A person may develop depression when taking beta-blockers. However, there is no direct link, and depression does not affect every individual who takes this medication.
Beta-blockers are also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents or beta-antagonists.
In some cases, people taking beta-blockers may develop depression.
This article examines beta-blockers in more detail, the conditions they treat, the link with depression, other risk factors for depression, and the outlook of a person with depression.
While previous research has linked beta-blocker use to depression, more recent evidence suggests no association between these medications and depression.
While the analysis of studies found no meaningful link between beta-blockers and mental health symptoms, beta-blockers may cause sleep disturbances, such as insomnia and unusual dreams.
However, while there does not seem to be a direct link between beta-blockers and depression, the researchers note that people with heart issues who are more likely to take beta-blockers
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- previous history of depression
- family history of depression
- major life changes, stress, or trauma
- some medications
- some conditions, including:
A 2018 study suggests that nurses have a higher prevalence of depression due to their occupation. Therefore, people with stressful jobs may be at higher risk for developing depression and other mental health conditions.
Small receptors, called beta receptors, sit outside many cells in the body. The function of these receptors is to bind to specific chemical messages from the nervous system.
The beta receptors and chemical messages allow for the following:
- heart rate increases
- blood vessel constriction
- airway relaxation
- blood pressure increase
The function of beta-blockers is to prevent these receptors from receiving chemical messages. This can reduce heart rate, relax the blood vessels and muscles, and lower blood pressure.
There are three types of beta receptors:
- Beta-1: These are located in heart cells and help with heart function.
- Beta-2: These are mainly in the lung cells and blood vessels. They control various body processes and allow muscles to relax.
- Beta-3: These are located in fat cells and allow the breakdown of these cells.
There are many types of beta-blockers. For example:
Some of the conditions that beta-blockers may help to treat include:
- Angina: A condition causing chest pain that results from narrowing blood vessels to the heart. Beta-blockers can help reduce pressure and oxygen demand on the heart and limit the frequency of angina attacks.
- Heart failure: Beta-blockers can help the heart to relax and, over time, allow it to function better.
- Atrial fibrillation: This is an irregular heart rhythm. Slowing the heart rate using beta-blockers can help improve symptoms such as fatigue and heart palpitations.
- Heart attack: People who have had a previous heart attack may take beta-blockers to help reduce the risk of future incidences.
- High blood pressure: A person with high blood pressure may need to take beta-blockers in combination with other medications. The beta-blockers reduce the heart rate, which also allows for the reduction of blood pressure.
- Migraine: In some cases, doctors may prescribe beta-blockers for migraine. However, it is not completely clear how beta-blockers help with this condition. A 2019 review suggests that beta-blockers are an effective treatment compared to other migraine medications.
- Anxiety: Beta-blockers can reduce adrenaline, stop the heart from beating too quickly, and help people relax. A 2020 study suggests that atenolol, a type of beta-blocker, was well-tolerated and effective in relieving anxiety symptoms in people with mental health conditions. However, the researchers note that further research is necessary.
- Overactive thyroid: Beta-blockers can treat symptoms of an overactive thyroid, such as rapid heart rate, anxiety, and tremors.
- Glaucoma: A doctor may prescribe eye drops containing beta-blockers to help reduce eye pressure in people with glaucoma.
Some people may live with chronic depression, while others only experience symptoms for a short period.
If a person suspects they are experiencing symptoms of depression, they should seek professional support from a doctor or mental health specialist.
With treatment and medication, depression is manageable, and the outlook is mostly positive.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Beta-blockers are a type of medication that doctors typically prescribe to treat heart issues, including heart failure, angina, and atrial fibrillation.
They can help slow heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and relax muscles and blood vessels.
In some cases, some people taking beta-blockers may develop depression. However, research suggests while there is a link between beta-blockers and depression, it is not a direct one.
People should seek support from a healthcare professional if they suspect they have symptoms of depression.