Can CBD Help with Anxiety?
Posted on April 26th, 2021
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders happen to be one of the most common mental conditions in the U.S, affecting over 40 million adults. Thus, if you’re dealing with anxiety, chances are you are desperately looking for ways to get some relief from it. However, fortunately, there are numerous ways to handle anxiety, including the popular CBD. But just what is anxiety, what causes it, and can CBD help with anxiety? These are the big questions this comprehensive article will try to answer.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is something that we can define as an emotion characterized by worrying thoughts, tension, and physical changes. You can actually see an increase in heart rate or blood pressure when experiencing anxiety which, in the long term, might be dangerous. It’s a normal and, for the most part, a healthy emotion. However, when you regularly experience anxiety at disproportionate levels, it can become a serious medical disorder. Thus, by learning the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder, diagnosing and treating the condition becomes easier.
Why Do We Experience Anxiety?
When a person faces worrying or potentially harmful triggers, anxiety feelings are not just normal but necessary. Since the early days of mankind, incoming danger, particularly predators, sets off an alarm in the body and prepares it for evasive action. This alarm expresses itself in the means of increased sensitivity to surroundings, sweating, and raised heartbeat.
The potential danger leads to a rush of adrenaline, a hormone that triggers anxious reactions in a process best referred to as ‘fight or flight.’ As the name suggests, the response prepares you to flee or confront any potential threats.
For most people nowadays, fleeing from imminent danger and predators is less of a concern than it was for early humans. However, today, anxiety usually revolves around money, health, work, family life, and other issues that demand your attention. These don’t necessarily trigger the fight or flight response. Nevertheless, they can occupy your mind with worrying thoughts for a long time.
The anxious feeling during a hard situation or before an important event in your life is an echo of the original fight or flight response. It is still vital for our survival. For instance, experience anxiety from the thought of being hit by a car triggers the need to be extra careful when crossing the road.
The Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety is something that physical conditions, mental conditions, effects of drugs, or even a combination of these can trigger. The most common causes include:
- Panic Disorder
- Stress Disorders
- Phobic Disorders
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Other factors that might cause anxiety include:
- Stress at work.
- Personal relationships.
- Medical illnesses.
- Political or global issues.
- Emotional trauma.
- Financial hurdles.
- Use of illicit drugs like cocaine.
- Even the side effect of medication.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
As mentioned earlier, anxiety is a normal feeling, but when experienced often, it can develop into a disorder. The symptoms vary depending on the type of disorder, but the common ones include:
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Sweaty or cold hands
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension
- Panic, uneasiness, and fear
- Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts
- Flashbacks of traumatic events
- Difficulty sleeping
- Inability to stay calm or still
How to Deal with Anxiety
Once diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you can explore an array of treatment options. However, for most individuals, medical treatment is not necessary, as lifestyle changes are usually enough to cope with the symptoms.
However, in moderate and severe cases, treatment can help you overcome the symptoms and go about your daily life without feeling anxious every minute. Anxiety treatment might fall into two categories: medication and psychotherapy.
Medications used to treat anxiety disorders include antidepressants, tricyclics, beta-blockers, and benzodiazepines. Unfortunately, most of these prescription medications are highly addictive and have severe side effects.
Fortunately, you can engage in self-treatment or psychotherapy and avoid the nasty effects of prescription medication. Some of the things you can do to deal with anxiety naturally include:
1. Stress Management
Learning to manage your stress can help reduce anxiety triggers. So, handle any upcoming deadlines or pressures by being organized. Create lists to make overwhelming tasks more manageable, and learn to take some time off your work or studies.
2. Relaxation Techniques
Engaging in simple tasks can help soothe the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety. These activities include yoga, meditation, resting in the dark, taking long baths, and deep breathing exercises.
3. Get Rid of Negative Thoughts
It’s also worth creating a list of thoughts that might be making anxious and another one of positive, believable thoughts. Thus, having a mental image of conquering a particular fear can help alleviate symptoms related to a certain disorder like phobias.
Physical activities improve self-esteem and confidence by triggering the release of chemicals in the brain that cause positive feelings.
Another great way of combating anxiety is through psychological counseling. This can include psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or a combination of both. CBT aims to identify and change dangerous thought patterns that create the foundation of anxious feelings. In CBT, the practitioner works to restrict distorted thinking and change how your body and mind react to situations or objects that trigger anxiety.
How Can CBD Help with Anxiety?
Nowadays, people are searching for natural ways to deal with anxiety disorders, given prescription medication has undesired side effects. CBD is one popular alternative, thanks to research and many users claiming its many therapeutic benefits. CBD interacts with the body, affecting various reactions. But can CBD help with anxiety? Let’s delve further:
What is CBD?
CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol, one of the numerous chemicals found in the cannabis plant, a species that includes marijuana and hemp. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is another chemical present in these plants, and it’s popular for the “high” feeling experienced from weed. Most CBD products are derived from the hemp plant, which contains little amounts of THC. Thus, this is why CBD became a popular marijuana alternative as it provides all the benefits without producing psychoactive effects.
In the past several years, cannabidiol became a potential treatment for an array of conditions, including:
- Chronic pain.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Depression as well as anxiety.
Also, the FDA approved one cannabidiol-based medication. Epidiolex treats Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, two of the most difficult to manage forms of epilepsy.
The Effects of CBD
Cannabidiol has an array of potential therapeutic benefits that encouraged further research into the product. Most notably, CBD has strong calming effects which may help reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s also known to help people with insomnia, epilepsy, chronic pain, and a lot of other conditions. The fact that it calms your nerves is perhaps the most appealing property when it comes to fighting anxiety using CBD.
Can CBD Help with Anxiety Alone?
Your body has a complex signaling system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is made up of various receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids. These all work in tandem to regulate numerous vital biological processes such as:
- Pain response
- Motor response, etc.
Cannabidiol interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors, prevalent in the peripheral nervous system and central nervous system. The exact manner in which CBD interacts with these receptors is not fully understood yet, but it affects serotonin signals.
Serotonin is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in an individual’s mental health. Therefore, low levels of this hormone usually correlate among people who have anxiety and depression.
The traditional treatment for low serotonin levels is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs like fluoxetine and sertraline. However, you don’t need these prescription medications to manage it. CBD shows promising results in managing anxiety, thanks to its interaction with the Endocannabinoid system.
Can CBD Help with Anxiety? Research & Evidence
There’s an array of studies that suggest CBD can be a great solution for anxiety management:
1. CBD for Generalized Anxiety (GAD)
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cannabidiol has been shown to alleviate stress in animals like rats. The subjects portrayed lower behavioral signs of anxiety after exposure to CBD and physiological generalized anxiety symptoms like increased heart rate measurably improved.
However, in regards to GAD on humans, research is ongoing.
2. CBD for Other Types of Anxiety
Cannabidiol seems to have the potential to help those with other types of anxiety, including PTSD and social anxiety disorder. It can also help alleviate insomnia induced by anxiety.
According to a 2011 study on the effects of CBD on individuals with social anxiety disorder, the candidates who received an oral dose of 400mg of CBD experienced overall reduced levels of anxiety.
Numerous recent studies have also shown that the product can help individuals dealing with PTSD symptoms like replaying negative memories and nightmares. This research looked into cannabidiol, both as a standalone treatment and supplement to conventional methods.
Can CBD Help with Anxiety? – The Takeaway
Even though studies are still in the infancy stage, there are numerous promising results for CBD as a potential treatment for anxiety in the future. It’s completely safe to use CBD as it has no adverse side effects and does not get you high. However, if you are looking to treat an anxiety disorder, you may want to consult your doctor for the right solution. Even though many users claim relief, do not do away with prescription medication and psychotherapy completely before trying CBD.