There are many companies that like to market Cannabidiol (CBD) as a wonder supplement that is capable of treating a wide variety of ailments. And research indicates that CBD may help fight inflammation and pain, for example, but can CBD help with anxiety?
You will find our article titled What is Cannabidiol (CBD)? very helpful with understanding CBD.
After searching for the latest studies and information, it looks as if CBD may offer quite a few advantages compared to traditional treatments. Here is what I’ve found on CBD for anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, there are five major types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Certain phobias also bring about anxiety. For example, if you have a fear of flying, you likely become anxious when boarding a plane or even when thinking about flying.
When you have a specific phobia, you may realize that the fear is irrational, but find yourself unable to control it. This may lead to feelings of anxiety or a full-blown panic attack.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common forms of anxiety, affecting about 3.1% of adults. If you find yourself worrying over nothing, you may suffer from GAD.
GAD sufferers tend to feel anxious or overly concerned about normal situations or responsibilities. The intensity of the anxiety may gradually build over time. In some cases, GAD sufferers end up avoiding situations due to generalized anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder is an overwhelming fear of embarrassment or rejection during social situations. People that suffer from this condition may feel overly self conscious about the way others perceive them.
For some, the feelings of anxiety only apply to specific situations, such as public speaking or eating in front of other people.
Panic disorder leads to panic attacks, which often occur without rhyme or reason. Unlike GAD, which includes general worry for a prolonged period, panic disorder involves repeated episodes of panic at unexpected times. During a panic attack, you may experience dizziness, heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are mental conditions that often include anxiety, stress, and potentially depression.
With OCD, patients experience unwanted obsessions or repetitive behaviors. When patients break their ritual, they typically experience increased anxiety.
People may develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event, such as an assault or military combat. Certain situations may trigger their PTSD, leading to feelings of anxiety and panic.
How do You Treat Anxiety?
Self-treatment is the most common form of treatment for anxiety. Most people that suffer from anxiety go their entire lives without seeking treatment. In fact, only 36.9% of anxiety sufferers decide to get help.
Self-treatment can be effective for some anxiety sufferers. This may include:
- Stress management
- Relaxation techniques
- Developing a support network
Unfortunately, self-treatment can also result in negative behavior. Some people may try to suppress their anxiety with drugs or alcohol.
Other forms of treatment for anxiety include therapy and medication. With therapy, patients explore the underlying reasons for their anxiety and learn coping techniques for dealing with anxious feelings.
For social anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, and other conditions that involve triggers, patients often use psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). With CBT, patients learn to alter their thought process to overcome their triggers.
For those that suffer from GAD or panic attacks, therapists may help develop coping strategies for dealing with the anxiety when it occurs.
Of course, doctors also freely prescribe medications to treat anxiety. Some of the most prescribed anxiety medications include:
While therapy seems to work for many patients, the use of medications brings a few potential risks. Almost every type of anxiety medication includes a risk of the following side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Sexual dysfunction
- Upset stomach
Benzodiazepines can bring additional risks, including increased anxiety, depression, seizures, and addiction. In severe cases, patients have suffered from overdoses and cognitive decline.
It honestly seems as if some of these side effects could bring about more anxiety. So, it only makes sense to see if there is a natural alternative that offers some of the same benefits of anxiety medications. CBD may provide this alternative.
How Can CBD Help with Anxiety?
It didn’t take long to find research indicating that CBD may help with anxiety. First up, I found a medical review published in 2015 that explored the benefits of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders.
The review found that initial studies of CBD involving animal testing provided mixed results. When given high doses of 100 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, the animals experienced no change in their anxiety levels. However, when given a low dose of 10 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, animals experienced less anxiety.
After looking at a wider range of testing, the authors of the review concluded that CBD works on a curve. Higher doses tend to be less effective while low to medium doses provides greater results for reducing anxiety.
Another medical review also found that CBD may help treat anxiety. For this review, the authors looked at CBD for panic disorders as an alternative to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
The authors point out that researchers have extensively explored the therapeutic value of cannabis over the last two decades. The research indicates that marijuana leads to increased anxiety, panic attacks, and emotional liability, due to the psychotropic effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
You can discover much more about THC in our article: What is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)?
In contrast, the non-psychotomimetic cannabinoids found in cannabis plants may provide the opposite effects. The researchers suggest that Cannabidiol (CBD) shows the most promise out of the available cannabinoids.
CBD may also provide a direct replacement for SSRIs. In clinical studies, CBD inhibits the same serotonin receptor targeted by SSRIs, producing an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect.
Besides short-term use, CBD may offer benefits when used long term. Researchers found that CBD helps promote increased hippocampal neurogenesis. Decreased neurogenesis leads to increased anxiety, depression, and cognitive problems.
With long-term CBD use, patients experienced increased neurogenesis, which increases the effectiveness of anti-anxiety compounds, including CBD or other anxiety medications.
Researchers have also explored the potential use of CBD for social anxiety disorder. In a small 2011 study, researchers found that people with a fear of public speaking experienced lower heart rate and blood pressure after taking CBD.
A previous study came to the same conclusion. Patients given an oral dose of 400 milligrams of CBD experienced less anxiety compared to those that receive a placebo.
The bottom line is that the latest CBD anxiety research seems to indicate that the substance may offer relief.
Types of CBD Used for Treating Anxiety
As with traditional treatments, CBD provides multiple options. CBD comes in pills, creams, oils, and other products. Each option provides a different bioavailability of the CBD compounds.
Have a read of our article CBD Product Types to discover much more about CBD delivery types.
The bioavailability depends on the delivery method and the concentration of CBD in the product. Oral CBD products, which include edibles, beverages, and pills, provide a bioavailability between 4% and 20%.
Taking CBD sublingually, or under the tongue, provides 12% to 35% bioavailability. This includes CBD sprays, lozenges, oils, and tinctures.
CBD vaping products offer between 34% and 46% bioavailability. However, researchers believe that CBD creams and other topical solutions may offer the best results. Applying the substance through the transdermal application on the skin may help deliver more of the compounds to the bloodstream and offer longer-lasting effects.
Are There Any Side Effects to Using CBD for Anxiety?
One of the potential benefits of CBD for anxiety appears to be the limited risk of adverse effects. While prescription medications may come with risks of stomach ulcers, nausea, and various forms of digestive distress, CBD may offer a relatively safe alternative.
CBD doesn’t seem to possess the same negative side effects as marijuana. In fact, research has found few or no negative side effects of CBD.
Most of the reported side effects of CBD are anecdotal, meaning that they come from regular users and not medical studies. People that use CBD regularly have mentioned the following side effects:
- Upset stomach
- Digestive distress
- Increased appetite
People that take CBD pills tend to report the top three side effects more frequently. Evidence suggests that these side effects may come from the ingredients used in the pills and not the CBD itself.
Increased appetite can be a positive effect, especially for those undergoing chemotherapy or other forms of treatment that cause nausea and reduced appetite.
Please refer to our article Potential Side Effects of Using CBD for more important information.
Summary – Does CBD Help Treat Anxiety?
After examining some of the most discussed CBD studies and reviews, all signs point to the fact that CBD may help treat anxiety.
The research indicates that CBD helps to reduce anxiety by inhibiting the serotonin receptors and interacting with the endocannabinoid system in the brain and central nervous system. The research also has limitations.
Doctors have not yet determined the long-term effects of CBD for anxiety or its effectiveness when directly compared to other anxiety treatments. We don’t know what dosage to use for anxiety, how frequently to use it, or what type of CBD products work the best for anxiety.
As of right now, your doctor is unlikely to replace your current treatment with CBD, but it is worth talking about. The research is promising and many trials are underway.