Anxiety disorders are incredibly common, affecting more than 40 million Americans each year. Unfortunately, most people with anxiety don’t seek treatment, and those that do may find their options lacking. Panic attacks, social anxiety, and PTSD are some of the most common anxiety issues people in America face today, and many are turning to hemp-based CBD oil.
Although therapy is an important part of recovery, many people find themselves needing something else to help them get through the day – and there’s no shame in that! But anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals, such as SSRIs and benzodiazepines, are often accompanied by unpleasant side effects or a high potential for addiction. Needless to say, there is growing demand for alternative treatment methods.
Enter cannabidiol, or CBD for short. This hemp-derived compound is making waves for its vast therapeutic benefits, including its ability to treat anxiety disorders.
What is CBD?
CBD belongs to a group of over 100 chemicals called cannabinoids. While its association with cannabis causes some to expect CBD to have psychotropic effects (a “high”), that actually comes from a different cannabinoid (THC). CBD contains no THC, and therefore has no psychotropic effects.
Understanding how CBD and other cannabinoids work starts with understanding the body’s endocannabinoid system. To put it simply, there are cannabinoid receptors throughout the body which regulate biological processes, including (but not limited to) sleep, digestion, pain, and mood.
The human body creates its own endocannabinoids to maintain proper functioning of all these processes. But like many other chemicals in the body, these can become unbalanced, resulting in a variety of psychological and physical problems.
That’s where compounds like CBD come in; they’re a perfect fit for these receptors and can help the body restore endocannabinoid balance and good health. In a nutshell, that’s why CBD offers so many different health benefits.
How Can CBD Help with Anxiety?
So how does cannabidiol oil work to treat anxiety? Well, you may already be aware that mental disorders involve an imbalance of neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. But did you know that endocannabinoid levels are also involved with anxiety disorders[i] [ii] [iii]?
Research regarding the psychological benefits of CBD oil for anxiety is promising. A 2012 analysis of both human and animal research concluded that CBD has strong anti-anxiety properties and is worthy of clinical trials[iv]. A similar review in 2015 echoed these findings, providing strong evidence that CBD can treat not only general anxiety, but also post-traumatic stress, panic disorder, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder[v].
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects 8 million Americans each year, and it’s linked with low levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide, which can be increased with CBD[vi]. Research indicates that those with PTSD have more endocannabinoid receptors in areas of the brain involved in fear and anxiety[vii]. A 2016 case study from The Permanente Journal used CBD oil to treat PTSD symptoms in a young girl, including nightmares and insomnia.
CBD affects receptors in the amygdala[viii], which is one of the main players in the brain when it comes to our anxiety response. Specifically, CBD can lessen the physiological response to stress. Though the exact mechanisms are still being studied, there is evidence that CBD can effectively treat panic disorder[ix]. A 2010 study may shine some light on this; researchers found that in rats, CBD can counteract the brain’s panic response by activating 5-HT1a receptors[x].
Social Anxiety Disorder
A 2010 study from The Journal of Psychopharmacology found that CBD reduced social anxiety when compared with a placebo. This was further supported with brain scans that showed changes in the areas of the brain associated with anxiety[xi]. Researchers in another study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, successfully used CBD to treat anxiety and cognitive difficulties related to public speaking[xii].
Otherwise known as OCD, this disorder typically causes one to engage in compulsions in order to prevent or reduce anxiety. Research suggests that CBD may be able to reduce compulsive behavior by regulating serotonin levels; a 2010 study on rats found that CBD’s effects in this regard are comparable to SSRIs and benzodiazepines[xiii].
As you can see, there is overwhelming scientific support that CBD has a role to play in treating anxiety disorders. Although the dosage needed for beneficial effects has yet to be established, it’s clear that CBD has much to offer anyone looking to reduce their anxiety.
The absence of side effects, in particular, makes CBD an appealing option for treating mental health conditions like anxiety, and CBD can help numerous other health problems as well, like chronic pain. Its lack of psychoactive effects also makes it appropriate for everyday use.
Interested in trying CBD for yourself? Thanks to a boom in popularity, there’s a number of options available for different CBD products. For example, there’s CBD oil for vaping, and if that isn’t your thing, there are various edibles on the market as well.
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