Takeaway: Anxiety is a common mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While there are many different treatments available, it’s important to find the ones that work best for you.
Recently, ketamine has gained traction as a potential treatment for anxiety. But how does ketamine help anxiety? And how long does it take? In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about ketamine and anxiety.
A basic overview of ketamine treatment
As you may know, ketamine is taking the world of mental health treatment by storm. While it’s been used for decades as a surgical anesthetic, there have been a number of recent studies exploring how it can be applied outside of the surgery room.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there have been dozens of clinical trials studying the effects of ketamine on both medical conditions and mental health conditions, including
- Substances abuse, such as alcohol, cannabis, opioid, nicotine, and cocaine use disorders
- Depression, particularly treatment-resistant depression
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Headache disorders, such as migraine headaches
- Sleep apnea
- Chronic pain
While more research is needed to discover exactly when and how ketamine therapy can be beneficial, the current results are promising. In fact, the FDA has even designated nasal ketamine therapy as a breakthrough treatment for depression, meaning that it outperforms currently available treatment options.
As providers of ketamine-assisted therapy in California, we’ve seen firsthand how effective this treatment can be for a wide range of different anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and other mental health conditions. It’s especially exciting for people who haven’t benefited from traditional forms of therapy or typical first-line medications, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
What types of ketamine treatments are available?
There are a few different ways that ketamine is administered in a therapeutic setting. Ketamine infusions are one way that people receive treatment. In this method, patients visit a clinic and receive an intravenous ketamine infusion from a medical provider.
Ketamine is also available in the form of sublingual lozenges. These lozenges are self-administered by placing them under your tongue to dissolve. As we covered earlier, nasal ketamine spray is yet another option.
Some people benefit from ketamine therapy itself. Research has shown that ketamine infusion therapy can be effective after just a single intravenous dose. However, treatment may become even more effective when combined with psychotherapy. This approach is called ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, and studies demonstrate that it can help people maximize results.
Does ketamine help with anxiety?
While much of the current research has focused on ketamine’s effect on depression and PTSD, experts are beginning to understand how to apply ketamine for anxiety treatment. Here’s a look into what we know about ketamine and anxiety so far.
Ketamine for anxiety: Which anxiety disorders can benefit?
People often use the word “anxiety” to refer to a general feeling of worry, stress, or overwhelm. However, there are actually several different anxiety disorders, each with its own symptoms. Let’s explore how ketamine can affect each type of anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder, also known by the abbreviation GAD, is a form of anxiety that involves frequent worry, trouble relaxing, sleep problems, and physical symptoms like muscle tension.
While traditional talk therapy and certain medications can help, not everyone with anxiety benefits. Thankfully, research suggests that ketamine therapy may be beneficial for people with treatment-resistant anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder
As the name suggests, people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) experience anxiety related to social situations. Other symptoms include fear of judgment, difficulty making eye contact, blushing or sweating, and avoidance of social gatherings.
Ketamine therapy may be able to help. This randomized controlled crossover trial and others like it show that social anxiety symptoms can improve with ketamine therapy.
Panic disorder & agoraphobia
With panic disorder, people experience intense episodes of anxiety (called panic attacks) where they feel worried and out of control. There are also physical symptoms like trembling and rapid heartbeat.
With agoraphobia, people have panic-related symptoms when in a setting they feel they cannot escape from. Further research is needed to determine whether ketamine is effective for these disorders, but one case study supports its use.
Other related disorders
Some mental health conditions have symptoms that overlap with anxiety but aren’t considered anxiety disorders in and of themselves. However, these conditions may still be able to benefit from ketamine-assisted therapy.
For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often comes with severe anxiety. Studies have demonstrated that ketamine may be a promising novel therapy for anxiety and PTSD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), another disorder that’s related to anxiety, may also benefit from ketamine therapy.
How does ketamine help anxiety?
Experts are still gathering information about the mechanisms behind ketamine. Currently, there is research to suggest that ketamine promotes neural plasticity, which can help create new brain connections, as well as repair those damaged by trauma and chronic stress.
Since ketamine is a psychedelic substance, it can also alter your perception. Many people report feeling open and relaxed during a ketamine session. Ketamine can also lower your defenses, which makes it particularly helpful in treating anxiety. If your brain is less reactive to triggers, you’ll be better able to process them.
How fast does ketamine work for anxiety?
Each person responds to treatment differently, so there’s no exact timeline that will work for everyone. You’ll collaborate with your therapist and medical provider to create a treatment plan that’s best suited to your unique situation.
Some research suggests that people experience relief from anxiety after just one ketamine treatment. Others may attend a handful of sessions, and others may prefer maintenance treatment to help them maintain the positive effects of ketamine therapy.
As we discussed earlier, combining ketamine with psychotherapy is an effective way to maximize your results. While ketamine alone can be helpful, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy can help you get the most out of treatment.
Ready to finally feel better? Start ketamine treatment for anxiety today.
In our California ketamine-assisted therapy practice, we use a revolutionary technique called KAPspotting™️ to treat anxiety. This approach combines ketamine therapy with brainspotting to help people find real relief fast.
We help people of all ages and backgrounds, including patients suffering from anxiety and depression, bipolar depression (also known as bipolar disorder), PTSD (including complex PTSD), OCD, grief, and more.
If you’re ready for a new approach to healing, we encourage you to reach out for more information or to schedule your first appointment. We look forward to hearing from you and supporting you along your healing journey.