NEWS Mental Health News Beta Blockers Are the Buzziest New Anti-Anxiety Medicine—Here’s What to Know By Lo Styx Lo Styx Lo is a freelance journalist focused on mental health, sexual wellness and patient advocacy. She is based in Brooklyn and can be found on the internet @laurenstyx. Learn about our editorial process Updated on May 25, 2022 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Karen Cilli Fact checked by Karen Cilli Karen Cilli is a fact-checker for Verywell Mind. She has an extensive background in research, with 33 years of experience as a reference librarian and educator. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print Verywell / Theresa Chiechi Key Takeaways Beta blockers are typically prescribed to treat heart failure.But more recently, they're being prescribed off-label to treat symptoms of anxiety.Beta blockers could be a short-term treatment option to alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety. For anyone who's experienced the bodily takeover when a wave of anxiety hits—the racing heart, sweaty palms, and tight chest—relief can't come soon enough. So, when celebrities like Khloe Kardashian talk about popping a beta blocker—a drug typically prescribed to treat heart failure—when feeling anxious, public interest rises. Beta blockers are a class of medication that prevents adrenaline from affecting your heart, effectively relaxing it and your blood vessels. This keeps the heart from racing and can lower your blood pressure. Clinical pharmacist Curtis Alexander, PharmD, who works in a neurology clinic, cites a few reasons for beta blockers' recent rise in popularity, including fewer side effects than other anti-anxiety meds, less risk of dependence, and lower price point. Here's what you need to know. Beta Blockers and Anxiety Because beta blockers are typically prescribed to manage irregular heart rhythms and treat high blood pressure when other drugs haven't worked, it's easy to understand how they could help manage anxiety symptoms. Sarah Gupta, MD For many people, beta blockers do a really good job of blocking the physical symptoms of anxiety... And a lot of the time, just dialing down the physical symptoms can be enough to get anxiety under control. — Sarah Gupta, MD "For many people, beta blockers do a really good job of blocking the physical symptoms of anxiety like a racing heart, sweating, or tremors," says psychiatrist Sarah Gupta, MD. "And a lot of the time, just dialing down the physical symptoms can be enough to get anxiety under control." Gupta notes that while beta blockers aren't approved by the FDA for anxiety, they're often used "off-label," especially in situations where the individual can anticipate feeling anxious like performance anxiety, stage fright, or facing certain social settings. How to Handle Performance Anxiety as an Athlete To determine the best medication fit for his patients, psychiatrist Alex Dimitriu, MD, groups symptoms of anxiety into two categories. "I always ask my patients if they feel anxiety more in the mind—rumination, catastrophic thoughts, worry—or the body—racing heart, tight chest, shortness of breath, tremor," Dimitriu says. "More globally it should be recognized that either beta blockers or other medication such as Xanax or Klonopin are patches. If someone needs a patch too often, it might be better to take something that works all the time, usually SSRIs." While beta blockers won't treat the psychological symptoms of anxiety, for short-term and situational anxiety they can be a solid option. In these scenarios, the drug can be useful for people who want an as-needed medication to treat their symptoms, whereas benzodiazepines like Xanax or Ativan are more commonly considered rescue medications for anxiety that are associated with greater risks and potential side effects. Curtis Alexander, PharmD It's nice to have an option for people who don't want to try anxiety medications that may lead to dependence — Curtis Alexander, PharmD This could be another reason behind the choice in beta blockers. And a review of research published in 2016 even found that using propanolol, a type of beta blocker, in the short term had similar effects to benzodiazepines in treating anxiety. "It's nice to have an option for people who don't want to try anxiety medications that may lead to dependence," Alexander says. Medications and Treatment Approaches for Management of Anxiety Understanding the Risks It's important to keep in mind that beta blockers don't come without their own risks. Taking a beta blocker can result in low blood pressure and a slow heartbeat, so they're not recommended for individuals with heart problems. They've also been known to worsen asthma symptoms or even trigger attacks, and they can make exercise much more difficult, Dimitriu notes. Some other common side effects include fatigue, cold hands or feet, and weight gain. Less common side effects include shortness of breath, depression, and difficulty sleeping. People with diabetes that take beta blockers are also recommended to regularly check their blood sugar, as this medication can prohibit the signs of low blood sugar, like a rapid heart beat. What This Means For You If you experience more physical, short-term symptoms of anxiety, beta blockers may work for you. As always, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to determine whether they're a good fit. Psilocybin Effective For Depression a Year Post Treatment, Study Finds 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Mayo Clinic. Beta blockers. Hayhoe B, Lee-Davey J. Tackling benzodiazepine misuse. BMJ. 2018;362:k3208. doi:10.1136/bmj.k3208 Steenen SA, van Wijk AJ, van der Heijden GJ, van Westrhenen R, de Lange J, de Jongh A. Propranolol for the treatment of anxiety disorders: Systematic review and meta-analysis. J Psychopharmacol. 2016;30(2):128-139. doi:10.1177/0269881115612236 See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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