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Topic: do beta blockers help...?  (Read 1899 times)

Offline brsmpianist

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do beta blockers help...?
on: January 24, 2005, 04:40:19 AM
Hi, I was wondering if anyone takes beta blockers and if they really work... I was considering them for an upcoming audition that I know Ill be extremely nervous at.  Has anyone had positive results from taking this drug?

Offline allchopin

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Re: do beta blockers help...?
Reply #1 on: January 24, 2005, 04:45:32 AM
Do a PF search for beta blocker  ::)
A modern house without a flush toilet... uncanny.

Offline shasta

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Re: do beta blockers help...?
Reply #2 on: January 24, 2005, 12:36:57 PM
*Sigh*  OK, for everyone considering beta-blockers for performance anxiety:

I am a cardiovascular physiologist by profession.  A chunk of my research is devoted to beta-blockers and how they interact with the failing human heart and with artifical heart devices.  If anyone has questions about beta-blockers, feel free to PM me.  Now, for my 2 cents:

I strongly advise against beta-blockers (or any pharmacological agent), for performance anxiety.  There can be serious complications associated with beta-blockers, particularly if you have cardiac and/or blood pressure issues that you don't even know you have.

Now, as musicians and performers, you need to seriously assess yourselves.  How much of your anxiety is truly physical, and how much of it is nerves, anticipation, excitement...??  Beta-blockers don't affect the mental side of things, so they will not help your "stage-fright" issues.

You need to tackle and overcome performance anxiety directly, not with pharmacological agents which only serve as BAND-AIDS to mask the real issues.  Try to perform in front of people as much as possible, try to improve your posture and breathing at the piano, play through pieces other than your concert repertoire on the day of a performance, participate in Alexander Technique classes, take some classes on public speaking or acting... do some self-exploration and honestly look at yourself and give yourself the respect to overcome performance anxiety head-on.  You will be better off in the long run and will have truly earned it.
"self is self"   - i_m_robot

Offline Bartolomeo

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Re: do beta blockers help...?
Reply #3 on: January 26, 2005, 11:07:39 PM
I took beta blockers for some months for medical reasons unrelated to performance.  I no longer take them.

They did, for me, reduce some of the physiological symptoms of stage fright, particularly the sweaty palms and dry mouth.  However, they also adversely affected my playing, and led to cold hands (less circulation) and exacerbated some problems with joint pain.

I no longer experience much stage fright, typically, though if I make a series of mistakes this can become a cascading problem.  That is troublesome in those situations when I am asked to sightread in public (the "oh no, we're singing this hymn" situation that is the bane of all church musicians) or get flustered by missing a cue or jumping a cue or playing the wrong number of verses.

For me the beta blockers weren't worth it and I certainly wouldn't seek them out for performance reasons alone.

As Shasta points out the beta blockers will not affect your thinking, just your body's response, so at best they only address part of the problem.

The best solution, IMO, is to skip the beta blockers and just play out a lot.  Play in front of everybody, in informal situations, alone, with others, and make your music no big deal.  That works for me.  But then, I've never had a high-stakes audition, because I don't try to bat in the league that requires them.

If you decide to pursue them, work with a doc who can make sure you're using them safely, and be sure you know how the drugs will affect you before you use them in a situation where the outcome is really important.

Offline willcowskitz

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Re: do beta blockers help...?
Reply #4 on: January 27, 2005, 01:38:42 AM
Cipramil/Citalopram (citalopram hydrobromide) should help for this (I'd pick it over beta blockers anytime). It helps you forget your surroundings and perceive yourself from outside yourself, thus relieving you from the stress of being yourself - and other miscellanous helpful ego (dis)integration effects. ;)  Generally, it is used for treating panic attacks and mild depression (its an SSRI).

Offline tocca

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Re: do beta blockers help...?
Reply #5 on: January 27, 2005, 04:47:38 AM
It seems that there's a lot of threads about using drugs to practise better/more and lessen nervousness right now!

I'm very surprised by how common this seems to be, judging by the posts here. Is there really so many people here that has no clue about the dangers with drugs??
Or is it just "to heck with the future, i want to better myself now. Who cares about problems later in life"?

It seems that everyone thinks drugs are harmless, except thoose who've done some research about them (like Shasta here)!


Even if we don't think about the ill effects on the body in the long time, there's also the downside that any drug taken will lower the body's own capabilities to produce the same effect.
It's like taking sleeping pills every night, after a while you simply cannot go to sleep without them anymore.
Or taking painkillers everyday: After a while, the body will produce less endorphine and won't be able to lessen your pain as good as when you don't take pills.

I too have a really serious problem with stage freight, it has gotten worse in the later years probably mostly due to me not performing much the last five-six years.
But i think i rather give up Piano alltogether than starting taking drugs to be able to play.

Ones health should always come first, no matter what!

I'm not pointing any fingers, but i got a bit upset with all the "drugs are the solution" talk lately.

Offline willcowskitz

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Re: do beta blockers help...?
Reply #6 on: January 28, 2005, 01:51:42 AM
I'm very surprised by how common this seems to be, judging by the posts here. Is there really so many people here that has no clue about the dangers with drugs??
Or is it just "to heck with the future, i want to better myself now. Who cares about problems later in life"?

It seems that everyone thinks drugs are harmless, except thoose who've done some research about them (like Shasta here)!

For myself I can say that I don't even take prescribed drugs without doing background researh first. And no, psychiatrists (or any doctors I presume) are not reliable sources of this background information, they will only reveal as much as they see necessary, and they rarely have actual experience of them, only the official theory to represent.

The whole drug topic is very funny, since the most loud-mouthed people usually have least amount of experience with them, and tend to judge them as absolute evil. It is an absurd thought that drugs would be bad in themselves, because they're merely chemical substances constructed (by nature or industry) to make certain changes to our body's functions. If you take LSD and get a psychosis, it is not because the drug is evil and wants to wreck your life, but because you had psychological issues that you need to balance yourself with before releasing your subconscious to that extent. Blaming the drugs is just another good way to free ourselves from the responsibility of informing and educating ourselves and others and act according to that.

Another thing worth mentioning is that prescription drugs that have psychological effects are rarely meant to be used for the life time (although the drug industry would love you to, hence why regular teenage anxiety is nowadays "diagnosed" as depression in most trivial cases), but to fix your brain chemistry to request and produce the transmitting compounds such as serotonin. This works if the drug helps you over the physiological malfunction to achieve and contain a higher general mood, which then affects your brain to work as it used to because of the a body-mind connection. Of course, people obviously rarely get to that point because they do so little (even if minor) meditation themselves, and become "dependent" on the drug, requiring higher and higher doses to get the same mood stabilizing effects.

By no means do I think that drugs are harmless, for that would be equally absurd to the assumption that drugs are "evil". I just think it is ridiculous to label them as bad because they have in some cases a lot to offer, and it should be choice of the individual whether they predispose themselves to exteriour substances.

Offline whynot

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Re: do beta blockers help...?
Reply #7 on: January 31, 2005, 06:03:13 PM
Most of my friends are performers and I've been amazed over the last few years to discover how many of them take beta blockers.  A while back I was having some serious anxiety problems while playing, where my hands shook so hard I would lose my place over the keys (I've been playing for over thirty years, and this level of fear was a new thing).  I really thought hard about asking the doctor for something, but my teacher talked me out of it.  I'm glad he did, because right after that I played another concert where I was shaking wildly, and halfway through my opening piece, I told myself, "This is ridiculous.  Are you going to sit here and shake the whole program?"  And I just stopped shaking.  This doesn't always work! but it was a very big deal for me  settle down and play after starting out so scared.  It doesn't sound profound in the re-telling, but it was a turning point for me.  I hope!
 

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