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Taking Propranolol for anxiety: Katy’s story

  • Anxiety and phobias
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Propranolol
  • Sertraline
Katy prior propranolol detail

Hi I’m Katy and I’m in sixth form.

I was suffering with regular panic attacks and extreme anxiety, and had heart palpitations which would often cause the panic attacks because I didn’t know what they were. My GP and CAMHS case manager diagnosed me with panic disorder.

At first, once it became obvious I wasn’t coping, I went to go so see my GP and school councillor. The school councillor made me feel worse and during our 'chats' there would be awkward silence that made me feel more anxious. The GP recommended that I go to CAMHS and that I start on a low dosage of Propranolol.

It was hard at first to talk to my GP because I didn't really know her, but now I am able to confide in her because we've been through it together. I had to wait 6 weeks before I could go to my first CAMHS appointment (6 weeks of absolute hell).

My case manager spoke to me about how I was feeling and why all the stuff going on in my life was having an effect on me. She rationalized it for me and said things like: "it's no wonder you feel like this."

My CAMHS worker was great support for me because she had suffered with panic disorder, which made me feel less abnormal. She was REALLY helpful and REALLY understanding. She even said that all the staff at CAMHS are told to make themselves have a panic attack so that they know just how horrible it is.

In some meetings we would focus on my symptoms while in others I would ask her how I could become a social worker to help people that are in my position. There were some meetings where the doctor would sit with us and discuss medication. As my CAMHS worker had everything written down I didn’t need to go through it all again, which made life easier. 

The doctor and CAMHS said I should take Propranolol, but I would need to see my GP in order to get it prescribed. I was taking 10mg tablets 4 times a day, however, now I am taking 50mg slow release tablets once a day. I am taking Sertraline alongside it for the psychological symptoms of anxiety.

The benefits of Propranolol are that it stops heart palpitations, and the 10mg doses can be taken whenever you need them.

The weaknesses of taking Propranolol are that you can build up a resistance to it, making it gradually less effective, and when you first start taking them you can feel really sick. They also are not effective for reducing the psychological effects of anxiety and depression.

Changing medication can be scary, especially when you don't know what the consequences will be. When I started taking Sertraline along with the Propranolol, the side effects of taking them together was that I became very tired and my mood became slightly erratic because the Sertraline is an anti-depressant - so it was trying to find the balance that I had before I became ill. 

I haven't come off the Propranolol or the Sertraline, but when I do I need to contact my GP to let her know, and we have to reduce them very slowly otherwise there could be very negative effects.

At the moment I am working with my GP to reduce them as I have finished my AS exams. When I got closer to doing my exams I was becoming much more panicky, so my GP said to increase the dosage.

I'm not really sure whether I need to continue taking Propranolol for the rest of my life, but if I do I don't view it as an issue, I just view it as something that helps me get through the day.