Anxiety is normal. But sometimes before a big event, like a speech, performance, or interview, your anxiety can become more intense and feel out of control. This is called performance anxiety or stage fright, and for some it's a mild but very real and very nerve-wracking experience. For others, it can be more extreme and debilitating, preventing them from being able to perform at all, think, or even speak.
So when it comes to performance anxiety, can propranolol help? And, if so, how? There is a lot to know about this beta-blocker drug, so let's take a look so we can answer the question, can propranolol help with performance anxiety?
What is Propranolol?
Propranolol is a beta-blocker drug. Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of adrenaline, the hormone that is released in response to stress and anxiety. By blocking the effects of adrenaline, propranolol can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, including heart palpitations, shaking, trembling, and sweating.
Propranolol is a prescription medication, which means that it can only be obtained with a doctor's prescription. It is available in both pill and liquid form, and it is typically taken one to three times per day.
Within the body, propranolol works by binding to beta-adrenergic receptors. These are receptors located in the heart, lungs, and other organs that are responsible for the body's response to stress and anxiety. By binding to these receptors, propranolol blocks the effects of adrenaline, resulting in a reduction of the symptoms of anxiety.
Propranolol is a very effective medication for the treatment of anxiety, and it can be helpful for the treatment of performance anxiety. However, it is important to remember that propranolol is a drug, and like all drugs, it comes with potential side effects and risks. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor about whether or not propranolol is right for you, and to be sure to follow your doctor's instructions when taking this or any other medication.
Side Effects of Propranolol
The most common side effects of propranolol include:
- dry mouth
- decreased appetite
- weight loss
Less common side effects of propranolol include:
- memory problems
- difficulty concentrating
Propranolol can also cause low blood pressure, slow heart rate, and heart block. These side effects are more common in people who have heart problems or who are taking high doses of propranolol.
It is important to talk to your doctor about any side effects that you experience while taking propranolol. If you are having difficulty breathing, chest pain, or a fast or irregular heartbeat, you should seek medical attention immediately. These may be signs of a serious reaction to propranolol.
How Long Does it Take for Propranolol to Work?
Propranolol begins working within 30 to 60 minutes after it is taken. The peak effect of the drug usually occurs within two to three hours, and the effects of the drug can last for four to six hours. The half-life of propranolol is four to five hours, which means that it takes that long for the drug to be reduced by half in the body.
How Long Does Propranolol Stay in Your System?
It takes a couple of days for propranolol to be completely cleared from the body. When propranolol is taken for anxiety, it is typically taken on an as-needed basis, which means that it is not necessary to take the drug every day.
How Does Propranolol Treat Anxiety?
When used to treat anxiety, propranolol works by blocking the effects of the hormone adrenaline. This action causes the heart to beat more slowly and reduces blood pressure, which can relieve the symptoms of anxiety.
Compared to other medications used to treat anxiety, propranolol works by affecting a wider range of symptoms. It can be used to treat physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, and rapid heart rate, as well as psychological symptoms such as racing thoughts, fear, and difficulty concentrating.
Other medications used to treat anxiety work by targeting specific symptoms, such as panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Propranolol can be used to treat all types of anxiety, including general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But it is not effective for treating phobias, such as fear of flying or fear of heights.
Some other beta blockers that can be used to treat anxiety include atenolol, metoprolol, and bisoprolol. These all work in a similar way to propranolol, by blocking the effects of adrenaline, but they have different side effects and risks.
Symptoms of Anxiety Attacks
There are many different symptoms of anxiety attacks, and not everyone experiences the same symptoms. Some common symptoms include:
- Pounding heart: A feeling that your heart is racing or pounding, often accompanied by a fast heart rate
- Sweating: Cold sweats or hot flashes that make your skin feel clammy
- Trembling or shaking: Feeling shaky or trembly, often with uncontrollable movements
- Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing or feeling like you can't get enough air
- Chest pain: Pain or tightness in the chest
- Nausea: Feeling sick to your stomach or like you might vomit
- Dizziness: Feeling lightheaded or unsteady, as if you might faint
- Chills or hot flashes: A sudden feeling of heat or cold
- Fear of losing control: A feeling that you are going crazy or that you are about to die
If you experience any of these symptoms, you may be having an anxiety attack. If the symptoms are severe, you should see a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible.
Can I Take Propranolol With Other Medications?
You should consult your physician before taking propranolol if you are taking any other medications, as drug interactions are possible.
Some of the medications that propranolol may interact with include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, cimetidine, MAO inhibitors, and other heart medications.
It is also important to let your physician know if you are taking any over-the-counter medications, herbs, or supplements, as these can also interact with propranolol.
How to Use Propranolol for Performance Anxiety
Propranolol is usually taken once or twice a day, with or without food. The starting dose is usually 10 mg, but it can be increased or decreased depending on how well it works for you and how well you tolerate the medication.
Propranolol can be taken long-term to prevent anxiety, but it can also be used on an as-needed basis to treat anxiety that comes up suddenly, such as before a public speaking event.
If you take propranolol for performance anxiety, it is important to start taking it a few hours before the event. This will give the medication time to start working.
Propranolol can cause side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, and fatigue. These side effects are usually mild and go away after a few days. If they persist or if they are bothersome, you should talk to your doctor. Propranolol can also cause low blood sugar and weight gain. These side effects are more common if you take propranolol for a long time.
Propranolol is a safe and effective medication for treating anxiety. But it is important to talk to your doctor before starting any medication for anxiety, to make sure it is the right treatment for you.
Other Ways To Treat Anxiety
If medication is not an option or does not work well enough, there are other treatment options for anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can help you manage your anxiety by changing the way you think and behave. CBT can be done with a therapist in person, or you can do it on your own with a book or online program.
Exposure therapy is another type of treatment that can help you face your fears and learn to cope with them. This can be done with a therapist, or you can do it on your own by gradually exposing yourself to the things that make you anxious. So if you're afraid of heights, you might start by looking at pictures of tall buildings, then watching videos of people standing on high places, and eventually going to a tall building and looking down from the top. Or if public speaking makes you anxious, you might start by talking to one person, then two people, and eventually speaking in front of a group.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can also help reduce anxiety. When you're feeling anxious, these techniques can help you calm down and focus on the present moment, as well as provide long-term relief from anxiety without medication.
Treating anxiety can be a long and difficult process, but it's important to remember that you can get better with time and treatment. The most important thing is to find a treatment that works for you and to stick with it, even when it's hard. Self-care is also important, so make sure to take care of yourself emotionally and physically, and to do things that make you happy.
This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.