who suffer with their mental health and aid them in living their lives normally and fully.

What is anxiety?

There are many different kinds of anxiety disorders and it’s helpful to get a proper diagnosis of the kind that you have so that you can properly manage your symptoms.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common kind and it leads sufferers to worry about a number of different activities and events that are involved in daily life. This can make you feel on edge, alert and out of control, and is pretty all-encompassing. Because of the way in which this disorder affects people, it’s not uncommon to suffer with another mental illness alongside it.

Social anxiety disorder is not quite as constant, and is (as the name suggests) all about social situations such as public speaking (even in small groups), meeting new people or dating. Being in one of these situations can cause your heart to beat faster, your voice to shake and your palms to sweat. It can be somewhat of a vicious circle too because experiencing these symptoms can, in turn, make you more anxious that people might notice and then judge you for it.

Situational anxiety is very similar to social anxiety in its symptoms, but it tends to be very short term, rather than an ongoing or potentially lifelong disorder. The feelings of anxiety, in this case, are related to a new or changing environment such as a new job, house move, money problems or a medical appointment. The symptoms that come with the anxiety (stress, difficulty sleeping, tension headaches) usually occur only in the time period that surrounds the event or environment causing you worry; once the event has happened or you’ve got used to the new environment then the anxiety goes away again.

How does Propranolol work for anxiety?

While it may be the new situation causing the anxiety, the thing causing the related symptoms is adrenaline being released in your body. Adrenaline is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is linked to our bodies ‘fight or flight’ response in times of stress. It is released into the bloodstream and causes things such as pupil dilation, increased heart rate and increased sweating.

If you are suffering from situational anxiety and are feeling anxious or worried about something then your body will treat this as a ‘fight or flight’ situation, and will release adrenaline accordingly. That’s where Propranolol comes in.

Propranolol belongs to a group of medications known as ‘beta-blockers’, which means that it works to slow down your heart rate and block the effects of the adrenaline that is released. Blocking the adrenaline will prevent the associated symptoms of anxiety, while slowing your heart rate down will help you feel calmer and relaxed.

Propranolol is only intended for short-term treatment of anxiety so if you find that your anxiety symptoms are ongoing or are interfering with your daily life then it’s unlikely to be situational anxiety and more likely to another kind of disorder. In this instance, you should seek advice from your GP or a mental health specialist to find the most suitable course of treatment.