Beta-Blockers for public speaking Key Takeaways
Without completely spoiling the rest of this article, here are the most interesting & useful takeways about Beta-Blockers for public speaking:
- Beta-blockers are prescription drugs typically prescribed for cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, angina (chest pains) and irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). The main function of beta-blockers is to block the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones in the body, and that's why many speakers and performers use beta-blockers to help with their performance anxiety and stage fright symptoms.
- The most popular beta-blocker used for public speaking is Propranolol (brand name Inderal), followed closely by alternatives like Metoprolol, Atenolol, Carvedilol & others. When used occasionally, beta-blockers appear to have minimal risk of side effects. However, dependency on beta-blockers to perform and speak is common, and why those who use beta-blockers regularly should consider alternatives.
Getting up to speak in front of an audience is a nerve-wracking experience for most (if not all). For some, public speaking is a full-blown phobia. It’s such a wide-spread fear, that the fear of public speaking (scientific name Glossophobia) is often ranked in the top 5 list of peoples largest fears in life.
One particular survey found that the fear of public speaking affects 40% of Americans, making glossophobia/fear of public speaking the second most common fear in the US, behind snakes . Another study found that nearly 75% of people suffer from some form of glossophobia at some point in their life .
These studies just go to show that the physical and mental effort of speaking in front of a crowd is overwhelming for many. Fear of public speaking can cause problems in an affected person’s life, such as slowing professional progression, and causing anxiety over common social situations.
The good news is that there are several solutions and strategies to help overcome glossophobia/fear of public speaking, and one of the more popular solutions being used by professional performers today are beta blockers.
In this article we are going to look into using beta blockers for public speaking, going into whether beta-blockers actually help with performance anxiety and stage fright, if they’re safe, what the side-effects and alternatives are and much more.
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Beta Blockers & Public Speaking: a Long History
You may have heard about many performers (musicians, professional public speakers, actors, etc.) who used to experience pre-performance jitters and anxiety symptoms, benefiting from using beta-blockers.
Beta-blockers are a type of pharmaceutical drug that doctors typically prescribe for cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, angina (chest pains) and irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). The full name is beta-adrenergic blocking agents and their main function is to block the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones .
Because of the way beta-blockers work within the body, many performers and public speakers use them to block the symptoms of performance anxiety. Actually one of the first popular mentions of beta blockers being used for anxiety purposes was a Lancet article from 1965 . That article and tons of further research into stage fright & anxiety tells us that performers are experiencing the physical symptoms of performance anxiety in the first place because of the adrenaline pumping through their bloodstream and their heart working with greater force.
By blocking the release of stress hormones; beta-blockers are preventing the heart from going into overdrive, keeping blood pressure low, and keeping performance anxiety symptoms at bay .
Do Beta Blockers Really work?
People use beta-blockers “off-script” for public speaking because it is too much adrenaline that is responsible for their performance anxiety symptoms in the first place.
When you’re feeling anxious about something, like giving a public speech, it is to be expected that you’ll feel some level of stress. Naturally, you will feel somewhat of an adrenaline rush as a part of that stress response. For most people, that stress response is not a big deal, and they might even use it to their advantage to up the intensity of their performance .
But if you experience performance anxiety, that stress response has gone too far. You are experiencing a much greater effect of the adrenaline hormone, which causes your heart rate to skyrocket, along with other symptoms of stage fright and anxiety.
Since beta-blockers block the effects of adrenaline, they also prevent you from experiencing the physical symptoms of that same anxiety. Remaining physically calm has an overall calming effect, which then allows you to get through your speech and keep your stress response at bay.
So yes, beta blockers do work for blocking the effects of adrenaline.
Beta Blocker OTC Brand Names
There are various beta-blockers available today, but here are some of the most common ones available (and their ingredients).
- Inderal (Propranolol)
- Lopressor (Metoprolol)
- Sectral (Acebutolol)
- Coreg (Carvedilol)
- Tenormin (Atenolol)
- Zebeta (Bisoprolol)
All of these beta-blockers are prescription drugs. Inderal/Propranolol is the most common of them. There are also other medications that people commonly use off-script for anxiety, like Clonodine and Depakote, but these are not technically beta-blockers so we won’t cover them here.
It is critical to remember that everyone responds to medications and treatments differently. If you’re considering using beta-blockers for anxiety, or any another condition, be sure to consult a medical professional before you begin.
Are Beta Blockers Safe?
As long as you are only using beta-blockers occasionally, they seem to be quite safe with minimal risk of side effects.
Problems can arise if you need beta-blockers to be able to perform at all, as that’s when you might start using them frequently.
If you’re using beta-blockers too much, then it could get to a point where you become dependent on beta-blockers, and withdrawal could cause other problems such as high blood pressure.
So beta-blockers are safe to use when you need a quick stage fright solution, but it might be a good idea to start incorporating some natural alternatives to beta-blockers, as we will discuss later.
Beta-blockers are generally considered to be safe for public speakers (or any performer). Especially if you only take them occasionally. But beta blockers can come with potential side effects, although not too common among public speakers who only use beta-blockers every now and then.
Here is a list of the potential side effects of beta-blockers :
- Mood disorders
- Digestive issues like gas, bloating, and constipation
- Nausea, and in some cases, vomiting
- Dry mouth
In some rare, but severe cases, one might also experience the following side effects from beta-blockers:
- Wheezing and/or shortness of breath
- Swelling of extremities like hands, feet, or ankles
- Pounding heartbeat
If you experience any of the side effects mentioned above, immediately notify your doctor.
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What’s the best way to handle public speaking anxiety?
Glossophobia/Fear of public speaking does not have to be a chronic, lifelong affliction. There are various strategies and tools that a person can use to overcome their fear of public speaking, including medications (like beta blockers of course), mental strategies and dietary supplements.
The strategy that works for one person may not work for the next. If you suffer from public speaking anxiety, it’s important that you try to understand the root causes of your phobia, and experiment with different tools to see what works for you.
Let’s take a look at a few ways people combat fears of public speaking.
As we’ve covered, beta-blockers don’t treat the actual causes of public speaking anxiety but they can lessen the symptoms of the fight or flight response, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Beta-blockers do appear to have some level of efficacy at treating the symptoms of elevated stress hormones.
Many public speakers use beta-blockers as a short-term fix, and accept that beta-blockers may come with additional risks, such as addiction or dependence risks.
Mild cases of public speaking anxiety may be treatable simply with practice.
Many people struggle with public speaking simply because it’s new to them. The fear of the unknown and lack of confidence may manifest itself in extreme fear or anxiety.
However, once you get used to speaking in front of people, and develop confidence within these kinds of situations, the fear may go away.
This probably wont solve the fear of public speaking for everyone. For more serious cases of glossophobia, other tools and strategies will be needed. In particular, if someone doesn’t experience anxiety in any other social situations, yet speaking in front of a crowd immediately sparks a stress response, one of the more concentrated strategies may work best.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you take challenges that you find overwhelming, such as speaking or performing in front of a crowd, and shifts your mindset around them.
CBT seeks to replace your harmful thought patterns by breaking them down into smaller parts, and then replacing them with positive ones .
With CBT you work with a therapist and he or she will help you identify specific aspects of performing that you find stressful.
Then you would do mental exercises and assignments that create new positive associations with those performance aspects to make it less stressful, and eventually, something you look forward to.
Certain breathing techniques can be effective in stopping the onset of physical anxiety symptoms caused by the body’s stress response.
While public speaking practice and CBT may help the problem long-term, breathing exercises can offer a short-term fix that you can put into practice before you need to address an audience.
One particular breathing exercise is known as “diaphragmatic breathing” or “belly breathing”, in which you take deep breaths, engaging the stomach and the diaphragm. In contrast to regular, unconscious breathing, an effort is made to bring the breath down into the stomach, which should rise and fall with each breath.
Diaphragmatic breathing has long been used in meditation, and meditative practices like yoga and tai-chi. Studies have shown deep breathing to have positive effects on cognition and stress, adequately reducing levels of cortisol, a hormone that gets released when we’re stressed or anxious . It also helps reduce blood pressure and improve heart rate variability, which works to lessen the severity of symptoms one may experience with public speaking anxiety.
Natural Beta Blocker Alternatives
While many performers use beta-blockers like Propranolol and Metoprolol to help with their anxiety & stage fright, perhaps you’re not too excited about becoming dependent on a prescription beta-blocker every time you want to talk in front of an audience or know that you’ll be in a high-anxiety situation. Instead of having to get a prescription whenever you run out, you may want to consider a natural alternative to beta-blockers.
A natural alternative to beta-blockers would achieve the same end-result as a beta-blocker (providing relief from symptoms of performance anxiety) but it would do so by supporting your brain in a way that promotes overall relaxation, calmness, and improved cognitive function. The best natural alternative to beta blockers available today is PerformZen Calm Performance Formula.
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PerformZen is a natural supplement designed to help public speakers overcome glossophobia symptoms, and maintain their composure and mental focus when they have to deliver a speech under pressure!
Additionally, PerformZen contains L-theanine, theacrine, and Ginkgo Biloba, which are natural ingredients that promote calmness and provide a boost in clean energy.
If Beta Blockers aren’t the answer, what is?
Performance anxiety is no joke. If it’s more than a minor case of the jitters, it can have a significant impact on your life and ruin big moments for you (like giving successful public speeches).
But the good news is that you don’t have to let public speaking anxiety, or anxiety in general, control your life.
If you’ve been considering beta-blockers to help with your public speaking fears, you should know that although they can provide temporary relief, they are not a long term solution. Not to mention, there may be side effects, and you will need a prescription.
Natural supplements like PerformZen promote calmness and better mental function with ingredients that support your brain so it becomes more resilient to handle stressful situations like giving speeches/talks.
- ^ https://news.gallup.com/poll/1891/snakes-top-list-americans-fears.aspx
- ^ https://sites.bu.edu/ombs/2017/11/27/what-is-glossophobia/
- ^ https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/beta-blockers/art-20044522
- ^ https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140673665908639
- ^ https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/drug-cabinet/beta-blockers
- ^ https://uvitals.com/celebs-beta-blockers-anxiety/
- ^ https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/metoprolol/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610618/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594160/
- ^ http://www.researchautism.net/interventions/97/vitamin-b6,-magnesium-and-autism