Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders. It affects up to 40 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, and it can be debilitating if left untreated.
The best treatment options are medications that have proven efficacy, but these often carry with them significant side effects, making alternative methods worth exploring further.
One area of research that has gained traction in recent years is CBD (cannabidiol) therapy. Cannabinoids like CBD interact with neurotransmitters in the brain, which may explain why many people report feeling more relaxed after taking CBD supplements or vaping it. However, there’s still so much we don’t know about how CBD works in the body.
That said, there is a growing amount of evidence suggesting that CBD could help treat certain forms of anxiety disorders. If you suspect you or someone you love might benefit from CBD, read on to learn about how this promising treatment option may work.
What Is Cannabidiol?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants. In fact, CBD is actually responsible for many of the therapeutic effects attributed to marijuana use in general. For example, studies show that CBD helps reduce pain without inducing any psychoactive side effects.
In addition to its medical benefits, CBD is legal in all 50 states (except New York), meaning you don’t need a prescription to purchase it in most places. And while CBD is largely unregulated, it’s generally considered safe when ingested orally.
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t cause users to experience a high. This is because it interacts differently with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which acts as a sort of internal communications network within your brain. When administered orally, CBD binds to CB1 receptors, which are present in high numbers throughout the central nervous system.
This binding causes an increase in the release of serotonin and dopamine in regions of the brain associated with relaxation, such as the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. These chemicals are thought to play a key role in reducing anxiety.
Which Anxiety Disorders Can CBD Help Treat?
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While each type of anxiety disorder has different symptoms and triggers, they often share overlapping risk factors, such as genetic predisposition, poor coping skills, low self esteem, and substance abuse.
As mentioned earlier, CBD seems to have a particularly strong effect on anxiety disorders characterized by excessive fear and worry. That said, there isn’t enough research to say definitively whether CBD will relieve symptoms of other anxiety conditions.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition that involves persistent anxiety over time, even though no specific life event triggers the symptoms. Many people who suffer from GAD feel anxious about everyday activities, like driving, talking to strangers, or going to the grocery store. Others experience uncontrollable thoughts about potential disasters, like being trapped under water during a flood, or losing their family members to a tragic accident.
Studies indicate that CBD shows promise in treating GAD. One study published in 2018 showed that participants who were given 200 mg of CBD daily experienced a decrease in feelings of anxiety compared to those who took a placebo. Another study conducted in 2019 demonstrated that CBD was effective at relieving anxiety symptoms in people with GAD who were undergoing psychotherapy.
People who suffer from panic attacks typically experience intense bouts of terror, followed by periods of calmness. These attacks usually last anywhere from five minutes to two hours, although they can occur every day or once per week. Some people who experience recurring panic attacks develop agoraphobia, which is defined as extreme fear of open spaces.
Agoraphobic sufferers often avoid public places and spend most of their days indoors. They also tend to avoid crowds and interactions with others, which leaves them isolated from society and unable to get out of bed due to a lack of energy.
While conventional treatments for panic attacks include antidepressants and benzodiazepines, these drugs come with serious side effects. Therefore, natural solutions like CBD seem like safer options. In fact, one 2015 study showed that CBD significantly reduced symptoms of acute panic attacks in people with moderate to severe levels of anxiety.
Social anxiety is the fear of being judged negatively by others or not being accepted by society. People with social anxiety often avoid social situations or seek reassurance from friends or loved ones instead of confronting difficult tasks alone. Social anxiety can lead to depression and other mental health issues, making it a huge obstacle for many people to overcome.
Recent years have seen a lot of progress in the field of CBD and social anxiety. Studies suggest that CBD helps reduce symptoms of social anxiety in adults, especially those who take part in online forums or participate in group therapy sessions. In addition, preliminary trials indicate that CBD may also be useful in treating children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), since it appears to improve communication and social skills.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition characterized by intrusive and repetitive thoughts, urges, behaviors, and/or rituals. Sufferers may experience obsessions, such as fear of contamination or thoughts about harming themselves or others, or compulsions, such as repeating a set of actions like counting objects or checking locks multiple times.
OCD is often accompanied by other psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder, and is linked to a number of physical ailments, including chronic pain, migraines, insomnia, and gastrointestinal problems.
Research suggests that CBD may help relieve the symptoms of OCD. A 2018 trial showed that participants who received 600 mg of CBD daily reported fewer symptoms than those in the control group.
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