Propranolol for anxiety

Everything you need to know about using Propranolol for anxiety


What is anxiety?

Most people feel anxious or scared at some point in their life.  However, if this starts affecting your ability to function, it can be an issue. Anxiety symptoms can present in many forms and can affect you both physically and mentally.  Anxiety is not always easy to recognize as a reason you may be acting or feeling differently.

Physical symptoms

  • Fast, irregular or loud heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite

Mental symptoms

  • Feeling tense or nervous
  • Not being able to relax
  • Constant worrying - either about the past or present
  • Sadness
  • Insomnia

Behavioral changes

  • inability to enjoy your leisure time
  • Difficulty looking after yourself
  • Problems concentrating and working
  • Struggling to form or maintain relationships
  • Fear of trying new things

Panic attacks

When anxiety becomes severe, it can turn into a panic attack. Feeling sudden, intense anxiety and fear are symptoms of a panic attack. Other ways a panic attack can manifest are: sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath or rapid breathing and nausea. An attack usually lasts 5 to 30 minutes. Having a panic attack can feel frightening, it is not normally dangerous in otherwise helathy individuals. There are many methods, and medications if needed, to help you get through and reduce the occurrence of these attacks.

If you experience panic attacks regularly, visiting your doctor or a therapist is a good start.

There are some medications that you can take to help reduce the physical symptoms you feel when experiencing anxiety. Propanolol is one of those medications. However, it is important to note that propanolol is not an FDA approved drug to treat anxiety.


Propanolol is part of a group of medicines called beta-blockers. It is used to treat high blood pressure, anxiety and to prevent migraines.

When you are anxious, your body produces copious amounts of adrenaline and noradrenaline (chemical messengers). These chemicals can induce shaking, sweating and a rapid heart rate.  Propranolol can block the effects of these chemical messengers, thereby reducing the symptoms of anxiety.

The first dose of Propranolol can make you feel dizzy, so its recommended that you take it before bedtime. Propranolol’s main side effects are dizziness, fatigue, old hands or feet, insomnia and nightmares. These side effects are usually mild in nature and short-lived.

How to take Propranolol

For the treatment of anxiety, the normal dose is 40mg once daily. This can be increased to two or three times daily at your dosctor's discretion.

Propanolol should be taken whole with a drink of water. If you are finding it difficult to swallow, the doctor can prescribe smaller doses that will make it easier.  If prescribed liquid Propranolol, follow the instructions on the packaging and always use the provided spoon to accurately measure the dose acurately. 

Propranolol is usually prescribed short-term only, to treat anxiety. How long you take Propranolol for depends on the frequency and severity of your symptoms. 

Missed doses

If you miss a dose of Propranolol, take it as soon as you remember. If its nearly time to take the next dose, just forget the previous dose and take the subsequent one. Never take an extra dose to make up for a missed one.

You should never stop taking Propranolol abruptly. If the reason for stopping Propranolol is the side effects, your doctor may prescribe an alternative. If you stop taking Propranolol, it will take 1 or 2 days before the medication is completely out of your system. However, you might experience withdrawal side effects for up to 1 week.


During the initial phase of taking Propranolol or when your dose is increased, it can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. If you do experience dizziness or lightheadedness, avoid driving, riding a bicycle and operating heavy machinery until your symptoms resolve.



NHS Choices, Propranolol, 2019

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