Let’s talk about anxiety…and phobias.
I guess we all have something that gives us the creeps, or we’d just like to avoid, like snakes or spiders, or pet poop.
But for some people, there’s a strong persistent reaction to that thing or situation to the point that it’s amplified far beyond the actual potential danger or threat of the “thing” in question.
Most of us feel uneasy about something from time to time. Getting up to speak to a large group for the first time, for instance. You might feel a little shaky or have a tremor in your voice, sweaty palms, and the worst…? Blushing while you try to collect yourself to begin your talk! This level of anxiety is uncomfortable, but not all bad. It can help you focus on your goal…motivate you to work hard to prepare.
The Crippling Burden of Phobias
However, for some, the blushing can billow out of control, sending tremors through your body, along with trembling hands, incapacitating sweating, and a paralyzing halt to functioning.. When your mind is blitzed with fear, and you can’t move, it’s safe to say you may be trapped in the rigors of an anxiety disorder. And that thing or situation that triggered all this may be a phobia.
And you know what? All of this started somewhere. Something probably happened, something traumatic, or heartbreaking, or terrifying. At some point there was probably a shocking experience that initiated this response of heightened anxiety, dread, and fear. Whatever that was..it’s your backstory. Your history. The reason you now suffer this way.
There are as many phobias as there are people who suffer from them. Phobias tighten their grip on anxious people regarding anything from fear of embarrassment in front of other people to fear of spiders, or of a tree, or the color yellow.
It’s easy to make light of these fears if you’re not a sufferer, but for those who are, the fears are crippling.
So, an anxiety disorder is not to be ignored. Anxiety demands your attention. In fact, it takes over and dominates your mind until you do something to find relief and reassurance.
The throes of anxiety can lead to phobias, to depression, to obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s no laughing matter, and in some ways, it’s the flour in the recipe for psychiatric mood disorders.
Phobias Leave the Sufferer Powerless
Once you’ve experienced a gripping, fear-fueled shut-down, you’ll probably find yourself avoiding another opportunity for a similar incident.
If you’ve been there, you know you can’t just “buck up” using mind over matter, and “get over it” as friends or co-workers might suggest. You can’t wish this reaction away. And time doesn’t automatically heal it. It’s embarrassing to be incapacitated by anything. People don’t usually understand.
Typically, phobias are divided into 3 categories.
- Simple phobias, like fear of a snake or dental work or air travel
- Social phobias are fears of embarrassment or humiliation in front of others, and play on feelings of insecurity
- Agoraphobia, the fear of being in a situation it would be hard to escape from… whether it’s fear of embarrassment or fear of harm
And it gets complicated. In any of these situations, if you suffered a panic attack, that panic attack can become the thing you’re afraid will happen again. So you avoid the situation for fear of suffering another attack.
Anxiety can lead to one phobia or another, because when a persistent dread plagues you to the point that you arrange your life around a thing or event with the focus to avoid it, a phobia begins to form.
Around 3.3 million Americans at some point in their lifetime suffer from an anxiety disorder. Roughly 19.2 million Americans wrestle with phobias.
And anxiety often comes before depression.
We’ve known this for years. A very large study of thousands of female twins with major depression who all had various phobias — agoraphobia, social phobia, situational phobias, animal phobias — found that the most common phobia associated with major depression was agoraphobia.
Another conclusion was that a “modest proportion” of the genetic vulnerability (remember these are twins) to major depression is shared with a genetic vulnerability to phobias. What’s more, the non-genetic factors — like environmental experiences — that can predispose someone to depression, significantly makes a person more vulnerable to agoraphobia, specifically.
Risk of Agoraphobia Highest After Trauma
This means, if you’ve experienced something excessively painful, traumatic, and overwhelming in your life, your risk for agoraphobia is high. And the trouble with agoraphobia is that it isolates its victim…which makes the depression worse.
So, you can see the link between anxiety, depression, and phobias. And you can also see that treating the anxiety can even prevent the depression as well as phobias. But how?
There are some medications that will relieve anxiety, as well as depression, in some people. But, as we’ve discussed so often, those antidepressants and anxiolytics don’t end the anxiety, they just reduce it…for some people.
To the frustration of countless sufferers, the effectiveness of these medications for anxiety and/or depression is patchy… and it takes weeks or months for any given person to find out if she’s going to experience relief.
Those weeks and months can be a dangerous waiting period for those whose misery is leading to thoughts of suicide. And unfortunately, so many of these medications seem to stir up those very self-destructive thoughts.
Can You Overcome Phobias…?
Here’s good news. IV ketamine in low doses has shown consistent results in 80% of those who suffer with anxiety and depression where nothing else was effective. Nothing else brought relief.
So, that’s how IV ketamine works on your backstory… it restores your brain to its optimum function by targeting the structures and systems in your brain that lead to anxiety…and depression. IV ketamine treatments focus their effects on those changes in your brain that happened when you were hurt, traumatized, shocked… and began experiencing feelings you want to avoid. When the phobias began.
And within minutes or hours of the infusion, suicidal thinking can disappear, and those thoughts are forgotten. In their place is relief, like a ton of weight has been lifted off the sufferer’s shoulders. The previously sullen, nervous, fidgety feelings dissipate during the course of treatment, and the power to enjoy life blooms.
Three treatments a week for two weeks. That’s a typical treatment course. And your outlook becomes lighter throughout the two weeks of infusions. Lighter as the dread lifts. And lighter as the fear melts. Even lighter when the depression dissipates. Free of suicidal thoughts.
A recent study published in the Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience Journal demonstrated that long-term ketamine dosing can help erase fear memory … (which is what leads to phobias) … through DNA methylation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
Another thing… You may have read about the “problem” that ketamine isn’t lasting. But that’s the reason for the 6 session treatment protocol. Once you’ve had those 6 or so infusions, you’ll realize how much you really feel like the you that had been submerged all these years.
Real hope. And relief from the albatross that’s weighed you down.
Fear. Dread. Nervousness.
No more. Can you imagine??
In some cases, we find it helpful to continue a monthly maintenance infusion. And that’s all it takes to give the freedom, energy, insights, and power to rebuild your life again. The power to confront your fears . . . with confidence.
Now, if you can’t remember when you were really yourself, without the sullenness, depression, listlessness, agoraphobia and more… then you’re in for a treat.
Many patients say they’d lost sight of who they really were, of what it was like to be at ease.
It’s almost miraculous.
If you’ve suffered from an anxiety disorder that doesn’t get better, or phobias that rob you of your freedom, call us or arrange an appointment. It’s our privilege to thoroughly evaluate you, your DNA, your history, to determine the best outcome for you.
We live to see you well. Let’s do this together.
To the rediscovery of your best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.