While we don’t tend to think of anxiety as desirable, for obvious reasons, it is coincidentally an essential adaptive response that can help us to cope with to our own safety and welfare, as well as that of our loved ones. These responses are what help us to recognize and avoid potential threats, but they can also help to motivate us to take action that will better our situation. The actual problem occurs when we don’t manage these natural responses effectively. They then become troublesome and impact our relationships and work; this often leads to clinically-diagnosed anxiety-related disorders.
Anxiety disorders are thought to affect a large part of the population. To put this into perspective, 40 million American adults – that’s 18% of the population – aged 18 and older suffer from anxiety-related disorders. Most of them are prescribed Benzodiazepines like Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax, but the problem is that these medications are often very addictive, and can influence people to feel fluffy and dormant.
The good news is that early research has shown promising signs that cannabidiol (CBD) may help to relieve anxiety. Over recent years, CBD has generated a great amount of interest among scientists, consumers, and clinicians due to its powerful anti-anxiety effects, along with numerous other health benefits. In this article, we will examine what exactly anxiety is, how CBD can be used to treat it, and what studies have found.
Overview of Anxiety
It’s normal for everyone to get anxious from time-to-time. It’s a very normal emotion. But, anxiety disorders are different. They fall under a group of mental health illnesses, and the problems that they cause can result in disruptions of a person’s day-to-day life. Those who suffer from an anxiety disorder have worries and fears that are constant, overwhelming, and very often debilitating.
Anxiety disorder is a phrase that is used to describe a number of different conditions, including the following:
- Panic disorder: People who suffer from panic disorders feel terror that strikes at random. During an attack, they may experience sweat, chest pain, and heart palpitations. They could also feel like they are choking or having a heart attack.
- Generalized anxiety disorder: Sufferers of this type feel unrealistic and excessive worry and tension with little or no reason to explain why.
- Phobias: Patients with phobias feel an intense fear of a specific object or situation, like heights or spiders. This fear goes beyond what is appropriate and could even cause people to avoid ordinary situations.
- Social anxiety disorder: People also refer to this as social phobia. People who experience this will feel self-consciousness and experience an overwhelming worry about very normal, everyday social situations. They are focused on others judging them or being embarrassed or ridiculed.
- Post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD): This anxiety occurs following a traumatic event.
Researchers still aren’t sure exactly what brings on anxiety disorders, but they are thought to arise from a combination of things which include changes in the brain, environmental stress, and even genetics.
When you have an anxiety disorder, the feeling of fear may be with you constantly. In extreme cases, it may stop you from crossing the street, entering an elevator, or even leaving your home. It may stop you from doing things that you enjoy. It’s an emotional disorder that can affect anyone at any age.
Anxiety feels different depending on the individual experiencing it. Feelings may range from feeling butterflies in the stomach to a racing heart. You may feel out of control, as though there is a disconnect between your body and mind.
The symptoms of general anxiety include rapid breathing, restlessness, trouble concentrating, increased heart-rate and difficulty falling asleep. Your symptoms of anxiety may be completely different from what someone else experiences. This is why it’s important to be aware of all of the ways that anxiety presents itself.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of Anxiety
CBD is believed to work with a brain receptor known as CB1. Receptors are tiny little proteins that are attached to the cells and receive chemical signals from various stimuli, helping the cells to respond.
The exact way that CBD affects CB1 isn’t yet fully understood. But, it’s thought that it alters the serotonin signals. Serotonin is a chemical that is found in the body that plays a role in mental health; low serotonin levels are commonly found in those who suffer from depression. Not having enough serotonin in the body can also result in anxiety for some people.
CBD has multiple actions in the brain that demonstrate why it could be great for treating anxiety. Here are two of the findings:
- 5-HT1A agonist: 5-HT1A is a subtype of the serotonin receptor. It’s important because both anxiety and depression are often treated with medicines that target the serotonin system (such as Prozac and Zoloft). CBD works in a way that is similar to these medications by boosting signalling through serotonin receptors.
- Hippocampal neurogenesis: The hippocampus is an area in the brain that plays a critical role in many brain functions. It’s most well-known for playing a role in cognition and memory function. Patients who suffer from anxiety are typically found to have a smaller than average hippocampus. Studies have found that CBD could help the hippocampus to regenerate neurons, thus it could be useful in treating anxiety.
CBD interacts with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is available in almost every cell in the body and manages a number of our body’s capacities, including sleep, appetite, mood, perception of pain, and memory. Stress recuperation is one of the ECS’ primary purposes.
CBD interacts with a neurotransmitter known as GABA – this is what transfers messages from one neuron or brain cell to the next. This message is usually “back off.” GABA lets the body know when it is a good opportunity to shut down. Because there are a variety of neurons in the cerebrum that react to GABA, the effects include lessening anxiety, assisting with rest, and unwinding the muscles.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Anxiety
To date, most studies done on CBD and anxiety come from animal studies and lab experiments. A report that was published in the Neurotherapeutics journal in 2015 reported that CBD showed promise in the acute treatment of conditions like panic disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Although there is a lack of large-scale clinical trials that have been done to test how CBD works in the treatment of anxiety, a small study that was published in Neuropsychopharmacology in 2011 found that CBD may help to alleviate social anxiety.
As part of the study, 24 people with social anxiety received either 600 mg of CBD or otherwise a placebo an hour and a half before they would be participating in a simulated public speaking test. Another 12 people performed the same test without receiving any CBD treatment. The results revealed that pretreatment of CBD significantly reduced anxiety, discomfort, and cognitive impairment while participants were doing their speech.
In a small double-blind study, conducted by Brazilian researchers on patients that suffered from generalized social anxiety, it was found that participants experienced a significant decrease in anxiety after consuming CBD. Researchers validated the patients’ reports by performing brain scans to show cerebral blood flow patterns that are consistent with anti-anxiety effects.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Anxiety
Over the years, CBD has been used as a viable treatment option for both depression and anxiety. CBD is continually being looked into by medical researchers, but truth be told, the effects of CBD on anxiety is currently thought to be standout amongst the most well-funded and captivating sectors of cannabis research.
CBD is a fantastic natural way to reduce anxiety for many reasons. For starters, anxiety isn’t just in the mind; it also produces some physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and muscle tension. CBD is effective for treating all of these symptoms. In addition, CBD improves the mood while relieving anxiety symptoms. This is because CBD has antidepressant properties which regulate the emotional response and boost our positive outlook on life.
How to Take CBD for Anxiety
There are various ways to use CBD, from oils and sprays to topicals and candies. There’s no one way that works best – it depends on the condition that needs to be treated and the person who is using it. It’s important that you choose the method of administration that works best for you.
If the condition is anxiety, there are three ways that people typically use CBD.
Vaping is arguably one of the fastest ways to feel the effects of CBD, and this is important in an acute anxiety situation. People typically use a small amount in the morning, then again at night, and you can use it frequently during the day as needed.
CBD oils and oral sprays are very popular with consumers. People take doses of sublingual oils by dropping the liquid under their tongue. The mucous membranes are filled with small capillaries which means that CBD is absorbed quickly and directly into the bloodstream. Tinctures are a great choice for people who don’t like swallowing pills. The oils tend to taste a bit “weedy”, which may be a turnoff for some, but there are plenty on the market that have been infused with tasty ingredients such as peppermint.
One of the most popular ways of ingesting CBD is in candy. CBD gummies are sold in many different flavors and take the guesswork out when it comes to dosing. Many people like gummies because the dosing is consistent, and it’s a convenient method of taking CBD. You can take them anywhere and no one will even know that you using CBD. On the downside, gummies aren’t fast-acting, so you need to take them long enough in advance – they won’t work well for anxiety attacks.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Anxiety
Animal studies specifically have started to show the details of just how CBD acts on the brain, while human studies done on patients with and without anxiety disorders are beginning to validate the efficacy of CBD as an anti-anxiety treatment. Although more research needs to be done to determine the long-term potential and effects of CBD, so far it’s proven to be a highly favorable option.