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Beta Blockers for Anxiety

Beta Blockers for Anxiety

Beta blockers for anxiety treatment are beneficial but quite risky as well. The following piece of information deals with the function, types and side effects of using beta blockers for treating anxiety disorder.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Caution!

A sudden withdrawal from beta blockers may lead to severe chest pain or even a heart attack. Hence, even if you feel better do not stop beta blockers intake immediately. Instead, let the doctor guide you in lowering the dosage in a gradual manner.

We all get anxious once in a while. Whether it is some work related issue or a personal problem, we do get nervous about various things in life. However, in some people, this anxiety and nervousness takes such high proportions that the person becomes incapable of leading a normal life. Such a person starts worrying about everything under the sun, such as finances, health, family, etc., and presumes that only bad things are going to happen. A person in this condition is known to be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. In order to minimize or get rid of this situation, doctors generally prescribe a course of treatment.
Beta Blockers Function
Beta blockers are the drugs which are given to a person suffering from anxiety to treat or minimize the associated physical symptoms such as trembling, migraine, hypertension, shivering, rapid heart rate and stress. These drugs aid in calming the nerves of an anxious person and help him to deal with his fears in a better way. Beta blockers target the beta receptors in the body, which are located in the lungs, brain, blood vessels and heart. They also manage the stress hormone, known as norepinephrine in the body, which automatically minimizes the adrenaline levels. Taking beta blockers in right dosages slows down the oxygen and blood supply to the heart, thereby controlling fear and anxiety in a person.
Types of Beta Blockers
Propranolol
It is a beta blocker which provides a short-term relief from social phobias. It also controls sweating and tension in a person. It has very few side effects and helps the person with anxiety disorder to deal with situations such as giving a speech in public or performing on stage. Propranolol should not be taken by somebody who is suffering from diseases such as asthma, lung diseases, heart diseases and diabetes.
Atenolol
It helps in treating social phobias and unlike Propranolol, its effects last much longer. Atenolol is much more convenient than other beta blockers as it has to be taken just once a day and also because it produces very less wheezing sound when compared to other beta blockers.
Pindolol
It is a beta blocker, which has to be consumed orally twice a day for treating high blood pressure (hypertension). It is important to follow the instructions on the label and talk to the doctor before beginning the course of this medication. Angina, a form of chest pain and heart attacks are also treated with pindolol, however, consult your doctor for the possible risks involved in using this drug.
Metoprolol
Another beta blocker that helps to relieve high blood pressure and chest pain. It prevents repeated risk of heart attacks. It can be taken only with a doctor's prescription and is normally given to a person who has already suffered from a heart attack.
Side Effects of Beta Blockers
One of the major side effects of taking beta blocker medications is that they tend to make a person dependent on them. Secondly, studies have shown that their long-term usage can cause hallucinations, nightmares and other central nervous system problems. They increase peristalsis, i.e., contractions of muscles in the gastrointestinal tract leading to cramping, fatigue, nausea, delirium and diarrhea.
A major drawback of beta blockers medication is that they don't treat emotional symptoms of anxiety, like worry, fear, etc. They only affect the physical manifestations like trembling, shivering and other phobias associated with particular situations.
Who Should Not Take Beta Blockers
People who are experiencing slow heart rate, low blood pressure, severe peripheral vascular disease, heart block where the heart has problems sending signals from the upper part i.e., atrium to the lower part i.e., ventricle for blood circulation, should not use beta blockers for treating anxiety.
Pregnant and nursing women should talk to their health care provider before planning to take beta blockers. Atenolol is not recommended for pregnant women in any situation as it is harmful for the fetus. Nursing women should use these drugs only if the doctor approves it with zero risk to the baby.
Natural Substitutes
Many herbs such as St John's wort, Kava, Chamomile, Hops, Passionflower and amino acids - GABA and tryptophan are the natural beta blockers used by many people. Though these herbs are highly recommended (St John's wort is one of the high-selling herbal products in the U.S.), scientific researches show that long-term use of such herbs cause side-effects as well. From the common dizziness, fatigue and confusion, to the more serious sexual dysfunction and liver damage, these herbs cause side effects when used over a long period. However, it goes without saying that the natural ways are still considered safe and a better treatment option to deal with anxiety, and therefore, more and more people are treading the natural path.
Using beta blockers for anxiety treatment has many benefits as far as controlling its symptoms is concerned. They are incapable of curing the condition of anxiety and furthermore, they can be quite risky if taken in high dosages or if taken for a long time. Keeping these things in mind as well as consulting your health care provider is very essential when starting a course of treatment. Take Care!
Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert.