Anxiety Medication Overview of Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers are a class of drugs most commonly used to treat heart conditions, although they are useful in the treatment of a variety of other conditions including glaucoma, migraines, and anxiety.

How do beta-blockers work?

Beta-blockers (also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents) reduce blood pressure by blocking the effects of the stress hormone epinephrine, causing the heart rate to slow. They are used to treat anxiety because they prevent and/or reduce the physical symptoms of some anxiety disorders, such as a racing heart or palpitations, tremors, shortness of breath, and sweating.

When are beta-blockers used to treat anxiety?

Beta-blockers work by blocking the physical response to anxiety, meaning they have little effect on the emotional component of anxiety disorders. For this reason, they are best used to treat anxiety in specific situations that are expected to cause physical anxiety symptoms. They are particularly useful for social anxiety disorder and defined situations such as giving a speech. While beta-blockers will not make anxiety go away, having the physical symptoms under control can make anxiety-provoking situations much easier to deal with.

What are the side effects?

Most people have no or mild side effects of beta-blockers. These may include fatigue, cold hands, headache, upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, and dizziness. They can block signs of low blood sugar in diabetics, and there is a concern that they may trigger asthma attacks in asthmatics.

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