What is an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorders are mental conditions that induce a person to behave a certain way. If someone has an anxiety disorder, they respond to certain situations with fear and dread. However, anxiety disorders are entirely different from normal feelings of fear, dread, and anxiety. If you are not aware of the distinction, read on to find out!
Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorders
Each one of us feels anxious from time to time. For instance, you feel worried, that is, sweaty palms, heart beating fast, and restlessness before an important job interview or an examination. These feelings, of the healthy amount, are familiar to everyone. Instead of being harmful, anxiety can be helpful in noticing defaults and inducing us to think things through.
However, anxiety is different from anxiety disorders. The latter goes beyond the healthy amount of nervousness and starts affecting your daily life. If anxiety symptoms persist and hinder one’s ability to function daily, they often induce them to overreact. They no longer can control their responses to situations, and they are probably suffering from an anxiety disorder.
As per the data given by statists, around 284 million people are suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Who is at Risk?
The risk of anxiety disorders depends upon a blend of genetic and environmental factors. A person who has or had the following conditions is at a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder than others:
- Personality traits such as shyness or behavioral inhibition
- Anxiety disorders or other mental health concerns run in families.
- The traumatic or stressful situations in childhood
Women are more at risk of being affected by anxiety disorders. Researchers also speculate that hormonal changes peculiar to women may be the reason for this fact. The hormone, testosterone which men have more, may also have a role to play. Due to the inherently patriarchal nature of the society, women also do not have access to treatment of anxiety which worsens the situation.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A person suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder may feel extreme worry and tension regarding specific incidents or events in their lives. There would not be anything that triggers the anxiety symptoms most of the time. You may feel worried about anything under the sun, your relationships, school, work, life in general, or your food. Often the topics are connected and follow one another.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Persistent worrying or anxiety about events that are out of proportion
- Overthinking plans and solutions to the problems in worst-case scenarios
- Perceiving situations as threatening even if they aren’t
- Difficulty handling uncertainty
- Indecisive and fear of making the wrong decision
- Inability to set aside a worry
- Inability to relax or feeling restless for a prolonged period
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Trouble in sleeping
- Muscle aches
2. Panic Disorder
A person suffering from Panic Disorder may get intense and sudden panic attacks. These attacks are sudden and may be induced by an incident or entirely unexpectedly. Panic attacks are harrowing. People suffering from this tend to think about the next attack or may altogether avoid the situations that they think can induce an attack.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
The following symptoms are common when a person suffers from a panic attack:
- Racing heartbeats
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Hot flushes
- Dry mouth
- Ringing in your ears
- A feeling of dread of dying
- Feeling disconnected from your body
Most panic attacks last from 5 minutes to 20 minutes, while some can last up to an hour.
Based on the condition, some people suffer from panic attacks once or twice a month, while some suffer from them several times a week.
3. Social Anxiety Disorder
Also called social phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder refers to the intense fear of social situations coupled with worry and self-consciousness. People suffering from social anxiety symptoms may even avoid social problems altogether just to avoid being extremely anxious.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
The behavioral and emotional symptoms are:
- Fear of situations in which one may be judged negatively
- Worrying about humiliating and embarrassing situations
- Intense fear of strangers
- Fear of physical symptoms that may cause one to be embarrassed
- Avoidance of situations that where one may be the center of attraction
- Fear of social situations
- The expectation of the worst possible outcomes
The physical symptoms are:
- Racing heartbeat
- Feeling that mind is blank
3. Specific Phobias
Phobias refer to an intense fear of particular objects or situations. It may often seem that the reaction to a specific event or object is irrational. People may, at times, go to lengths just to avoid the anxiety-inducing events.
Symptoms of Specific Phobias
The physical symptoms of phobias are:
- A feeling of imminent danger or doom.
- The need to escape.
- Heart palpitations.
- Shortness of breath or a smothering feeling.
- A feeling of choking.
- Chest pain or discomfort.
Agoraphobia refers to a fear of being overwhelmed and unable to get help in certain situations making the person suffering from it avoid problems that may involve these. Examples of these situations can be crowds, lines, queues, and others.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Cognitive and behavioral symptoms of agoraphobia are:
- Fear that a panic attack will make you land in embarrassing or humiliating situations.
- A fear that a panic attack will be life-threatening and that one has no control over it.
- Afraid of people staring.
- Afraid of being the center of attraction.
- Avoid situations that could lead to panic attacks, such as crowded places, and public buses.
- Not being able to leave the house.
Physical symptoms are:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing (hyperventilating)
- Feeling hot and sweaty
- Feeling sick
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ringing in the ears
- Feeling faint
5. Separation Anxiety
People suffering from Separation Anxiety often feel intense fear of being separated from people with whom they are attached. Those suffering from the illness must have a persistent fear, from four weeks in children to six months in adults. The fear should also be irrational to their age and must prove to be a hindrance in daily functioning.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
- Recurrent and exaggerated anxiety over leaving or being away from home or loved ones
- Constant, extreme fear of losing a parent or other loved one due to illness or disaster.
- The constant fear that something horrible will happen, such as being lost or abducted, separating you from your parents or other loved ones.
- Fear of separation causes many to refuse to leave their homes.
- Not wishing to be alone at home without a parent or other loved one.
- Reluctance or refusal to sleep away from home without the presence of a parent or other loved one.
- Separation nightmares regularly
- When separation from a parent or other loved one is imminent, people frequently complain of headaches, stomachaches, or other symptoms.
6. Selective Mutism
Selective Mutism refers to an anxiety disorder wherein some people cannot speak in certain social situations. It usually starts with a childhood where children cannot talk in school but are talkative otherwise. If untreated, it persists in adulthood too.
Symptoms of Selective Mutism
- Marked contrast in child’s ability to interact with different people and situations.
- Apprehensive, uneasiness, or social awkwardness unpleasant, uninterested, or sulky clinginess.
- Shy and reserved.
- Stiff, tight, or ill-coordinated.
- Obstinate or belligerent, throwing temper tantrums when they return home from school or becoming enraged when questioned by their parents.
How can Anxiety be Treated?
Anxiety can be treated in the following ways:
This involves a regular personal interaction between patients and healthcare professionals to help a person change their cognitive and behavioral circumstances. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the most effective psychotherapy.
Medication uses medicines to treat anxiety and insert serotonin into the brain. These medicines like anti-depressants and buspirone help reduce anxiety symptoms.
3. A Combination of the Two
Some doctors prefer a combination of both psychotherapy and medication for some patients.
What is Propranolol?
Propranolol hydrochloride is a medication initially developed in the 1960s for treating heart disease. It comes under the class of drugs known as beta-blockers (beta-adrenergic blocking agents).
Can You Take Propranolol for Anxiety?
Propranolol for anxiety symptoms has been prescribed off-label by doctors for a long time. That is because Propranolol hydrochloride slows the heart rate and affects the blood vessels so that it is easier for the blood to flow.
Often, people suffering from an anxiety disorder feel the physical symptoms of anxiety before certain events like an examination or an interview. They would sweat, tremble, feel nauseous, and get affected by all the other symptoms. Propranolol, in this case, tackles the physical symptoms of anxiety so that such people can feel calmer in those situations.
Propranolol for anxiety also blocks the effects of the stress hormones like noradrenaline which further helps in reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety.
However, propranolol does not affect the mental symptoms of anxiety-like worry, dread, or fear of the worst possible circumstances. Even if that is not the case, many sufferers of anxiety disorders have claimed that a reduction in the physical anxiety symptoms has dramatically helped reduce the mental symptoms.
How Quickly does Propranolol for Anxiety Work?
Propranolol for anxiety works relatively fast in relieving situational anxiety symptoms like sweating and racing heartbeat. It reduces those symptoms in about an hour or even less, in 30 minutes.
Keeping that in mind, if a person has a stressful situation to face after a while, which is making them anxious, it is wise and advisable to take propranolol about 30-40 minutes before that event. For some people, it may also take a little longer to affect; hence, it is perhaps better to take propranolol about an hour or two before the event.
However, this is not expert advice and always take your doctor’s consultation before taking any medication.
How Long does Propranolol for Anxiety Last?
Propranolol for anxiety can last up to 3-4 hours, although it varies from person to person. During this time, propranolol helps reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. It will help with a racing heart, trembling, sweating, mental blackness or fogginess, and more. You can substantially feel the difference.
How does Propranolol Treat Anxiety?
Propranolol, a beta-blocker type, stops neurotransmitters known as beta-adrenergic agents from attaching to their receptors. The term ‘adrenergic’ refers to the versions of the hormone adrenaline in your body that it makes naturally.
Adrenaline is responsible for your fight-or-flight responses. You would probably remember feeling an adrenaline rush when watching a scary movie. Your heart beats faster, blood flow increases to the brain and muscles, and the sugar is broken down into fuel.
The adrenaline rush is helpful when a real threat is imminent, but it becomes difficult to function daily if you live on an adrenaline rush all the time.
Propranolol for anxiety can help block the beta-adrenergic agents, which block the physical symptoms of stress from manifesting. If a neurotransmitter isn’t attached to the receptor, it cannot signal the body to produce adrenaline. Propranolol gets attached to adrenaline receptors instead.
Propranolol causes the ‘antihypertensive effect’. The antihypertensive effects of propranolol reduce high blood pressure by helping the blood vessels relax and expand, aiding in more manageable blood flow throughout the body.
Is Propranolol Good for Anxiety?
Propranolol is generally prescribed for anxiety and is considered safe to be taken for a long time. It isn’t inherently dangerous, but if you are pregnant or have some health condition that can become worse, it is wise not to take the medication. In all cases, it is essential that you consult a doctor.
Side Effects of Propranolol
Similar to any other medication, propranolol also has specific side effects.
Common side effects of propranolol include:
- Slow heart rate
- Nausea or Diarrhoea
- Fatigue or Tiredness
- Cold feet
Some rare side effects may also include:
- Trouble breathing or Swallowing
- Rashes or Hives
- Weight changes
- Irregular heartbeat
In any case, do not stop taking the medication suddenly since it may trigger effects like chest pain, sweating, and shaking.
Who can Take Propranolol for Anxiety?
Propranolol is generally safe for adults and children above the age of 12. However, it is not proven to treat high blood pressure or any other health conditions below the age of 12.
Propranolol for anxiety may not be safe for everyone, so it is wise to consult your doctor before taking the medication. People with the following conditions may be at risk to take propranolol:
- Had an allergic reaction to propranolol or any other medications
- Heart failure
- Have diabetes
- Have liver or kidney problems
- Have asthma or any kind of lung disease
- Are pregnant or are breastfeeding
Other Uses of Propranolol
Propranolol has a wide range of uses. It covers both physical and mental health issues. Some of the health conditions that propranolol is used to treat, other than anxiety, are:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart rhythm disorder (fast or irregular heartbeats)
- Chest pain caused by angina
- Overactive thyroid gland
- Infantile hemangioma
The list is not exhaustive. However, a person should make sure that they are taking propranolol on a doctor’s prescription and are taking them according to the proper doses.
How to Take Propranolol for Anxiety?
Propranolol for anxiety is of two types:
- Regular release
This distributes propranolol into your body fast, thus depending on your dose, you may need to take it numerous times a day. If you suffer from performance anxiety, you may take it this way.
The drug is released gradually, so you don’t have to take it as frequently; once a day is typically plenty.
If you take it once a day, your doctor may encourage you to take your first dosage before sleep since it might induce dizziness. If you do not feel dizzy after the first dosage, take propranolol in the morning.
Propranolol for anxiety normally does not cause stomach distress, so you can take it with or without meals. It’s preferable to do the same thing every day.
In a Nutshell
Hence, propranolol for anxiety is usually prescribed and is safe to be taken. It blocks the neurotransmitters from attaching with the receptors and helps reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety-like sweating, racing heartbeats, trembling, and many others. Although it does not help with mental symptoms, the reduction in physical symptoms helps in reducing the mental symptoms too. However, you should make sure that you are taking propranolol after consulting your doctor.
Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.