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I take Propranolol for anxiety: Rachel's story

  • Anxiety and phobias
  • Citalopram
  • Propranolol
Rachel egan headmeds 695x330 detail

I first started taking Propranolol for anxiety a few months prior to my A-Level exams.

As a high-achieving student I was predicted top grades across all my subjects.  From February onwards I was up late every night rewriting my notes over and over again to ensure I didn’t miss the grades I needed to study Psychology at Cardiff University.

As the exams drew closer and closer I started to experience obsessive negative thoughts about failing and images of blanking out in the exam which made me very panicked and anxious. I started to lose weight and I stopped sleeping properly which in made my grades in mock exams drop and this made me even more nervous.

I realised the negative cycle I was getting into and my mum and I went down to see my GP who prescribed me with Citalopram for depression and Propranolol for anxiety. She prescribed me 10mg tablets of Propranolol and told me I could take up to 4 tablets a day (so 40mg max) whenever I felt anxious. She was very helpful in explaining to me that lots of young people do experience anxiety around the time of their A-Levels and she wrote a letter that my school could send to my exam boards asking them to take my mental health condition into account.

I noticed that my body seemed much less tense and calmer within just a few days of taking the Propranolol and my heart rate seemed to slow down again. I was definitely still nervous by the time my exams came around but it was a kind of anxiety that I could cope with, not one which threatened to overwhelm me. I continued taking the medication but at a lower dosage right up until after my A- Level results were published because it helped keep me calm in the lead – up to results day. However, I decided to come off it before I started University.

Coming off of Propranolol was surprisingly painless; I felt a bit tense at times and when I got nervous without having any I could sometimes hear my heart rushing in my ears - but other than that there were no nasty withdrawal effects or anything.

I have been prescribed Propranolol twice since then: once in my second year at University when I had a particularly severe episode of anxiety and depression which really affected my life, and again last October when my company ran into financial difficulties and stopped paying their staff before making us all redundant. Both times I took Propranolol alongside anti-depressants and both times it helped me cope with the physical feelings of anxiety. However, I would say it was most effective for me the first time I took it during my A-Levels.

Propranolol has the beneficial effect of de-stressing my body and making me feel less tense and wound-up. Because I am still prescribed the 10mg tablets I can take them whenever I need them which means I can get a hold on my anxiety wherever I am. 

The only side effects I experienced are that sometimes they make me feel a bit light-headed and I feel as if my concentration can suffer because of this - and because I suffer from low blood pressure I have to make sure I spread out my Propranolol tablets otherwise I might faint as they also lower your blood pressure. They do seem to become less effective over time as I think your body starts to get used to them, but they have been really useful in helping me manage my anxiety and get on with my life when I need to!