How Ketamine For Treating Anxiety Works, Per Medical Experts

How Ketamine For Treating Anxiety Works, Per Medical Experts

Anxiety can encompass a broad range of thoughts and behaviors. To many, anxiety can feel like a constant stream of nervousness, worry, fear, and hypervigilance. While some amount of anxiety is normal, for people battling anxiety disorders, the symptoms of anxiety can become pervasive, even impairing the ability to function in daily life.

Traditional anxiety treatments generally include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, or a combination of those medications. Like using antidepressants to treat depression, antidepressants as a treatment for anxiety can take time for the medications to offer relief. Similarly, the use of benzodiazepines and beta-blockers generally only offer short-term relief of mental and physical symptoms.

However, using ketamine for anxiety offers a novel approach.

RELATED: 8 Psychedelic Myths Experts Wish Would Go Away

Acting directly on the neurotransmitters and receptors that affect anxiety, ketamine disrupts the recurring thought patterns that are characteristic of anxiety. It can also offer fast results — with studies showing most patients experience a reduction in symptoms the same day.

While the FDA has approved both IV ketamine and Spravato — an esketamine nasal spray — as treatment for depression, ketamine therapy for anxiety is still considered an off-label use of the drug. This means that certain use guidelines, like dosages and administration, have yet to be regulated and standardized.

With the emergence of ketamine therapy, many people may be curious about how ketamine treatment for anxiety works. To help answer the question, medical experts from various ketamine clinics around the country share their experiences and thoughts on how ketamine treats anxiety.

RELATED: How Do Patients Feel After Ketamine Therapy? Medical Experts Weigh In

Dr. Thomas Kim, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer – Noma Therapy – At Home Ketamine Tele-Health

Anxiety can be a challenging condition, but new treatments like ketamine are bringing hope and relief for those seeking help. While traditionally used for depression, ketamine is now being used for anxiety due to its potential to create new pathways in the brain. This doesn’t rely on the usual serotonin-based approach (like SSRIs) but rather encourages the brain to change and grow, a concept called neuroplasticity.

Ketamine therapy can give quick relief, but it’s not just about swapping one drug for another. It’s the first step in a more complete approach to treatment. At Noma Therapy, we use ketamine together with a psychotherapy plan that’s made just for you. We believe that activating new brain connections through ketamine is just the beginning of getting better, not just a quick fix.

Our 14-week Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) program is made for people who have been battling anxiety, depression, or trauma. It’s a combination of ketamine treatment and active engagement in psychotherapy to help patients envision and achieve a life free from mental health struggles. Our new approach aims to not only provide short-term relief but also equip patients with the skills to sustain their long-term well-being.

John Guardiani, MA, LPC – Philadelphia Integrative Psychiatry

“While most of what we know about ketamine comes from the studies treating treatment resistant depression, ketamine has also been proven to significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety as well.

The strongest area of study in the area of anxiety disorders lies within the framework of PTSD and secondarily, social anxiety disorder.

While we can look to the research for some hard data points on why ketamine can be helpful for anxiety, we can also talk a bit about the well documented, but not always well understood relationship between anxiety and depression.

We like to call these two diagnoses dysfunctionally related, as one can often beget (or cause) the other. In the context of anxiety, what we typically observe is some maladaptive pattern of thinking that often leads to behaviors of avoidance. In many scenarios, these behaviors of avoidance often lead to the classic criteria of depression which include lack of motivation, isolation/withdrawal, and diminished interest in activities that were previously pleasurable or preferred.

Ketamine has been known by some as a great pattern disruptor. People often find with repeated exposure to ketamine in a treatment setting, they find themselves with a new found perspective on the world, and in many cases, finding different ways to view and thereby solve some of their problems. Many of the modern theories of psychotherapy are based on cognitive behavioral frameworks, challenging what they call ‘maladaptive thought patterns.’ To this effect, ketamine can act in itself as a means to help create more flexible thinking, and this is likely due to its positive effect on neuroplasticity in the brain and ability to create novel neural pathways. Put simply, ketamine can allow different parts of the brain to communicate and can actually make therapy more meaningful and effective.

It is important to note that while ketamine-assisted psychotherapy is the best way to maximize the positive effects of ketamine on the brain, concurrent psychotherapy outside of the ketamine treatment can be significantly helpful as well. As a part of our ketamine program here, we are happy to educate and coordinate with outside therapists on how to best integrate ketamine therapy into their work with a shared patient.”

Dr. Steven Radowitz – Nushama

“We believe that unprocessed difficult life experiences, or trauma, is at the root of most mood disorders… Therefore, we use a similar approach to treat anxiety as we do depression, PTSD, OCD, addictions, and even eating disorders. Overall, psychedelic-assisted therapy helps diminish the influence of the ego, enabling a person to see the root of their trauma with less judgment and a greater inner clarity. Our protocol of six ketamine journeys over the course of 3-6 weeks has been found to be the most efficacious and well-researched. Each session is accompanied by preparation and integration. With preparation, a person sets their intention with a therapist or integration coach. During the ketamine journey, a person is able to reset and reconnect to their inner voice, giving them the opportunity to reframe their narrative. After the journey, the person can glean new insights during their integration session, empowering them with new perspectives that can become part of their daily lives.”

Dr. Thomas Swahn, DNP – Swahn Balanced Health

“Utilizing ketamine treatment for anxiety is remarkable. Anxiety is characterized by repetitive and unrealistic worries about the future. The ketamine experience interrupts the ruminations we sometimes get stuck in and creates a timeless space in which you exist simultaneously in the moment and outside of time, zooming out from the worries of the world to see how truly insignificant they are. This effect helps reorient the mind to a more realistic view of the problems in our lives and gives us the ability to accept things outside of our control and the motivation to address the things we can change. It also reduces reactivity, giving you the chance to consider events before automatically reacting with old patterns. Pairing this effect with psychotherapy can accelerate the resolution of old patterns as well as the development of new ways of thinking and being. With ketamine therapy, you can finally let go of anxiety and move forward in peace.”

Dr. Mark Leeds – Mood Wellness Center

“Anxiety symptoms are serious, limiting a person’s ability to function. Social anxiety disorder prevents sufferers from having healthy relationships and making meaningful connections.

Ketamine infusion therapy is an excellent treatment method to help relieve occasional anxiety and severe anxiety. It also works quite well as an OCD treatment and PTSD treatment.

Ketamine treatment also helps with separation anxiety disorder, for people who have difficulty being away from home or loved ones. Patients with panic disorder experience fewer panic attacks, with a reduction in the intense fear associated with chronic anxiety.

For patients with obsessive compulsive disorder, ketamine therapy combined with deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) helps to reduce OCD symptoms, as well as the intense anxiety that often accompanies OCD exacerbations.

Ketamine treatment for anxiety works well. It is important to attend all sessions of IV therapy. The healing effects of ketamine work over time, with a protocol of multiple infusions.”

Conor Glover, PA-C – Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles

“Imagine you’re driving along the highway. Perhaps it’s dark outside, maybe even raining too. All of a sudden your windshield fogs up and you’re having difficulty seeing the road from all sides. You’re trying to proceed safely, but you’re unsure of what to do. Should you slow down, cross lanes to pull over, or continue with a compromised field of view? No option feels safe. You reach for the defroster and within half a minute you can see straight ahead of you. Another 30 seconds and your whole windshield is clear. Another minute later and the side windows and rear windshield are clear too! You take a sigh of relief as you can proceed to your destination. Anxiety clouds our ability to proceed with our lives with ease, and ketamine is the defroster that gives us the perspective that we need.”

RELATED: What Are The Biggest Misconceptions About Ketamine Therapy?

Considering Ketamine Treatment For Anxiety?

The first step in seeking ketamine treatment for anxiety is talking to your doctor who will help you determine if ketamine therapy is right for you and find a reputable ketamine clinic in your area.

While treatment may vary slightly with each clinic, high-quality clinics will have a clinician available to walk you through treatment options. Likewise, the clinic can answer any questions or concerns, and ensure you understand the process of using ketamine treatment for anxiety from start to finish.

Healing Maps Editorial Staff

Healing Maps Editorial Staff

View all posts by Healing Maps Editorial Staff

The Healing Maps Editorial Team has decades of experience across all facets of the psychedelic industry. From assessing studies and clinic research, to working with clinician's and clinics, we help provide data-backed information to psychedelic-curious individuals across the globe.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Explore Psychedelic Therapy Regions