Propranolol for Anxiety

Everyone will feel anxious at times. It is completely normal to feel nervous and worried before an exam or an important interview, for example, but if you are feeling symptoms of anxiety on a more regular basis, you could have an anxiety disorder.

As well as the feelings of restlessness, difficulty sleeping, irritability and agitation, you may also experience other physical symptoms like a tremor, sweating and a racing heart or palpitations.

In this instance your GP may prescribe a drug called propranolol. Propranolol is only available on prescription and is one of a family of drugs called beta blockers. They were initially used to treat high blood pressure or an irregular heart beat. They are also used to prevent heart disease and can be taken as tablets, capsules or a liquid.

Propranolol has been shown to be very effective at reducing the physical symptoms linked to anxiety, but if you are given this, it is a good idea to take your first dose at night before going to bed as it may drop your blood pressure and make you feel dizzy. It may also make you feel a bit tired and your hands and feet may feel cold, but most people find these side effects are quite short lived. It is not a sedative and is not addictive, but if you are asthmatic or diabetic, it may not be for you.

It can trigger wheezing in people with asthma and as it masks a tremor and sweating, if you are diabetic you may not get the warning signs that your blood sugar is falling. Interestingly, it is also effective at preventing migraine so if your stress and anxiety is triggering migraines, it is certainly worth considering.

Curated by

Dr Dawn Harper
Dr Dawn Harper is a practising NHS GP and has worked in the NHS for over 30 years. A member of the Royal College of Physicians she is also a TV presenter and member of the Hidden Strength Advisory Board: Dr Dawn says “Working as an NHS GP, I have seen a worrying increase in the number of young people suffering with mental health issues in recent years. The effect of the pandemic has sadly exacerbated the problem, so I was delighted to join the team at Hidden Strength to help combat the issue with such an innovative solution.”