The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion accompanied by feelings of tension, disordered or worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure and breathing rate.
People who have an anxiety disorder usually have recurring, intrusive thoughts and may avoid certain situations to decrease the intensity of those thoughts.
Are you struggling with anxiety? Here’s what you need to know about ketamine therapy.
What is anxiety, and how does it manifest?
Anxiety is a normal and beneficial reaction to potentially harmful triggers. For example, the instinctive fight-or-flight response prepares your body to confront or run from a potential danger, such as a large animal or a person with a weapon.
You experience a rush of the hormone adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and puts your senses on alert. Once the danger passes, the anxiety does, too.
Or at least it should.
Running from a predator was vital to the survival of early humans, but in today’s society, much of your stress comes from work, finances, health, and the like, none of which requires full-blown anxiety.
Some people, though, can’t shake the anxious feelings, and they fall into a spiral, panicking at small, innocuous things that their brains tell them are threatening.
Common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Constant restlessness
- Feeling on edge
- Uncontrollable feelings of worry
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Standard treatments include these types of medications:
- Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), and sertraline (Zoloft)
- Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, desipramine (Norpramin), doxepin, and nortriptyline
Unfortunately, medications come with a host of side effects. The SSRIs can cause:
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Dry mouth
- Nervousness, agitation, or restlessness
Along with these, the benzodiazepines may cause:
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Memory problems
The tricyclics can lead to most of the above effects, as well as constipation.
Medications are often used with some form of therapy. The therapy can take the form of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and cognitive-behavioral therapy, which aims to change behavioral responses to potential triggers.
The problem is, some 30-40% of people don’t respond to first-line treatments or have too many of the side effects, leaving them with few, if any, options. That’s where ketamine comes in.
How ketamine works
Ketamine was first used in the 1960s as an anesthetic for animals, but it was approved for use in humans in 1970. Its initial purpose was to treat injured soldiers on the battlefield in the Vietnam War. Its positive results led to its use in operating rooms, and then as a treatment for mental health conditions.
Ketamine works on a group of cells in your brain called NMDA receptors, which interact with neurotransmitters such as glutamate to increase communication between nerve cells.
But if the nerves remain in an excitatory state for too long, they start to die off, leading to a cascade of events that can trigger conditions such as depression or anxiety. Both anxiety and depression have been linked to NMDA receptor malfunction.
Ketamine works directly on the brain, blocking the NMDA receptor signals and allowing the brain to create new pathways and synapses.
It also blocks glutamate so it can’t trigger the NMDA receptors. Instead, it activates the AMPA receptor, leading to the release of other molecules that benefit mood, thought patterns, and cognition.
The ketamine infusion
While a standard antidepressant may help form new synapses in 6-12 weeks, ketamine can do the same thing within 24 hours, helping you feel better relatively quickly.
Even our infusion process is calming. At ReYou, we use an intravenous infusion to administer the ketamine directly to your bloodstream. You lie back with eyeshades on and music playing, and head into a trance-like state.
Some patients feel euphoria, others hallucinate, and some describe out-of-body experiences; the experience is as individual as you are. Our medical team supervises the entire procedure to ensure you remain comfortable and safe.
We also suggest you have a couple of pre-infusion therapy sessions with one of our therapy partners. These allow you to understand the reasons behind your anxiety so you can use the treatment to work through the issues that brought you to us.
We usually recommend 6-8 infusions over a three- or four-week period to maximize results, and the effects are long-lasting.
If you struggle to get through the day because of crippling anxiety, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.