Has anyone ever used beta blockers to deal with the physical symptoms of anxiety before a talk? I'm considering getting a prescription ahead of my interviews later this month and would like to hear others' experiences.
Date: 09 Jan 2014 15:15
Number of posts: 12
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I would caution against starting ANYTHING new right before your interviews, since you don't know how your body will react in terms of side effects, etc. While stress and anxiety management are certainly relevant issues during these intense interviews, you're probably better off trying something less extreme with such a short time before your interviews (even if that leaves you still a little bit anxious, because that's totally normal). But I'm saying this as someone who has never taken medications for anxiety, so I'm not claiming to be an expert.
I had a lot of musician friends that used beta blockers for competitions or auditions. Many of them got to the point where they could no longer perform without them and started using them in situations in which they previously didn't need them. I don't have an personal experience with them, that is just what I witnessed. And as anonnn said, I wouldn't test anything new at an interview. The best cure for anxiety is practicing and being well prepared.
I know a lot of academics who have used beta blockers to help with anxiety before giving big talks at conferences, before their dissertation defense, etc. and they really can help for people who get so panicked with public speaking that they cannot function. If your anxiety is that bad that you want to try them, the key, like everyone else has mentioned already, is to make sure you try them in advance of your interview to know if you will tolerate them well. Everyone's system is different, and the last thing you want while on a stressful interview is to have horrible side effects!
I can't speak to the meds but to all those who are facing interviews: You are obviously extremely good and the search committer already loves you,…otherwise you wouldn't be giving the talk in the first place. Meds or not…relax, be your best self and embrace the moment. This is your time to shine and to evaluate whether the school and your potential peers live up to your expectations. Take this first step strong, with confidence and pride.
Keep in mind..
Your interview/talk is just a very first step in what will hopefully be a very long and successful career in which the challenges you face are going to make your job talk pale in comparison to the point of irrelevance. Not to be harsh, but if you are going to crumble at this early point, it does not bode well for long term prospects.
In addition to figuring out how you react to beta blockers, you might want to also find out whether you can give a good talk on them. It's strange, but I can't give a good talk unless my heart is pounding. Don't know why — and it might be just me (it's sort of a running joke in my lab, because I give terrible talks in lab meeting and great talks everywhere else — but it's worth thinking about.
if you are going to crumble at this early point, it does not bode well for long term prospects.
No. Just to be clear, there is a huge difference between normal stress and clinical anxiety/panic. Most people find speaking in public somewhat stressful and they will get a little nervous, that's not the type of thing to take medication for. However, some people have really severe public speaking phobia and will have panic attacks if they have to give, for example, a job talk. But that doesn't mean they can't function well in most or all other aspects of a faculty position. If you are fine with every other aspect of your interview (meetings, meals, etc.) and just have an abnormal anxiety response to the job talk, then beta blockers may really be helpful. Everyone (and their doctor) has to make those decisions for themselves, and shaming people for not being able to cut it in academia because of their anxiety just contributes to the stigma surrounding mental health problems. If you had a headache before your job talk you'd take a tylenol. If you have an anxiety disorder you shouldn't feel ashamed to take the necessary medication.
agreed with most of what has been said above. beta blockers can also negatively influence cognitive and memory processes and I would guess that you want to be sharp while giving your talk and responding to questions!
As someone with personal experience using beta blockers, I can say they have greatly improved my functioning in academic talks. I regularly use a beta blocker before giving talks to large audiences and I took one before all job talks (and received offers!). I have never experienced any negative cognitive effects and have always been able to respond to questions intelligently. In fact, this is why I take the meds in the first place - so I'm not so busy dealing with heart palpitations and cotton mouth that I can't respond to questions about my work! Like others have mentioned, you should test out the meds well before your talk to see how they effect you, and definitely practice giving a talk while on the dosage you anticipate taking during your actual interview. And don't let other people make you feel stigmatized or inadequate for taking a beta blocker before an anxiety provoking job talk! It is very common, and not at all something you should feel bad about.
Given that this a site for psychology Ph.Ds, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned behavioral treatments for panic and anxiety. A good CBT therapist can treat panic disorder and fear of public speaking in 6-8 sessions. Within a CBT model, beta blockers and other anxiety meds are frowned upon because they act as "safety signals" which start to become addictive (in exactly the way that Anon described in terms of musician friends). The best treatment for anxiety is exposure therapy, in which you simulate feared situations in order to learn to habituate to them, allowing yourself to become desensitized to anxious feelings.