Beta Blockers Regarding Nervousness - Yes Or No

Published: 14th April 2011
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The diagnosis embraces a constellation of conditions. In generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), the individual worries constantly throughout the day about minor problems or possibilities and may experience physical symptoms. Other types include panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) fear of flying, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and simple phobias. Any of these may produce physical symptoms such as increased heartbeat, palpitations, chest pain, a 'choking sensation', difficulty in breathing or dizziness. Your doctor may prescribe beta blockers for anxiety.

Beta blockers, also called beta-adrenoceptor blocking drugs or beta antagonists, block the action of natural stress hormones such as epinephrine and norepinehrine. They are most frequently prescribed to treat heart conditions and hypertension.

These drugs are most often prescribed for social anxiety or to control physical symptoms. They may produce relief from tachycardia, trembling, shaking, sweating and blushing. Propranolol is a short-acting drug and as such is useful when anticipating a 'big day' like a job interview or appearing before an audience. Relief may last for several hours and there are very few side effects.

Atenolol is more appropriate for general social symptoms because it is longer acting than propranolol. It is also less likely than propranolol or other similar drugs to cause bronchoconstriction, or narrowing of the airways.

Social anxiety can strike in ordinary situations, like shaking someone's hand or expressing disagreement or in special circumstances, like public speaking or during a job interview or speaking in a meeting. Most people experience some level of performance stress in these and similar circumstances. The socially anxious person will subject themselves to a lengthy 'post mortem' critique and may experience some or all of the unpleasant physical feelings associated with these types of disorders.

No drug is completely without side effects, although these drugs do tend to be well tolerated. Because their normal application is for the treatment of heart problems, they may cause lowering of the heart rate and lead to dizziness and fainting. This is known as 'postural hypotension' and can be easily avoided by being careful when getting up from a sitting or standing position. They may also cause narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult or leading to coughing and wheezing.

There are some people, such as those diagnosed with asthma, for whom these drugs should not be prescribed. They may be used if necessary, but only under the careful supervision of a physician. Beta blockers should also not be used by people with diabetes.

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