By: Jadon Webb, M.D., Ph.D.
We know that ketamine is extremely effective at treating depression, hopelessness, and even suicidal thoughts. We are asked all the time if it is also effective at treating anxiety. A new study published this year suggests that it is effective in treating anxiety symptoms, and may be particularly effective at treating phobias.
A phobia is excessive fear of a particular thing or situation. For example, being too afraid of spiders, storms, or getting into elevators. Another very common phobia is social phobia (related also to agoraphobia), which is excessive fear of being in certain social situations. The Covid pandemic and social isolation measures seem to have made social phobia symptoms much worse for many people. We have had numerous patients reach out for help for the first time because their social anxiety symptoms became unbearable as the pandemic wore on.
One of the most effective ways to treat a phobia is exposure therapy, in which the patient is carefully exposed to slowly increasing intensity of the fearful stimulus, while maintaining a calm and safe frame of mind. Exposure therapy is very effective for many patients, but in some cases is not sufficient to take care of the problem. Various oral medications such as antidepressants sometimes help, but in severe cases it may not be enough, and the patient continues to suffer despite the best efforts of the treatment team.
Ketamine given intravenously very quickly reduced phobia symptoms, and by giving the infusions once or twice weekly, they were able to maintain the benefits even at 3 months, which is when the study measurements ended.
These are exciting results that come at a critical time when many people are suffering from anxiety and fear which is getting in the way of healthy living. It is such a wonderful thing to have another powerful treatment option.
about the authorS
Jadon Webb, M.D., Ph.D.
Bloom Mental Health
Disclaimer: this blog is NOT intended as medical advice and does not imply any kind of specific guidance or treatment recommendations, and should NOT be used to guide a treatment protocol. (read full disclaimer)
DNP, MSN, FNP-BC
Family Nurse Practitioner