What Are Beta Blockers? The Drug Khloé Kardashian Uses to Treat Anxiety Explained

Khloe Kardashian uses beta blockers to treat anxiety
Getty: John Lamparski

Khloé Kardashian‘s anxiety was a central theme in the second episode of “The Kardashians” as she discussed her mounting worries about an appearance on “The Late Show with James Cordon”.

As Khloé talked about her upcoming interview with James Cordon, Kris commented, “Do you need more beta blockers?”

This has left some viewers scratching their heads about what beta-blockers are, and whether they’re a suitable treatment for anxiety.

Firstly, Khloé Kardashian’s anxiety seems pretty severe. She was frank on the show about her struggles as she talked to her best friend Malika Haqq. She referred to feeling like she was having a “heart attack” during an interaction with the paparazzi. She then said to her friend “I have to do James Cordon… I have such anxiety about going. It’s never the interview. It’s more the aftermath. I have to listen to everybody say this, judge you, or overanalyze something you say, or pick this apart… this used to be fun.”

Khloé said bullying by trolls online had been a major trigger. She said she has been attacked for everything from her appearance, her relationship (with Tristan Thompson) and even her laugh. In a heartbreaking moment, she said, “I think I’ve gotten to the point where it’s literally safer to stay at home.”

As someone who has struggled with anxiety, I found Khloé’s comments heartbreaking, and her symptoms sound severe.

Reluctance to leave your home can turn into agoraphobia, a condition that Mayo Clinic refers to as an anxiety disorder wherein “people… have a hard time feeling safe in any public space.” They add that the fear can become so overwhelming that “you may feel unable to leave your home.”

How Beta Blockers Help Anxiety

Severe anxiety is caused by the body’s natural stress response. According to Mayo, when you encounter a perceived threat (say aggressive paparazzi or abusive online trolls) your brain sends an alarm to your body that prepares you to flee.

This results in a surge of adrenaline and cortisol that then result in a racing heartbeat and other unpleasant physical anxiety symptoms. While these were once helpful when threats were generally physical, it is unhelpful in instances of sustained stress.

Mayo says: “when stressors are always present, and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.”

This is why some people use blood pressure medications known as beta-blockers. These are a class of drugs normally used to manage heart attacks and other heart conditions by blocking adrenaline receptors in the body.

According to Mayo Clinic: “beta-blockers are medications that reduce blood pressure” by inducing a slower heart rate.

Interestingly, they specify that beta-blockers are only used for high blood pressure when “other medications haven’t worked” and, in some instances, for anxiety, as they lower the heart rate.

Why Beta Blockers Aren’t a Long Term Solution for Anxiety

Beta Blockers are often seen as a “quick fix” for anxiety disorders. But in a review published in The National Library of Medicine, beta-blockers were panned as a treatment for anxiety.

The study reported that evaluation of the use of beta blockers for anxiety “does not support their routine use in treating either generalised anxiety disorder or panic disorder.”

It indicated that using beta-blockers for anxiety could cause cardiovascular issues and potentially induce depression. Another study found that patients who had their anxiety treated with beta-blockers in a hospital setting had the same outcomes as patients who were not – indicating that the use of beta-blockers is an ineffective long-term anxiety treatment.

Beyond Blue recommends seeking professional counselling and potentially medication if you’re experiencing anxiety and panic disorder. There are a number of proven long-term medications that psychiatrists prescribe for anxiety disorders. Practising yoga, mindfulness and meditation are also recommended as supplementary support treatments for clinical anxiety.

Khloé seemed to imply that she’d been advised to brush her trolls off. She says on the show, “Saying a mantra like ‘F- the haters, tune them out,’ yes, I think that’s obviously everyone’s goal, but it’s so much easier said than done.”

While everyone’s journey is different, and beta-blockers can be helpful for one-off public speaking events if you don’t have chronic anxiety, this medication is ultimately a band-aid solution for clinical mental health disorders.

Despite the controversy around Kris Jenner’s beta blocker comments, it was great to see Khloe’s friends and family attend the James Cordon taping to support her, and we hope she continues to receive the support she needs.

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