In recent years, anxiety has become the most common mental health disorder in the world. Almost 4% of people around the world suffer from anxiety disorders. Meanwhile, the price of anti-anxiety medication is constantly climbing. Furthermore, non-medication-based therapies cost over $100 on average per hour. All this has led people to turn to alternative treatment options. Nowadays many people with anxiety turn to cannabidiol (CBD) for its calming effect, but does CBD help with anxiety? Before getting into that we must first understand what anxiety is.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
Before diving into how CBD interacts with anxiety, it’s important to fully understand what anxiety is. Anxiety is a natural response to stressful situations. We all feel anxious on a regular basis. It’s a healthy way for our bodies to let us know that they are not comfortable.
However, if you feel like your anxiety is expressed in an extreme way, or that it lasts longer than it should, then you might suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety helps us perform better, sometimes out of fear, but when this feeling becomes a general mood you have to live with, it interferes with everyday life.
Types of Anxiety Disorders:
Anxiety is a broad term that includes many subtypes. Each type of anxiety disorders can be triggered differently and manifests in a certain way.
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is known by chronic anxiety without aggravating circumstances. It can be recognized by a constant sensation of worry or stress.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is characterized by recurrent thoughts that lead to repetitive behaviors in the hopes of making the negative thoughts go away.
3. Social Anxiety Disorder:
Social Anxiety Disorder is described as tension or self-consciousness in everyday social situations. The severity of symptoms differ from one person to another and can be severe to the point of physical manifestations by simply being around others.
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after experiencing a traumatic or scary event. It is triggered later by events that remind the person in any way of the events and lead to severe symptoms.
5. Panic Disorder
It is characterized by reoccurring episodes of intense feelings of fear usually along with physical manifestations like difficulty breathing. These episodes are known as panic attacks.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety manifests differently from one person to the next. However, most people experience some common side effects like:
- Trouble breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Fear and tension
Conventional Anxiety Medication
People suffering from anxiety show an imbalance in multiple neurochemical systems. That is why anxiety is very elusive to treat, however, for most people the symptoms can be managed.
Therapy options consist of psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as well as, prescription medications, like:
- Benzodiazepines (ex: Xanax): They are sedatives that can help calm you down and reduce symptoms. However, they have side effects like sleepiness, dependance, headaches, and confusion.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (ex: Prozac): SSRIs are anti-depressants that work by increasing levels of serotonin which elevates your mood balances the symptoms of anxiety. However, they have severe side effects like dizziness, dry mouth, and sexual dysfunction.
How Does CBD Help with Anxiety?
Cannabidiol (CBD) can be extracted from cannabis but is usually taken from hemp. That’s because hemp contains very low amounts of THC (less than 0.3%) thus making it legal to sell and consume. Evidently, CBD affects the body through its interaction with CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the central nervous system.
Studies show that CBD indirectly increases serotonin levels in the brain. Mental health problems like depression and anxiety manifest as reduced serotonin levels. That’s why many people opt to control their condition with CBD oils instead of conventional treatments.
CBD and Insomnia
Difficulty falling asleep is one of the most prominent signs of anxiety disorders. Research on CBD’s effects on sleep disorders found that in 67% of patients, CBD effectively improved sleep.
CBD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A study in 2015 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, outlining the possible therapeutic applications of cannabidiol, has found that CBD noticeably decreases stress levels in tested animals. Physical symptoms associated with anxiety, like an elevated heart rate were resolved after taking CBD.
CBD and PTSD
CBD shows promise as a drug for treating PTSD symptoms like sleeplessness and nightmares, as well as, improve frequency of PTSD episodes. According to a study in 2018, CBD works well in managing PTSD as a supplement to traditional treatment options.\
CBD and Social Anxiety
In a placebo-controlled experiment, SAD patients who received CBD indicated lower anxiety scores than those who received a placebo.
Dosage and Safety
Many recent studies indicate a high safety profile for CBD, however, much more research is needed for specific dosage regimens. A study on CBD dosages and their effects on social anxiety showed 300 mg (oral dose) to be the most effective between 0 mg, 150 mg, and 600 mg.
If you want to start treatment with CBD for anxiety, it’s better to speak with a doctor about it. When trying CBD, it’s best to start with a moderate dose then adjust according to the outcomes.
Common Side Effects
Although relatively safe, some people report these side effects after taking CBD:
- Lethargy (feeling tired)
- Decreased or increased appetite
- Loss or gain of weight
- Minor withdrawal symptoms
CBD is known to interact with drugs that are metabolized in the liver by the enzyme CYP450, like blood thinners and others. That is why a doctor’s involvement is highly advisable.
Types of CBD Products
1. CBD Oils
The most common form of CBD extracts is CBD oil. The oils are taken dropwise on the tongue and absorbed by the blood capillaries under the tongue. This route provides a high CBD blood level as it bypasses metabolism in the gut.
There are two types of CBD oils available in the market:
Full spectrum CBD oils contain trace amounts of THC (usually less than 0.3%).
Broad spectrum CBD oils have all the THC content removed and are highly purified.
Both kinds of CBD extracts are very similar, although some people report full spectrum oils to work better. Consider your state laws when choosing between both products.
2. CBD Gummies
There are many CBD candy products available on the market, but gummies are the most popular. CBD gummies are a great option for those who don’t enjoy the taste of CBD extracts. Like oils, there are also broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD gummies.
3. CBD Vape Juice
Some people may not prefer the smoking method of administering CBD, but the inhaled route does provide a gut metabolism bypass advantage. CBD vape juices are also available in a lot of flavors and CBD concentrations.
CBD is effective in managing anxiety disorders, both as a stand-alone alternative and as a supplement to existing treatments. Cannabidiol is also very safe, however, much more research is needed to achieve maximum efficacy.
It’s important to note that many CBD products in the market do not contain the reported amounts of CBD. Therefore you should always look for lab-certified products to ensure you are getting high-quality CBD extracts with accurate dosing.