How Quickly Does Propranolol Work For Anxiety?

If you feel anxious before a social engagement or suffer stage fright or performance anxiety, your doctor might prescribe you propranolol to alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety. Follow this article to know the dosage and how quickly does propranolol work for anxiety?

Anxiety, a common mental health condition, has a lifetime prevalence in the United States of around 34%. It goes beyond the occasional stress or nervousness, often leading to significant impairment in daily functioning. According to the World Health Organization, 322 million people are suffering from anxiety globally, with a range increased by 18.4% since 2015.

Anxiety symptoms can be debilitating; many individuals seek effective treatments to manage them and improve their quality of life. Propranolol, a widely known beta-blocker, has gained attention as a potential therapeutic option for anxiety.

You might be curious regarding the chemistry behind the drug propranolol, propranolol dosage, cautions and effectiveness. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the question of How quickly does propranolol work for anxiety?  While also exploring its efficacy for anxiety disorder, palpitations, and performance anxiety. Keep Scrolling!

Introduction to anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorders, the most common class of psychiatric disorders, are significantly characterized by uncontrollable feelings of anxiety and fear. The duration of fear or stress can sometimes be disproportionate to the original trigger or stressor and enter the realm of an anxiety disorder. Once anxiety reaches the stage of an anxiety disorder, it impacts one’s ability to navigate the daily functioning of life.

Anxiety disorders range from generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder to specific phobia and panic disorder. Anxiety disorders affect nearly 30 % of adults at some point in their lives. However, several effective treatments are available, and symptoms can be managed timely with the right interventions.

Symptoms of anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorders encompass a range of emotional, cognitive and physical symptoms that vary from person to person. Here are the most common symptoms of anxiety:

Physical Symptoms

Physical Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Muscle tension,
  • Nausea
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Upset Stomach
  • Restlessness.

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms include:

  • Excessive worry
  • Racing thoughts
  • Harmful thinking
  • Fear or panic
  • Inability to concentrate

Behavioral Symptoms

These behavioral symptoms are common in people suffering from anxiety disorders:

  • Compulsive behavior
  • Avoidance
  • Procrastination
  • Social withdrawal
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in sleep pattern

Differentiating anxiety from stress

Stress or anxiety are the body’s natural fight-or-flight responses accompanied by a faster heartbeat and more blood pumping to the organs and limbs.

While stress is a natural response to a threat or danger, anxiety disorders involve excessive and persistent worry that extends beyond the situation at hand. Stress is short-term and tends to subside once the trigger is removed, but anxiety can linger or may persist even if nothing is triggering at all.

Because external factors cause stress, tackling this head-on can help, whereas anxiety can escalate into an anxiety disorder, leading to physical symptoms that impact overall health.

Introduction to propranolol

Propranolol, a member of the widely recognized medications known as Beta Blockers, functions by effectively slowing down the heartbeat. Propranolol effectively treats various cardiovascular conditions, including angina (chest pain), irregular heart rhythms, hypertension and elevated heart rates.

Its applications extend to preventing heart attacks and migraines, mitigating the severity of debilitating headaches.

Role of propranolol in anxiety disorder

Researchers in 1960 found the anti-anxiety effect of propranolol, and it has been prescribed off-label to treat anxiety. Propranolol does not treat the underlying chemicals and psychological conditions of anxiety; rather, it manages only the physical bodily symptoms activated by the sympathetic nervous system, such as:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Faster breathing
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Trembling and sweating
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Chills-shaking hands/voice

Propranolol achieves this by inducing relaxation and dilation of blood vessels, thereby improving the blood flow throughout the body.

Additionally, it aids in maintaining a consistent heart rate and promoting relaxation of the body, especially during events triggered by anxiety. Furthermore, propranolol is non-physically addictive and is designed to modulate the body’s response to stress rather than directly affecting the brain.

How long do beta blockers take to work for anxiety?

Beta-blockers are beta-adrenergic blocking agents that prevent stress hormones from contacting the heart receptors. In addition to relaxing the heart, beta blockers relax blood vessels that help to reduce blood pressure.

Beta Blockers are used primarily for cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Approximately 30 million adults use beta-blockers, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. .

Mechanism of action of beta blockers

During stress or anxiety, our body activates a sympathetic nervous system and prepares for a “fight or flight response.” In this condition, the brain releases chemical messengers called adrenaline and cortisol in the bloodstream, causing high blood pressure,racing pulse, nausea, sweating and trembling.

Beta-blockers play a crucial role by blocking the effects of these chemical messengers on the heart. Beta-blockers prevent adrenaline from making the heart pump harder or faster and restrict the blood supply throughout the body, except for the brain.

It’s like a game of musical chairs, where beta blockers steal a seat, and the adrenaline goes off on the sidelines!

The general timeframe for anxiety relief

Beta Blockers have been studied extensively since the 1960s and are generally well-tolerated by people. They have been used “off label” to manage only the physical effects of anxiety, not an underlying chemical imbalance or physiological causes.

Being off-label means these FDA-approved medications aren’t specifically intended for performance anxiety but can still be legally and safely prescribed for that.

Beta-blockers like propranolol are a viable treatment option for short-term anxiety before a stressful event. It is recommended for people who suffer from situational Anxiety or experience Anxiety around specific occasions.

The time it takes for propranolol to work may vary among individuals based on factors like metabolism and dosage. Intravenous administration of beta blockers allows for the immediate onset of action, while oral absorption results in a maximum absorption between 1 to 4 hours.

How quickly does propranolol work for anxiety? 

Propranolol is taken as a fast-acting or short-term treatment for anxiety. It appears in the blood after 30 minutes, and it usually takes 60 to 90 minutes to relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety, with peak levels achieved within 1 to 3 hours.

Short term vs long term effect

If the trigger of your anxiety is known, doctors may prescribe propranolol to be taken 1 hour before the trigger, such as at public gatherings or interviews. However, if you don’t know the exact anxiety trigger or frequently experience panic attacks, you may be recommended to take propranolol regularly.

Unveiling the half-life and therapeutic effect

Propranolol has a half-life of 4-5 hours, marking the time for its effectiveness to decline by half.

Propranolol is the most effective within the first 4 hours after administration. However, it takes longer than a single half-life to be fully eliminated from the body. The therapeutic effects may last for an extended period of 8-12 hours based on the dosage of propranolol.

How long does propranolol take to work for palpitation?

Understanding palpitations in anxiety

Palpitations are the sensations of rapid, pounding, racing or missing heartbeats in your chest, throat or neck, often for a few seconds or minutes. Usually, palpitations do not indicate serious heart conditions but rather a physiological response to stress or anxiety. .

Propranolol effectiveness for palpitations

Studies have demonstrated that propranolol is effective in reducing anxiety-related palpitations.

Propranolol binds to the beta receptors in various tissues, including the heart, and blocks the action of stress hormones like adrenaline, preventing them from attaching to the beta receptors. This interaction aids in regulating heart rate and rhythm, resulting in a noticeable reduction in palpitations.

Importantly, propranolol doesn’t affect cognitive functions but focuses on relieving the body from physical symptoms of stress. Its effects typically become noticeable within an hour by reducing the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure.

Dosage of propranolol

Propranolol comes in various forms, such as oral tablets, extended-release oral capsules, intravenous injections and oral liquid formulations. Among these options, oral tablets are particularly advantageous due to their lipid solubility, ensuring swift absorption by the body.

Propranolol comes in a strength of 10 mg to 80 mg and 160 mg, whereas its dosage is contingent upon the intensity of anxiety. Propranolol typically involves a standard dosage recommendation of 40 mg taken once a day for anxiety treatment. However, the prescribed dosage may range from 40 to 80mg for addressing conditions like high blood pressure or migraines.

Dosage may vary for people with kidney or liver problems or those with serious heart conditions. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate dosage based on health factors and medical history.

Optimal timing for taking propranolol

Propranolol can be taken with or without food at any time of the day; however, it’s best to keep a consistent daily schedule for optimal results. It is suggested to take propranolol with protein-rich food since it increases the bioavailability of a drug by 50% in the blood.

Your first dose may be recommended to take at bedtime due to potential dizziness. After that, you can choose to take Propranolol in the morning or alongside any other medication you take.

Propranolol dosage for performance anxiety

Performance anxiety

Performance anxiety, a type of social anxiety, is a fear about one’s ability to perform a specific task.Often referred to as “stage fright, it occurs when an individual is surrounded by other people or performing a specific task, such as interviews, exams, public speaking, acting, or music making.

Performance anxiety triggers the intense feelings of unease, nervousness, fear or apprehension, leading to physical symptoms such as chills, rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, elevated blood pressure, heart palpitations, shaky voice, muscle tremor and an urge to urinate.

During stress or anxiety, our body activates the “ fight or flight “ response that results in the production of stress hormones. These hormones attach to the beta receptors throughout the body, and trigger the anxiety-related symptoms listed above.

Propranolol works by targeting beta receptors in the body to block the action caused by stress hormones, ultimately helping to relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety.

Propranolol is not an anti-anxiety drug that works by targeting specific areas of the brain, causing the person to feel relaxed. Rather it works differently, it stops the person from feeling the physical symptoms of anxiety. You might still feel nervous before an interview, but you are less likely to experience the physical reactions of those feelings.

Role of propranolol in performance anxiety

Beta-blockers like propranolol have been used for decades to treat situational anxiety such as interview-related anxiety and stage fright. Propranolol blocks the stress receptors and their effect on the heart and other tissues. Stage fear will no longer cause any physical performance barrier, and you are less likely to experience sweating, shaking or rapid pulse. Thanks to Beta Blockers!

Propranolol has been clinically prescribed as a short-term performance-enhancing drug to alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety. Dosages of 10mg to 40mg of propranolol are typically recommended 1 hour before the event based on the intensity of anxiety.

Enhancing productivity

Supported by research, it has been found that 80mg of propranolol reduces the heart rate and systolic blood pressure to 49.9 and 8.3%, respectively. By mitigating the physiological effects of stress, propranolol has become a versatile ally in the realms of performance enhancement and productivity optimization

Enhancing musical performance

In a world of musical performance, musicians often grapple with pre-performance anxiety that triggers an extra release of adrenaline and fight or flight hormones. Beta-blockers stop the unwanted reactions of these hormones, such as increased heart rate and high blood pressure, stabilize the salivary sodium levels, and thus lessen the detrimental effects of stress on a musician’s performance.

Who should avoid propranolol?

People with following conditions should use caution while taking propranolol :

  • Have Diabetes
  • Have Low Blood Pressure or slow heart rate
  • Have Lung diseases (Asthma or emphysema)
  • Have Liver or kidney problems
  • Have Heart Failure or Circulation related diseases
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Are alcoholic

Interaction with other medicines

Propranolol interact with variety of other medications such as:

  • Antiarrhythmic drugs (that treat heart rhythms problems)
  • Antihypertensive drugs (that treats blood pressure)
  • Stimulant drugs (epinephrine)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDS (such as ibuprofen)
  • Warfarin (blood thinners)
  • Other Beta-Blockers ( atenolol, bisoprolol)

If you are currently on any of these medications, it is strongly recommended to consult  a physician before using propranolol.

Side effects of propranolol

While propranolol effectively addresses performance and social anxiety, it may cause short-term mild side effects in some people. Some of the uncommon side effects are:

  • Uneven heart rate: Propranolol blocks the effect of adrenaline that may cause slower-than-normal heart rate. But if it drops to 50 beats per minute, contact a healthcare provider.
  • Difficulty with Breathing: Propranolol may cause chest tightness or cough producing mucus. .
  • Abdominal Discomfort: A person may experience diarrhea, nausea or constipation after taking propranolol.
  • Hair loss Temporary Hair loss can be caused by beta blockers.
  • Allergic Reactions: Itching, Skin rash, irritated eyes or swollen skin could potentially be side effects of propranolol.

Stop using medication if you encounter any of these symptoms while taking propranolol and seek immediate medical attention.

Safe withdrawal

Do not stop the Medication without talking to your doctor! Propranolol carries a black box FDA warning, emphasizing that one shouldn’t stop using Propranolol without speaking to a medical professional. Abruptly stopping Propranolol usage may potentially result in serious heart complications such as chest pain, irregular heartbeat and heart attack.

It is crucial to gradually taper off Propranolol or develop a safe plan to discontinue a drug under the supervision of a healthcare provider.


  • Propranolol is easy on the stomach; take it with or without food. But take it exactly as directed. Do not increase or decrease the dosage.
  • Swallow the whole tablet with water; do, do not chew or break!
  • The liquid form of Propranolol comes with a plastic syringe or spoon. Use that for accurate dosage instead of a kitchen spoon.
  • If you find breathing difficult, notice changes in skin color, or develop severe skin rash anywhere on your body, call your doctor immediately.
  • In the case of Diabetes, be aware that Propranolol would mask the symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), such as heart palpitation and shakiness.


In conclusion, Propranolol is a valuable option for managing anxiety symptoms, including palpitations and performance anxiety. It is a fast-acting, short-term solution that typically affects within 1-3 hours, displaying its maximum effectiveness during the initial 4 hours. However, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage for one’s specific anxiety disorder.

It is important to note that Propranolol manages the physical bodily symptoms of anxiety and does not address the root psychological causes. Frequently, a prescription of 10-40mg of Propranolol, taken approximately 1 hour before the event, is the recommended dosage.

While Propranolol can provide significant relief, a holistic approach that includes lifestyle changes and therapy may further enhance its effectiveness in managing anxiety and improving overall well-being.