Does Ketamine Help Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders can be debilitating and lead to life-disrupting stress, fear responses, and panic attacks. Ketamine Therapy has shown promise in treating mental disorders like anxiety to improve quality of life and ease severe symptoms (patient results vary).
Read on to learn more about the different types and causes for anxiety, how Ketamine Therapy works, and how you can access Ketamine IV treatment at Defy Medical.
How Does Ketamine Help Anxiety?
Ketamine IV treatment affects a neurotransmitter called glutamate, as well as a receptor called the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. Both play an important role in the management of mental disorders like anxiety and PTSD.
Ongoing stress and anxiety can lead to negative changes in specific parts of the brain, including the amygdala, which is responsible for processing fear and anxiety.
Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that can help encourage synaptic plasticity (the flexibility of synapses to strengthen or weaken depending on changes in activity) as well as increase synaptic connections. Ketamine increases the activity of glutamate in the brain to provide relief from anxiety symptoms.
Ketamine Therapy acts directly on glutamate which often leads to immediate results (patient experiences may vary). Antidepressants and anxiety medications perform a similar function, but take much longer to take effect, and sometimes don’t work effectively in cases of treatment-resistant mental conditions. Ketamine has shown promise in treating conditions when other prescription medications have failed.
Ketamine Therapy also impacts the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which plays a part in many mental disorders. Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist, which means it inhibits the receptor, thereby producing anti-anxiety effects and relief from depression and PTSD symptoms.
Patient Story: Nina’s Experience with Ketamine for Anxiety
Nina is a Defy Medical patient who talked with us about her Ketamine IV therapy session at the Tampa, FL clinic.
Nina experiences anxiety and utilized Ketamine Therapy to treat her symptoms, which include high levels of unease in large crowds, traffic, and other stressful situations.
“I didn’t really know quite what to expect,” she said of the treatment. “Everyone kept telling me I would feel so relaxed, and I didn’t 100 percent know what that meant, because I couldn’t imagine what ’relaxed’ would actually feel like.”
She consulted with Defy Medical practitioner Beth Bray, APRN, and then settled into Defy Medical’s specialized Ketamine Therapy room. This room is designed to be help patients stay comfortable with a reclining chair, eye mask, and headphones that play calming sounds.
Nina has a phobia of injections and IVs, and she said Beth helped her stay relaxed and made the IV process much easier than Nina had anticipated.
“I really liked Beth immediately,” she said. “She has such a friendly aura.”
Nina describes her Ketamine Therapy session this way: “I felt floaty, and that’s how I realized it had kicked in. Very much an out-of-body experience, but not in a bad way. I have a lot of racing thoughts normally, and the fact that I couldn’t finish my racing thoughts tipped me off that the Ketamine treatment had kicked in. And then eventually the intrusive thoughts just stopped.”
This inner quiet was unusual for Nina, who experiences anxious, spiraling thoughts daily. “It was nice to have my mind just be quiet.”
Nina also experienced visualizations related to gardening. She loves plants and chose to play nature sounds to accompany her session. She saw green plants and blooming flowers, which she found very peaceful and relaxing. She continued to feel a floating sensation, and only thought of her body and her surroundings if she squeezed the chair arms.
“It was just this period of quietness in my own head – it was really nice.”
She rested for the remainder of the day after her session, which is recommended for Ketamine Therapy patients. The next day is when she felt a big difference.
Driving often triggers her anxiety, and she regularly experiences racing thoughts, an accelerated heartbeat, and shortness of breath while in traffic. But when she ran errands the day after her session, she didn’t seize up and get anxious the way she normally would. She also didn’t feel anxiety in a crowd, which is another common trigger for her.
Nina regularly experiences mood shifts, and the general sense of calm has been the biggest difference.
“I was surprised,” she said. “Of course, I wanted it to work, but I’m a bit of a pessimist, so I went into it without much expectation. But I feel a level of calmness that I’ve never really felt. The effects just really decreased my amount of general anxiety after one session.”
So, will Nina utilize Ketamine therapy again?
“I want to go back,” she said. “It was very, very worth it to me.”
What are Anxiety Disorders?
It’s natural to feel anxiety from to time. However, if anxiety doesn’t fade or change with your circumstances, and if the symptoms of anxiety disrupt your ability to live normally, then it may be a more serious condition.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, and patients may experience one or more. Ketamine for Anxiety can ease many of the symptoms associated with these disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This condition is categorized by experiencing extreme worry or anxiety more days than not for more than six months. You may experience this anxiety because of social interactions, health concerns, financial or disaster related fears, and others.
- A general sense of dread
- Inability to find happiness or relief in hobbies
- Sleepless nights spent worried about negative possibilities
- Rapid or spiraling thoughts
This condition is categorized by frequent panic attacks. During a panic attack, a wave of intense fear will hit suddenly, sometimes because of a trigger but not always. You may be able to pinpoint what causes a panic attack, like fighting with a spouse or being in a large crowd, but they can also happen unexpectedly in otherwise calm moments.
Symptoms of a panic attack often include:
- Hyperventilation or difficulty breathing
- Fast heartbeat and heart palpitations (skipped beats or an extreme awareness of your heartbeat)
- Sobbing uncontrollably
- Profusive sweating
Because of its symptoms, panic attacks are often confused with physical conditions like heart attacks.
During a panic attack, your body essentially goes into a fear response with adrenaline pumped into your system to prepare for the impending danger – except often there is no impending physical danger.
People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or other types of anxiety disorders may experience panic attacks, as well. The medical community does not totally understand what causes these attacks, especially when they are not due to a situational trigger. Ketamine for anxiety can help ease panic attack symptoms as it decreases levels of anxiety.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is sometimes considered an anxiety disorder due to similarities in the symptoms and episodes it causes. Experiencing a severe traumatic experience or set of experiences can cause PTSD to develop.
PTSD symptoms may present as soon as the first month after a traumatic event, or they may take years to manifest. Symptoms include:
- Intrusive memories of the traumatic event, including flashbacks and dreams.
- A severe emotional response if something reminds you of the traumatic event, which may include flashbacks or sudden, vivid memories paired with panic and fear similar to a panic attack.
- Avoiding places, people, and events that can trigger these responses.
- Ongoing anxiety, worry, depression and/or a negative or burdened outlook.
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships and becoming distant from your family and friends.
- A lack of interest in hobbies that used to make you happy.
- Feeling constantly on-guard or in danger, as though something could go wrong at any moment.
PTSD is a serious mental illness that can drastically decrease quality of life. Fortunately, it’s one of the conditions Ketamine Therapy has shown success in treating.
A phobia is an extreme fear response to a specific trigger. These fear responses are typically excessive and outsized in relation to the cause of the phobia.
Common phobias can focus on:
- Animals and insects
- Spatial triggers like heights or crowds
- Medical procedures including injections, needles, IVs, and surgery
- Social anxieties and fear of being around other people
It’s important to note that you can be afraid of or averse to something without having a diagnosed phobia. A fear becomes a potential clinical condition when it interrupts your daily life and makes it difficult to maintain quality of life. In these cases, utilizing Ketamine for anxiety may help reduce the disruptive symptoms.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder that can cause people to fixate on certain situations or objects and feel compelled to perform repeated behaviors.
OCD may lead to symptoms like:
- Intrusive and obsessive thoughts with a specific focus. These can include germs and cleanliness, pollution, organization and order, religious concerns, and others. The thoughts may occur repeatedly and lead to obsessive behaviors.
- Feeling compelled to do specific actions, sometimes over and over again, to provide a sense of order and control. These actions may be repeatedly washing hands, shutting and locking the door multiple times, repeating routines, rereading specific passages, arranging objects until they feel “correct” and others. These behaviors may repeat at regular intervals, such as three or six times.
- The above symptoms are often accompanied by a sense of doom or danger if the repetitious thoughts and actions are not performed – as though the world depends on these behaviors.
Other Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a complex mental disorder that comes in many forms. People who experience anxiety may experience one or more of the above conditions, or others not listed here. It is always important to work with a mental health professional to accurately diagnose your condition and come up with a treatment plan.
A multi-pronged treatment plan that includes talk therapy, medication, and Ketamine for anxiety is often more effective than any of these therapies alone.
Ketamine for Anxiety at the Defy Medical Tampa Clinic
Defy Medical offers Ketamine IV treatment in a comfortable environment under the supervision of an experienced provider. Ketamine Therapy patients will consult with our provider prior to their treatment to learn what to expect, go over any prescription medications and potential contraindications (reasons they should not undergo Ketamine therapy), and to discuss an ongoing treatment plan.
Each Ketamine treatment plan depends on the individual’s needs, but often multiple sessions are recommended for full benefit. Ketamine Therapy often pairs well with other forms of mental health care, including talk therapy and certain anti-anxiety/anti-depression medications.
Ketamine IV sessions typically last 40 minutes to an hour, and we require patients to have a family or friend drive them home that day.