More than three million Americans suffer with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by excessive worry about routine life events, without any particular reason for this worry. People with GAD feel irritable and edgy and have an unrealistic view of their problems as overwhelming. Their anxiety can interfere with the ability to concentrate and the ability to sleep.
It has been established that blocking the neurotransmitter glutamate can alleviate the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, so it is not surprising that ketamine (which is a potent glutamate blocker) can treat it.
I have, in fact, used ketamine infusion therapy to treat many individuals with GAD. A series of six infusions, sometimes followed by additional infusions months later, has proven itself extraordinarily valuable to these patients.
It has been suggested by imaging studies that ketamine may work by, literally, rebuilding connections between brain cells—allowing for electrical impulses and neurotransmitters to flow more smoothly in brain circuits.
It may also be that ketamine works for GAD because it allows people to see past their anxiety, to the fact that they are much safer in life than they imagined. Again and again, patients have reported to me that they experience moments of profound clarity about their lives during ketamine infusions. And this clarity gives them an increased feeling of confidence and optimism about the future.
“I literally saw, during the time I was under the influence of ketamine, that my fears were groundless,” one patient told me. “I understood plainly that they were irrational and that I was stronger than they were. And this understanding has persisted, even after the infusions.”
It is no wonder, given reports like this one, that ketamine (often in combination with a patient’s oral medications) is also frequently effective in treating other anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), OCD and phobias.