Does Ketamine Work for Anxiety?

Anxiety is a word that gets thrown around a lot. And in appropriate circumstances, anxiety is a positive sign you’re engaging with your environment. Feeling stressed is a part of everyday life. Whether it’s an interview, test, promotion, or doctor’s appointment, many life events trigger our stress response. You may find yourself sweating before a first date or speaking in front of a room of coworkers. These are all normal signs that our body is preparing for meaningful situations by putting us into a state of high alertness. However, for roughly one in three people, anxiety will become more than just a response to the usual demands of life.  When this happens, anxiety can become a difficult issue to address. The good news is that ketamine is an effective option for treating anxiety. 

When is anxiety a problem?

Anxiety disorders tend to fall into one of three categories: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. These mark the turning point from anxiety as a motivator to a debilitator. Once anxiety begins to discourage you from doing the things you need and want to do, your quality of life can suffer. 

Know the symptoms

Prominent research shows that common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Who gets anxiety?

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you’re far from alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the U.S., with 19% (40 million) of adults and 7% of children suffering from one form or another. There’s no one cause attributed to anxiety disorders. Sometimes anxiety appears to just ‘run in the family,’ while for others there is a clear turning point. Often a traumatic event such as abuse, violence, death of a loved one, or prolonged illness can trigger sustained anxiety disorders. In short, it seems anxiety disorders can happen to just about anybody, and it’s unclear if those who avoid it are built differently or just lucky.

Can ketamine help anxiety?

The most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety disorders are SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), an SNRI (selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), or benzodiazepine. However, between 30-40% of patients do not experience long-term relief from these medications. 

Fortunately, there’s no need to feel hopeless. Ketamine, the drug that was originally approved by the U.S. FDA as an anesthetic, is showing great potential to help those suffering from anxiety disorders and offers hope to those who have not seen positive results with current treatments.

Evidence is beginning to show clear results that ketamine can help us cope in novel ways with highly stressful situations, including stress brought about by anxiety disorders. “Ketamine can play an important role in the treatment of anxiety disorders,” says Prakash Masand, MD, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Centers of Psychiatric Excellence (COPE). In her Ted Talk, neuroscientist Rebecca Brachman discusses ketamine’s effectiveness in lowering the stress response in rats in a new environment, promoting behaviors that suggest curiosity and easefulness. Though the study she refers to is done on rats, there is a great similarity between stress responses in rats and humans. 

Coping strategies for anxiety

While ketamine is an excellent resource for dealing with anxiety, in the short-term there are things you can do for yourself to ease the burden. 

  • Check your thinking and ask yourself if the negative thoughts you’re having are true. Often this quick check-in can help you get recentered and evaluate your situation more accurately.
  • Writing down your thoughts is another excellent way to see if they make sense to you once they’re not just circulating in your mind.
  • Practice focused and deep breathing.
  • Aromatherapy: Our brains process smells close to where we process emotions and memories. Being intentional about this experience can help dislodge anxious thoughts.
  • Go for a walk. Walking naturally triggers a pattern of eye movement that alleviates stress. 

Final Thoughts

It is important to be mindful of your emotional state. While anxiety is a natural reaction to upcoming or present stressful situations, persistent anxiety can negatively impact your quality of life, taking away from your relationships, work performance, and hobbies. But there are things you can do to either keep yourself in check or help yourself recover. If simple coping strategies are no longer working for you, contact us to learn more about how we can help you address your anxiety with ketamine treatments. 

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