Although there is always hope of overcoming trauma, PTSD is not an easy disorder to live with. If you’ve tried traditional therapies and treatments for PTSD without success, you may be feeling frustrated, confused, or helpless. You don’t want your trauma to control your life, but you feel like it follows you everywhere you go. Fortunately, there are other options available when the standard treatments don’t work. In some cases, doctors and psychologists turn to alternative treatments when a patient’s mental health symptoms don’t subside with typical treatments. One of these methods is ketamine, a new but promising mental health medicine.
Ketamine therapy isn’t for everyone, but many people report that the treatment completely changed their lives. It may help you gain a new perspective on life. It has been proven to improve mood and reduce stress. If you’re curious about ketamine therapy for PTSD, you should understand how it works and how it differs from the traditional treatment methods.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that may develop after you go through a traumatic experience. Sometimes, this trauma is a singular event, such as a car accident, natural disaster, or assault. Other times, PTSD is caused by long-term experiences, like war or childhood neglect.
Not everyone who has suffered a trauma will get PTSD, but the condition can be incredibly difficult to live with. The most common symptoms include:
- Flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Recurring nightmares
- Social isolation
- Hopelessness, sadness, or numbness
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
- Startling easily
Traditional Treatments for PTSD
Therapy is the cornerstone of a traditional PTSD treatment plan. Speaking with a therapist can help you acknowledge and process your trauma in a safe, supportive environment. You can express your anger, grief, or confusion about the event in a healthy and appropriate way, and you can learn to manage your PTSD triggers so that you can go about your daily life without fear.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common forms of counseling for PTSD. During this treatment, you and your therapist identify the thinking habits and patterns that make you feel like your trauma is inescapable. Then, you work to change those habits.
Another common traditional treatment is exposure therapy, which encourages you to overcome your PTSD triggers. While you’re with your therapist, you’ll face the situations and memories that bring you back to the traumatic event. This process happens very gradually so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by the experience.
In some cases, therapy for PTSD is combined with medication. While therapy helps you process your trauma and manage your emotions, medication can help with symptoms like restlessness, difficulty sleeping, and low mood. Psychiatrists often prescribe antidepressants, including SSRIs and SNRIs, for PTSD. Anti-anxiety medicines are sometimes used to treat PTSD as well.
Some people have a great experience with traditional medications alongside therapy. Others struggle with side effects, though. Antidepressants can cause a number of side effects, such as insomnia, agitation, and nausea. Medication may also take several weeks to work, and you may have to try several options before you find the one that works best for you.
Traditional PTSD treatments have been proven to be effective, and there’s a reason why some professionals recommend these solutions first. However, no two people are the same, and sometimes, these treatments aren’t ideal. When the standard treatments for PTSD don’t improve your quality of life, you and your therapist might look into newer treatment options.
Ketamine in Mental Health Treatment
Ketamine is notorious for being a street drug, but it actually has powerful benefits in medicine. It’s been used as an anesthetic for several decades, and in recent years, researchers have been looking into its psychological effects.
In mild and moderate doses, ketamine causes feelings of calmness, detachment, and disassociation. You may feel like you can observe yourself and your experiences as an unbiased outsider, which can be valuable in mental health treatment as it allows you to explore your thought processes without a strong emotional reaction.
Ketamine therapy involves a combination of supervised ketamine treatment and talk therapy. During the treatment, you sit comfortably in a chair while you feel the effects of the ketamine. It usually lasts for an hour or two, but the feelings will gradually build up and then decline. After the ketamine wears off, you and your therapist will talk about how you felt, what you thought about, and how you can apply this experience to your day-to-day life.
In the mental health field, ketamines most common use is for treatment-resistant depression. Experts started researching the effects of ketamine on depression in 2000, and studies show unquestionable results. More recently, though, professionals have been exploring the benefits of ketamine for other mental health conditions, including PTSD.
Ketamine for PTSD
Recalling and reliving trauma is an intensely emotional experience, but working through your trauma is necessary for maintaining a happy, healthy life. Ketamine may be a valuable treatment for PTSD because it can help you acknowledge your trauma from a new perspective.
Ketamine works differently than other psychiatric medications, so it can be effective for people who haven’t had success with antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicines. Not only is it a powerful tool to aid in the talk therapy process, but it also can alleviate certain symptoms on its own. Ketamine may reduce negative thinking patterns, intrusive thoughts, trouble sleeping, and other challenges common to those with PTSD.
One of the greatest benefits of ketamine in PTSD treatment is how quickly many patients notice improvements. Some traditional treatments require months of hard work before you see an improvement in your quality of life, and it can be tough to do such intense trauma work without feeling immediate benefits. With ketamine therapy, you’ll likely feel calmer or happier in the day following your first session. After a couple repeated sessions, this feeling may last indefinitely.
Although many practitioners are confident about the benefits of ketamine as a new treatment for PTSD, it’s also important to remember that the drug must be used in a healthcare setting under supervision. The combination of ketamine and talk therapy is what has truly allowed so many people to heal, and taking the drug without committing to the therapeutic process is dangerous and potentially harmful to your physical and mental health. Before your first session, you and your mental health provider will talk about your background, goals, and concerns to make sure it’s the right treatment for you.
PTSD can be a devastating mental health condition, but you don’t have to manage it on your own. If you’re struggling with trauma or any other mental health concerns, therapy can help. The Beverly Hills Therapy Group offers counseling services for clients working through PTSD, depression, anxiety, and a number of other conditions. You can contact us today to learn more about our practice.