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Why I changed my mind about anxiety medication

4 min read
22 March 2023

Topics mentioned: anxiety, medication, university

Author: Mary

About: Mary, 22, explains why she decided to try beta blockers for her mental health and her experience of taking propranolol for anxiety.

My life changed in many ways and this only added to my underlying anxiety.

I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was 15. It wasn’t a surprise, just a label for my pre-existing feelings which helped me understand myself better. At the time I refused to go on medication; I felt like it was an ‘easy way out’ and I wanted to tackle my anxiety head on.

I went to intensive therapy which gave me the tools to change my thought processes and challenge long-term intrusive thoughts. At the time, this worked best for me.

At 21, I started an overwhelming Masters course alongside other studies. My life changed in many ways and this only added to my underlying anxiety which I had finally gotten to grips with.

I reached out to my course tutor, family and friends and realised that what worked for me at 15 may not work for me at 21 with all my added pressures.

Choosing the right mental health support for you is the strongest thing you can do.

Why I decided to try medication for anxiety

I returned to my GP to ask for help. Although I have many techniques from therapy to help me deal with anxiety, I simply don’t have time right now. I aim to revisit these techniques again in the future, but I needed some additional support to help me in the present.

When I was 15, I was so against taking medication to help my anxiety. I had built up in my mind that it was not the right thing for me, almost an easy way out. Now I know how wrong I was.

A person writing in a notebook.

I also understand that labelling medication as an ‘easy way out’ makes looking after your mental health even harder. You are not a failure for taking medication to help you. Choosing the right mental health support for you is the strongest thing you can do.

Propranolol was recommended to me, because right now I’m not ready to commit to taking medication every day. I don’t feel I need this quite yet, but if or when the time comes, it’s not something I will refuse. Your GP is there to help you make these decisions and encourage awareness around the different options. This helps you find a treatment that is best suited to you.

Knowing I have them when I need them is reassuring and has helped my everyday anxiety.

My experience of propranolol side effects

Propranolol is a beta blocker. It’s a medication that you can take as and when you need. It focuses on the physical effects of anxiety by slowing your heart rate to control the other symptoms of anxiety. These can include nausea, fast breathing and consequently the feeling of being out of control.

The first time I took the medication was just before a class. In the first 15 minutes I felt light-headed and dizzy. In the next hour I felt out of it. I was worried about taking it again. However my GP had explained that this is common, as your body is adjusting to your forcefully slower heartbeat.

The second time I took the medication I prepared for the worst. Yet I felt none of these side effects. I just felt more in control and, ultimately, calmer. I have only taken three pills, but knowing I have them when I need them is reassuring and has helped my everyday anxiety. I know that propranolol can take the edge off a panic attack before I am tipped over the edge.

I thought I was helping myself by not taking medication, to preserve this feeling of being in control.

Your needs can change – and that’s okay

Sometimes you need to change your own mindset to get the help you truly need. I thought I was helping myself by not taking medication, to preserve this feeling of being in control. Initially I felt empowered by making the decision to not try medication.

However, there is no shame in making a different choice later on when it comes to getting support for your mental health, especially if you are still struggling or finding it more difficult. This makes changing your mind even more empowering.

There is no shame in making a different choice later on when it comes to getting support for your mental health.

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

  • No Panic

    Supports people struggling with panic attacks, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other anxiety-related issues - and provides support and information for their carers.

    Call 01952 680835 for a recorded breathing exercise to help you through a panic attack (available 24/7).

    Read information about call costs.

    Opening times:
    10am - 10pm, 365 days a year
  • The Mix

    Offers online information as well as helpline support to under-25s about anything that’s troubling them.

    Email support is available via their online contact form.

    Free 1-2-1 webchat service and telephone helpline available.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, seven days a week
  • Shout

    Text SHOUT to 85258.

    Shout provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

    All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

    Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

    Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

    Please note: From the 1 April 2023, texting ‘YM’ to 85258 will no longer be available to use. You can still use Shout as a support service for your mental health.

    Shout is a separate and external organisation from YoungMinds.

    Opening times:
    24/7

Thanks for sharing your story Mary, 22

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