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Is ketamine a treatment option for Anxiety?

What are Anxiety Disorders?

It's natural to feel anxiety from time to time. But if anxiety does not fade or change with situations, and if the signs of anxiety disrupt your capability to live the life you want, then it might be a more serious condition.

There are numerous types of anxiety disorders and when traditional medications don’t seem to work or work well enough,  ketamine may be an option.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This condition is categorized by experiencing severe worry, concern, or anxiety more days than not for more than 6 months. You might experience this anxiety because of social interactions, health issues, financial- or disaster-associated fears for example.

Symptoms can include:

- A basic sense of dread.

- Fatigue.

- Irritability.

- Inability to find happiness or relief in hobbies.

- Sleepless nights spent concerned about unfavorable possibilities.

- Rapid or spiraling thoughts.

Panic attacks

During an anxiety or panic attack, a wave of intense fear will strike all of a sudden, in some cases because of some kind of a trigger. You might be able to pinpoint what triggers an anxiety attack, like arguing with your spouse or being in a large crowd, but they can also take place unexpectedly in otherwise calm situations.

Signs of a panic attack frequently consist of:

- Hyperventilation or difficulty breathing.

- Fast heartbeat and heart palpitations (missed beats or a severe awareness of your heartbeat).

- Shaking.

- Sobbing uncontrollably.

- Profusive sweating.

Because of its signs, anxiety attack are typically confused with physical conditions like heart attacks.

During an anxiety attack, your body essentially enters into a “fight or flight” action with adrenaline pumped into your system to prepare for the impending threat -- except there is no approaching physical danger.

Individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or other types of anxiety conditions may experience panic attacks as well. The experts do not completely understand what causes these attacks, especially when they are not due to a situational trigger. Ketamine for anxiety can help alleviate anxiety attack symptoms as it reduces levels of anxiety.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is in some cases considered an anxiety condition due to similarities in symptoms and episodes it triggers. Being subject to a serious traumatic event or set of experiences can cause PTSD.

PTSD symptoms may appear as quickly as the first month after the traumatic event or they may take years to manifest. Symptoms consist of:

- Intrusive memories of the distressing event, often consisting of flashbacks and dreams.

- A serious psychological response if something reminds you of the distressing occasion, which may consist of flashbacks or abrupt, vibrant memories paired with panic and fear similar to a panic attack.

- Avoiding places, people, and events that can set off these reactions.

- Ongoing anxiety, worry, depression and/or a negative or strained outlook on life.

- Difficulty preserving close relationships and becoming distant from your family and friends.

- A lack of interest in pastimes that used to make you happy.

- Feeling constantly on-guard or in danger, as though something might go wrong anytime.

PTSD is a severe mental illness that can drastically reduce quality of life. Fortunately, it's one of the conditions that ketamine therapy has shown success in treating.

How can ketamine help alleviate anxiety symptoms?

Anxiety is a complex mental illness that comes in many forms. Individuals who experience anxiety may experience one or more of the above conditions, or others not noted here. It is always crucial to work with a medical mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, to accurately identify your condition and create a treatment plan.

Ketamine treatment impacts a neurotransmitter called glutamate, in addition to a receptor called the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. Both play a crucial function in the management of medical conditions that include chemical brain imbalances like anxiety and PTSD.

Ongoing tension and anxiety can result in negative changes in particular parts of the brain, including the amygdala, which is accountable for processing fear and anxiety.

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that can encourage synaptic plasticity (the flexibility of synapses to strengthen or deteriorate depending on modifications in activity) as well as boost synaptic connections. Ketamine increases the activity of glutamate in the brain to offer relief from anxiety symptoms.

Ketamine acts directly on glutamate which typically leads to almost immediate outcomes (but please note that patient experiences will vary). Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications perform a similar function however they can take a lot longer to work, and in some cases do not work effectively, especially in cases of treatment-resistant conditions.  Ketamine therapy likewise impacts the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which plays a part in numerous mental disorders.  

If you would like to learn more about our ketamine program and whether you might be a good candidate for this ground-breaking new therapy program, please call our office at 770-817-9200.

Angelo Sambunaris, M.D.

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