Physiological Stress Management

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Drugs

Drugs are directly linked to our understanding of the biology of the stress response. Hormones create anxiety, so using drugs can counter their effects. We need to consider two groups of drugs: Beta blockers, Anti-Anxiety drugs.

Beta Blockers reduce activity in the sympathetic nervous system. They act directly on the heart and circulatory system by decreasing heart rate and lowering peripheral blood pressure. They do not affect the brain in any way.

Findings

Beta blockers have been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart disease. Lau et al (1992) conducted a meta-analysis and found that they reduce the risk of death by 20% in patients suffering heart disease. Performance anxiety has also been treated using beta blockers. Lockwood (1989) found that 27% of orchestral musicians used a beta blocker, with 19% using it every day. Beta blockers are preferred to anti-anxiety drugs as they have no direct effect on the brain and reduce the bodily symptoms of stress and anxiety such as tremors and sweating palms. Performance quality in musicians has been found to improve with their use (Berens and Ostrovsky, 1988). Other studies though have failed to replicate such findings. Performance anxiety is related to social phobia, where situations trigger intense fear. Beta blockers do not help with social phobia, probably because it applies to…

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