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Ketamine Patients Describe the Dissociative Experience

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Ketamine therapy offers remarkable antidepressant effects. However, many people hesitate to pursue this treatment due to uncertainty or fear of impairment. As a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine induces dose-dependent psychedelic effects that can be difficult to grasp. So, what does dissociation feel like mentally, physically, and emotionally? 

This article features first-hand descriptions of ketamine dissociation, aiming to demystify the experience and expand access to this life-saving therapy. 

Ketamine Infusions in Bethesda, MD, McLean, VA and Washington, DC

What is Ketamine Dissociation?

Ketamine dissociation is a unique state characterized by a profound detachment from one’s surroundings, body, and even self.  It typically begins shortly after ketamine administration and can last from a few minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the dose. 

People often describe ketamine dissociation as feeling like they are floating outside their body or observing themselves from a distance. This altered consciousness can offer a break from habitual thought patterns and contracted emotional responses.

Ketamine dissociation manifests in various ways, including visual and auditory distortions, a loss of sense of time, and altered perceptions of space. Some people report a sensation of melting into their environment or becoming one with the universe, which can evoke deep introspection and emotional release. 

Physically, ketamine dissociation may cause numbness, a sense of heaviness, or the feeling that one’s limbs are not connected to their body. These sensations, while unusual, are generally not painful or distressing when experienced in a controlled, therapeutic setting.

Most people describe ketamine dissociation as an out-of-body experience characterized by altered body awareness, profound introspection, and euphoria.

what does ketamine dissociation feel like infographic

Patient Stories

Descriptive words certainly help illustrate ketamine dissociation. However, personal accounts fully capture the breadth of the experience. 

Diane’s dissociative experience

Diane (alias) received ketamine therapy at Avesta last year. She described her experience as profoundly positive and eagerly anticipated the start of each session. 

“I just look forward to Sam coming in and doing the injection. Then, the music begins to play, and the colors come on, so the whole thing is beautiful from the start.” 

Diane’s journey during the ketamine sessions was both vivid and sensory. “It starts with colors, and then I’m flying around here and there and everywhere,” she said. This feeling of movement and exploration characterized much of her experience.

However, the conclusion of her sessions left the most lasting impression. 

“Every time, I have the same experience. It comes down to roses. It’s like a whole field or garden of roses where I end up.”

 “And then I’m sad when it’s ending. I don’t want it to end.

Josh’s dissociative experience

Josh received ketamine therapy at Avesta to resolve his depression. 

Before each session, Josh set intentions for what he wanted to explore. However, once the infusion began, Josh sunk into acceptance of whatever arose.

He felt a deep sense of relaxation, describing ketamine dissociation as “constant imagery that continually moves and flows.” 

The visuals sometimes closed in on Josh. But he never felt scared because he knew they would eventually open up to something new. “It’s very fluid,” he said.

Josh’s ketamine sessions were filled with strange and wild imagery reminiscent of scenes from the “Trolls” movies. 

“For me, the world turns into claymation, and sometimes I’m removed and looking down on everything,” he explained. “It’s fascinating. It takes my mind to a place I’ve never been before,” he said.

Josh could make sense of some of the content in the moment. Other times, he had no clue. 

“But that’s okay. I go along with the journey. Then I slowly come to, and then I start processing it.”

Josh recalls discussing universal consciousness with his therapist following a ketamine infusion.

“I never in a million years would have gone there before if it weren’t for [ketamine],” Josh shared. But I think that’s what’s helping me not just manage my depression but conquer it.”

Adverse Effects Associated with Ketamine Dissociation

Most ketamine dissociation experiences are pleasant, like those of Josh and Diane. However, some sessions bring up challenging material and can feel temporarily disorienting. 

What makes ketamine therapy challenging?

Many patients come to ketamine therapy with deeply painful histories and severe depressive symptoms. 

Ketamine is extraordinarily effective at resolving those symptoms. However, it doesn’t mute emotions like traditional SSRIs.

Instead, ketamine, like other psychedelics, often reacquaints people with memories that are hard to relive and emotions that are hard to feel. This experience can seem re-traumatizing. However, patients who work with therapists before, during, and after ketamine therapy typically successfully process the material and transmute it into healing insights. 

Avesta always recommends that ketamine patients seek support from a therapist or coach throughout the protocol. 

IV Ketamine infusions for depression anxiety ptsd chronic pain fibromyalgia CRPS Bethesda MD McLean VA Washington DC

What makes ketamine therapy disorienting?

Several factors can make ketamine therapy experiences disorienting at first. 

  • The profound detachment from reality can lead to feelings of confusion.
  • Vivid and sometimes bizarre hallucinations may be overwhelming.
  • The distortion of time and space can make people feel lost and distressed.
  • Physical effects such as dizziness, difficulty speaking, and a sense of heaviness or numbness can add to the discomfort.

Fortunately, these are normal and temporary aspects of ketamine therapy. The experience can be intense. However, ketamine clinics like Avesta in Washington DC, Bethesda, MD, and McLean, VA, carefully monitor patients and can rapidly adjust the infusion dose to make the experience more comfortable in real-time.

The Bottom Line: Ketamine Dissociation is Unique to Each Patient

However, most patients, like Diane and Josh, describe pleasant and transformative experiences. These sessions evoke vivid imagery, sensory movement, and profound emotional insights, contributing to the healing process.

Regardless of the nature of the experience, ketamine remains a highly effective antidepressant due to its physiological mechanisms. 

Call Avesta to learn more about ketamine dissociation and how this therapy can help you.

IV Ketamine infusions for depression anxiety ptsd chronic pain fibromyalgia CRPS Bethesda MD McLean VA Washington DC

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