Current status of beta-blocking drugs in the treatment of anxiety disorders

Drugs. 1988 Dec;36(6):773-83. doi: 10.2165/00003495-198836060-00006.


beta-Adrenoceptor blocking drugs have been used for the treatment of acute stress reactions, adjustment disorders, generalised anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia. In general they are effective in these disorders if somatic or autonomic symptoms are prominent but not extreme in degree. Thus, they are of more value for the relatively mild tremor of the anxious violinist in public performance than in the severe shaking noticed during a panic attack. It is most likely that beta-blockers act primarily by blocking peripheral adrenergic beta-receptors; symptoms that are mediated through beta-stimulation, such as tremor and palpitations, are helped most. Improvement is noted within 1 to 2 hours and with relatively low doses (e.g. propranolol 40 mg/day). Some recent studies, however, have suggested that when longer treatment using higher doses (e.g. propranolol 160 mg/day) is given, improvement in other forms of anxiety is noted after several weeks of treatment. beta-blocking drugs are useful adjuncts to existing treatments for anxiety and are likely to enjoy wider use now that benzodiazepines are being avoided due to their dependence risks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Humans


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists