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CBD for Anxiety

CBD Oil for Anxiety – what we know for sure

What is Anxiety

Anxiety is a psychological condition that is characterized by a sense of concern and/or worries about everyday situations. Anxiety is normal in stressful situations such as public speaking, taking a test, or when there is a real or perceived physical threat. However, anxiety can become abnormal when it becomes excessive, all-consuming, and start interfering with daily life and activities.

General anxiety becomes diagnosable as an anxiety disorder when a general sense of worry becomes intense, excessive, and persistent, making even basic or essential tasks feel impossible. Those affected may see a decline in job performance, schoolwork, and personal relationships. People suffering from anxiety disorders also often experience physical symptoms that can be both chronic or acute, ranging from fast heart rate and rapid breathing to episodes of sudden, debilitating hyperventilation and terror (panic attacks).

Symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorders can come in many forms, including:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – persistent and excessive feelings of worry
  • Panic Disorder – recurrent panic attacks
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) – significant anxiety about social interactions
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder – excessive fear of separation from a person or persons
  • Phobia – excessive fear of certain situations or objects
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – recurring, irrational thoughts, which lead you to perform certain activities
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – excessive anxiety linked to a traumatic event

Although these anxiety disorders present with their own set of symptoms, many symptoms, however, do overlap, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Overwhelming bad feelings
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness or feelings of agitation
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Panic attacks

Anxiety Disorder Medications & Treatment

There are several treatment options available. These can include medications, behavioral therapies, or lifestyle changes, as well as a combination of these.

Pharmaceutical Interventions
Medications such as benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, and tricyclics are often prescribed in severe and debilitating cases of anxiety. Anti-depressants include serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), and Sertraline (Zoloft), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), Duloxetine (Cymbalta), Levomilnacipran (Fetzima), and Venlafaxine (Effexor XR). However, these medications (especially benzodiazepines) all come with severe negative side effects, including:

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness, agitation, or restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual problems, including a reduced sexual desire, difficulty reaching orgasm, or inability to maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Addiction (in the case of benzodiazepines)

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions
Behavioral and psychotherapies as well as environmental changes can be very effective in reducing the symptoms of anxiety. The most well-known and popular psychological therapy for anxiety disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), however, other effective therapies include interpersonal therapy, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Psychodynamic Therapies, Eye Movement Desensitization Resolution (EMDR), and Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT).

Environment and other types of behavioral changes that are well-documented as being effective for reducing symptoms of anxiety are things like exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga. Stress management techniques, including organization and list-making methods as well as diet, can help mitigate symptoms of anxiety.

CBD for Anxiety

Research & Scientific Evidence

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, has been studied as a potential treatment for a range of anxiety disorders, ranging from situational anxiety to more severe conditions like PTSD. The results from both human and animal trials are positive, suggesting that CBD can be helpful in reducing many of the symptoms of anxiety while also having a positive impact on neurochemistry and brain function.

In a recent 2017 review study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers reviewed the literature related both to showing the anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol as well as studies investigating its effects on various fear and drug memory processes.

The literature showed that there are different lines of evidence all showing that CBD shows anxiolytic effects in both animals and humans via at least two mechanisms. The first is that CBD mediates the action of endocannabinoids on cannabinoid receptors in neural circuit mechanisms involved with both anxiety and fear memory. The second mechanism is that CBD interacts with the same serotonin subtype 5-HT1A receptors targeted by anxiolytic, antidepressant, and antipsychotic medications.

They concluded that CBD has the ability to regulate emotion and emotional memory processing as well as interact with the brain in such as way that it may be useful as a treatment for anxiety-related and substance abuse disorders.

A randomized, double-blind human study from 2019 published in the Frontiers of Psychology assessed the anxiolytic effect and efficacy of CBD treatment for social anxiety disorder (SAD) in Japanese teenagers aged between 18 and 19 years.

They designed the study as a randomized, placebo-controlled, comparative study with a total of 37 Japanese adolescents, all of whom were diagnosed as suffering from SAD and assessed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders. The CBD group was given a daily dose of 300 mg of CBD administered in a single dose in the afternoon for 4 weeks.

The efficacy of CBD was assessed by comparing the Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire (FNE) and the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) scores measured before (pre-intervention), during (at 4 weeks), and after treatment (post-intervention). They found a statistically significant reduction in anxiety symptoms in both the FNE and LSAS scores for the experimental group indicating that CBD could be a useful option to treat social anxiety.

Psychiatrists at a psychiatric clinic published their findings in the Permanente Journal in 2019 from a large retrospective case series investigating the clinical application of CBD for anxiety and sleep complaints as an adjunct to usual treatment.

The retrospective study reviewed retrospectively the charts of a final sample of 72 adult patients, assessing their anxiety and sleep scores before and after CBD treatment. Anxiety levels were monitored at monthly visits using the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS). The majority of patients were given CBD 25 mg/d in capsule form every morning, after breakfast with a few patients being given CBD 50 mg/d or 75 mg/d and one patient with a trauma history being given 175 mg/d.

They found that HARS scores decreased significantly within the first month in 57 patients (79.2%). More significantly, anxiety levels remained decreased during the duration of the study, leading the researchers to conclude that CBD shows potential as a beneficial treatment option for anxiety-related disorders.

Anecdotal Evidence

A quick google search will confirm that the Internet is full of people reporting that CBD has helped them with their anxiety. Many reports that the anxiolytic effects of CBD are a lot more subtle than the harsh effects of prescription drugs that hit instantly with people claiming that they feel calmer, more relaxed, and generally uplifted after seven to 10 days of using it.

Testimonials of CBD Oils users with anxiety

CBD as a complementary treatment
Anxiety disorders are also often characterized by sleeping difficulties which can interrupt REM sleep and thought to contribute to anxiety and depression. So, in addition to reducing anxiety and improving overall mood, CBD can further support people suffering from anxiety by helping to promote REM sleep.

In addition, the anxiolytic effects of CBD are especially beneficial when used to complement psychotherapeutic interventions like CBT, EMDR, and mindfulness practices as well as other types of lifestyle changes. However, CBD should not be taken in conjunction with anxiety medications without consulting the treating physician first as CBD may negatively interact with these.

Bottom Line

The research and data suggest the fact that CBD has powerful anxiolytic effects on both animals and humans. Although more research needs to be done, scientists suggest that there are at least two mechanisms involved, the first being that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in relevant brain areas associated with regulating fear memory and anxiety to prevent the overstimulation of your CB1 receptors while also binding to the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors thought to play a primary role in anxiety disorders.