CBD and Anxiety

Most of us have heard about treating Anxiety with CBD.  At Sonder Grace, we have customers that call us and write us to tell us how CBD has changed their life.  Their anxiety has subsided, their panic attacks are gone and they feel like they have their life back.

We wanted to reference studies that explained what the media has grabbed onto as the magic cure for anxiety.  Do you really suffer from anxiety? Why does CBD help people with anxiety?  How should you start using CBD for your anxiety?

As usual, do not use contents of this article as medical advice.  Always consult your physician before changing medications or adding a supplement like CBD.  

Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States each year1. While this disorder is highly treatable, only 37% of those suffering receive treatment2. The three most common methods for treatments include short-term self-treatment, counseling and therapy, and medications3. Even when these treatments are working in tandem with one another, sometimes, they do not offer enough relief for anxiety. In the past decade, people and researchers have been experimenting with treating anxiety with CBD. Due to its relaxing nature, many have claimed that the natural plant derivative has helped ease the symptoms of anxiety. To understand the beneficial qualities CBD can offer for those who suffer from anxiety, we will explore how anxiety effects our bodies and how CBD can help easy those pain points.

What is anxiety?

The American Psychological Association (AP) defines anxiety as:

“An emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure”4

Along with tension, worry, and physical changes, the common symptoms associated with anxiety include5:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Categorization of anxiety

There are many different anxiety disorders that range in symptoms. The five main categories that the disorder is typically categorized into: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder6.

  1. General anxiety disorder (GAD) is the category of anxiety that most are familiar with. This type of anxiety usually includes excessive fear and worry that can cause a person to have negative behavioral and emotional outcomes.
  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by obsessive and intrusive thoughts that can cause compulsive behavior. Examples of compulsive behavior would be frequent hand-washing, counting of objects or actions, and excessive exercise.
  3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) typically results from a trauma (like an accident, death in the family, violence, or military combat).
  4. Panic disorder is most commonly experienced through unexpected and recurrent periods of intense fear and worry that can cause a physical reaction like chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal
  5. Social anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that can cause overwhelming worry and self-consciousness around other people. This type of anxiety can range from fear of public speaking to not being able to leave the house due to possible social interaction7.

Who has anxiety?

Anyone can experience anxiety during their life. The cause of anxiety is not fully understood but is can be linked to “underlying health issues, medications, and certain risk factors like trauma, stress due to an illness, stress buildup, personality, other mental disorders, having blood relatives with an anxiety disorder, or drugs/alcohol”8. General anxiety disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults9. Women are twice as likely to experience anxiety compared to men10.

Anxiety does not discriminate in age either. 25% of children between the ages of 13 and 18 years old are affected by an anxiety disorder. Untreated anxiety in children can lead to distress, low grades, substance abuse, and poor social skills11.

Treatment of anxiety

Anxiety is treated in numerous ways. For short-term and mild anxiety, many people opt to treat their anxiety themselves. This means they will actively try methods to reduce their anxiety without therapy or medication. Self-treatment often includes stress management, relaxation techniques, regular and enjoyable exercise, diet, and a strong support network12.

Another approach is counseling and therapy. Therapists will attempt a number of different types of therapy in order to find the right method for their patient. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and exposure therapy13.

People who experience anxiety can discuss their options with their doctor and may find that medication is the best route for them. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for anxiety but there is an added risk of addiction and drowsiness when taking them. Anti-depressants are another common medication prescribed to people with anxiety. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are another option to treat anxiety but there are negative side effects compared to older anti-depressants. Tricycles are an older class of SSRIs that can provide relief from anxiety disorder other than OCD but there are also negative side effects that can occur. Additional medications that people use to treat anxiety are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), beta-blockers, and buspirone14.

What is CBD oil? How does it work?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is a plant derived compound found in hemp and cannabis. It has the medicinal effects similar to marijuana but does not result in psychotropic effects (getting high). CBD works in tandem with our endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system regulates physiological processes, like mood, blood pressure, immunity, stress, energy, and more, to keep us in homeostasis. CBD activates receptors like the vanilloid, adenosine, and serotonin receptors in the ECS. Depending on the receptor, dopamine, glutamate, or serotonin will be released and have a positive effect on the body. Each neurotransmitter has various different functions, which is why CBD has many beneficial effects on the body15.

CBD and anxiety: Recent studies

While more research needs to be conducted, a recent study published by Colorado researchers attempted to determine if CBD helps improve sleep and/or anxiety. The study documented the anxiety and sleep patterns of 103 adults over the course of several months while they took CBD regularly. Patients reported that within the first month their anxiety decreased and remained decreased for the remainder of the study. Patients also reported that their sleep patterns improved within the first month of trial but fluctuated over time. Through more clinical evidence, the researchers reported that CBD has a calming effect on the central nervous system, explaining why anxiety was reduced in their patients16.

Published in the journal of Neurotherapeutics, another study found that through the activation of the serotonin receptor, 5-HT1AR, CBD will mediate and reduce the symptoms of “…anxiolytic, panicolytic, and anticompulsive actions, as well as a decrease in autonomic arousal, a decrease in conditioned fear expression, enhancement of fear extinction, reconsolidation blockades, and prevention of the long-term anxiogenic effects of stress.”17 Not only that, the study claims that the many experiments they conducted proved that CBD can be used as a promising treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially when administered at high dosages (~300-600mg)18.

In 2011, Neuropsychopharmacology published a study determined to prove that CBD can provide relief to those with social anxiety disorder. Twenty-four patients with reported social anxiety were given 600mg of CBD or a placebo before a public speaking test. Results found that the group that took CBD before the test had reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort while taking their public speaking test19.

How much CBD oil should I take for my anxiety?

CBD is a safe, natural alternative to treating anxiety. If you would like to self-treat your anxiety with CBD oil, it is best to consult your doctor beforehand. CBD effects everyone differently. It is important to start with a low dosage to give your body the opportunity to adapt and get used to the possible effects. Slowly increase your dosage to a comfortable level. Once you find a dosage that works for you, try to separate your dosage into smaller doses throughout the day. This can improve the absorption rate of the CBD oil. While research found that 600mg of CBD was effective for reducing the symptoms of anxiety in patients, other studies have found that lower dosages can be effective as well. Search for a CBD oil that is high-quality, organic, and full-spectrum for best results20.

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  4. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, May 04). Anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
  6. Digital Communications Division. (2015, August 21). What are the five major types of anxiety disorders? Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-are-the-five-major-types-of-anxiety-disorders/index.html
  7. Digital Communications Division. (2015, August 21). What are the five major types of anxiety disorders? Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-are-the-five-major-types-of-anxiety-disorders/index.html
  8. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, May 04). Anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
  9. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, May 04). Anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
  10. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, May 04). Anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
  11. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, May 04). Anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
  12. Felman, A. (2018, October 26). Anxiety: Overview, symptoms, causes, and treatments. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323454.php
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  15. S. (2018). Why we CBD Oil. Retrieved from https://sondergrace.com/why-we-cbd-oil/
  16. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019, January 7). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
  17. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015, October 12). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/
  18. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015, October 12). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/
  19. Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H., Chagas, M. H., De Oliveira, D. C., De Martinis, B. S., Kapczinski, F., . . . Crippa, J. A. (2011, May). Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079847/
  20. How Much CBD Oil Should I Take for Anxiety? (2018, March 20). Retrieved from https://www.getsabaidee.com/blogs/news/cbd-for-anxiety