I'm going to the doctors tomorrow to ask about getting some of these for conference/public speaking anxiety. The guy I'm seeing is a doctor and reckons I should be able to get them as they are pretty harmless and very low on addition rates. Apparantly they help to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety- so heart racing, shaking etc. That's all I want really. Has anyone any experience of using these?
Hey Keep_Calm- this is weird, I had exactly this conversation with a lecturer at my uni just a couple of weeks ago. She said that loads of lecturers use beta blockers just before presentations, as it basically means that the body can't go into panic mode, although they don't affect your head! Apparently it's really common to do this, even people who are professors and have done loads of public speaking use them, and she said that a lot of doctors are happy to prescribe them for this purpose. I was thinking about it myself- at the moment I have been prescribed diazepam (valium) to calm me down for conferences, but of course that can make you really drowsy so it's not the best idea really! I'd be interested to see if your doc is happy to prescribe them- I have wanted to ask mine but was worried they'd say no as I'm on so much medication already. Apparently beta blockers are really effective for keeping your heart rate normal, reducing sweating etc, so I'd give it a go if it's something you really struggle with. Good luck at the docs! Best, KB
Beta blockers or other drugs like this have always some kind of side effects. It is a shame that informal usage of such drugs is becoming a fashion. Go for healthy diets, do exercise and accept the fact that you are only a student so there could be some weaknesses in your work/presentation. Avoid drugs at all for just confidence boosting measures. Health is more important than fame/money?
I honestly don't think beta blockers are the way to go. It's better to accept that you're going to be nervous but with time and experience you'll get less nervous giving presentations (while we feel very nervous it's worthwhile pointing out that people will not be able to 'see' just how nervous we are!). Remember, most people experience some degree of anxiety, especially when starting out. If you go down the beta blockers route you're not really dealing with the situation and are masking the problem. If you plan to go down the academic route as a career, would it not be best to try and tackle your nerves in another way or do you plan to live on beta blockers for periods of time for many years to come? What about training yourself in relaxation techniques? It will take time because it is about training yourself but it's a natural way of helping yourself and will serve you well in other areas of life.
Just my thoughts.
======= Date Modified 20 Jun 2010 18:49:47 =======
Well I think it's important to remember that everybody's situation is different. I don't think medications should be use for a relatively mild level of anxiety, but if it is complete disabling then I don't think people should rule it out. We're not talking here about the kind of anxiety that can be dealt with by a healthy diet and exercise. I have a healthy diet and spend at least an hour per day doing really hard exercise- this helps loads with general anxiety and mood- but is of very little help when it comes to the panic associated with presenting. Whilst I can contemplate presenting without the help of medication, and up until now I haven't used medication directly for the purpose of being able to present (although as I said, I have been prescribed anti-anxiety medication)- for some people the level of panic associated with presenting is enough for them them to feel faint, have a panic attack, or even pass out! The fear of this happening can make things even worse, and prevent people from even trying to present. It is really important for academics to present their work, and for someone with this level of anxiety it is very disabling and problematic for their work. If trying some sort of medication helps people like this overcome such difficulties then I don't think it is a bad thing. At the end of the day, doctors have to prescribe these drugs, and are hardly going to do so lightly if there are any risks involved. So for most people who get anxious then yes- practice and it will get easier, everyone gets nervous etc etc. But for those where the problem is so debilitating then I would consider the medication to start with. Beta-blockers won't stop you from getting anxious- they don't affect your mind in that way. But they do deal with the physiological symptoms of panic- they stop your body going into panic mode which could lead to palpitations, hyperventilating, and full-blown panic attacks, which of course feeds back into your system and creates even more anxiety, making it physically impossible to present or even to speak! So relaxation techniques etc might still be helpful for calming your mind down. Chances are, once you get used to presenting with the medication and learn to deal with the anxiety, the physiological symptoms might lessen and you might be able to stop taking the medication anyway. Anyway Keep_Calm, as I said, I think it depends upon how severe your anxiety is! But I think some people will assume that you are just talking about the general anxiety that most of us feel when we present, rather than full-blown panic with severe physiological symptoms, and give a reply based on that. Best, KB
I would like to hope that any good medical doctor won't initally simply prescribe beta blockers or anti-anxiety medication without first (and possibly at the same time) trying to figure out, and deal with the basis of the anxiety. Because it does not solve the problem. I spent a great deal of time in college in a state of great anxiety with associated panic attacks - it can be dealt with.
I think as an occasional help, propranolol can be a very helpful B-blocker for helping deal with anxiety arising from presentations, oral exams and such like. Of course, your doctor will ensure that there are no contra-indications for you, such as being an asthmatic. The aim is just to slightly block the overriding actions of your sympathetic nervous system in the 'fight or flight' response associated with stressful situations. The dose you'll be prescribed is very low, so side-effects will be minimal. You might find you get cold hands and feet, for example. As other posters have said, it's a quick fix and not the long term answer, but you wouldn't get repeat prescriptions anyway (not that you'd need it). So, you can work on developing your presentation confidence and other coping strategies in the meantime.
As for it being a recreational drug, I can't imagine finding any drug dealer who would sell it. It's not the kind of drug you can take to get jollies from 'by no chance'.
Delta and Goodboy, I am coming up to the final year of my PhD and have presented at numerous conferences before so I'm fully aware that anxiety is normal etc etc. and I've had plenty of time to try and develop coping mechanisms. The conference I am specifically hoping to get help with is one which I have organized myself so I know that my nerves will be especially bad. I don't actually care about being nervous - it is the physical symptoms which, for me, can become actually painful in the run up the event and remove any enjoyment from the situation itself as well as impacting badly on my performance. It is very hard to get rid of these symptoms without removing the pyschological cause. I'll be working on that whether I take beta blockers or not as-as KB has pointed out- they don't remove anxiety itself, only the physical manifestations.
I appreciate people's advice but it seems that some have leapt to the conclusion that I'm joyfully skipping off to the doctor expecting him to prescribe with pills to deal with any minor stress or strain I feel. Myabe I should have provided more information to show that this is clearly not the case. As I mentioned, my boyfriend is a doctor and he was the one who actually suggested that B-blockers might be a good idea to help me with this particular event.
I've had beta blockers for a heart condition and I'd avoid them like the plague! Even with the backflips that my heart does sometimes (it'll race to over 220bpm at rest) I've been told by my doc to only take them as a last resort after using all the other techniques she showed me as they can make you feel terrible - I mean really terrible, but they don't affect you like that every time and if they were to hit you while you were in the process of walking to present your paper you'd be in big trouble! The other thing is that if you take these, and if they were to help, then getting out of the habit of it and presenting without them would become harder and harder - I don't mean a physical addiction, but a psychological one - its another reason my doc has spent so much time teaching me carotid massage and everything else.
I've suffered with panic attacks since I was a teenager, they were terrible, and I had a total terror of public speaking BUT I find that relaxation, cognitive behaviour therapy, NLP and general breathing techniques help no end. That way you learn to deal with it yourself and overcome the fear and learn how to control your body's response without resorting to drugs. I'd seriously consider that route before getting a prescription for something that could seriously cause you problems. They are a drug for a purpose but they've been hijacked to some extent by the anti-anxiety side and having suffered with both the reason they are made, and also the anxiety I can assure you that there are far far better ways of dealing with this :-)
======= Date Modified 20 Jun 2010 21:10:28 =======
I was prescribed some to help with my migraines (made no difference). I did do a presentation during the time but not sure if I felt any different from usual, but then I don't really have any anxiety problems. Not really helpful but if nothing I suffered no ill side-effects.
Hopefully they will help you!
Fair enough Delta, I was a bit snappy. Apologies. I appreciate everyone's input but I will keep my appointment today and see what the doctor says. I'm sure we will chat about all the things mentioned here and she won't give me them if it's not right for me. I'll let you know what hapens.
P.S. Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic medicine so I would never use it out of principle but that's a whole other thread ;-)
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