This past year has been anxiety-provoking for many of us. If you've been exploring techniques to stay calm during these unpredictable times, you may have found yourself asking “can CBD help with my anxiety?”
What is Anxiety?
Before the pandemic, many of us already battled with stress and anxiety. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 13 people around the world live with an anxiety disorder, making them the most common mental health disorder worldwide.
Anxiety disorders are a collection of mental health conditions characterized by disproportionate worry about future events. A physiological response occurs in the body which could show up as chest pain, shortness of breath, muscle tension, sleep disturbances, excessive sweating, agitation, restlessness, irritability and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships.
Not all anxiety is the same and it affects sufferers in different ways. Anxiety disorders include:
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is when anxiety is felt about a wide range of situations or issues,
- social anxiety disorder (SAD) – the fear of being negatively judged or rejected in social situations,
- panic disorder – sudden feelings of terror resulting in panic attacks,
- obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – unwelcomed repetitive thoughts and behavior,
- phobias – an extreme fear triggered by a situation or object; and
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – anxiety including flashbacks that develop after some kind of traumatic event.
There is not a “one size fits all” solution for dealing with anxiety due to the complexity of each case. Cognitive behavioral therapy or “talk therapy”, often combined with anti-anxiety medications, are common techniques that help. There can be side effects that accompany these medications so some people are seeking natural alternatives such as CBD.
Anxiety and the Endocannabinoid System
Our endocannabinoid system (ECS) helps buffer the effects of stress on our bodies. Our ECS plays a significant role in how we deal with anxiety, fear and stress by keeping our body's systems balanced.
Prolonged exposure to stress can take a toll on our ECS by compromising the activity of our CB1 receptors, which are involved in how we process emotions. Stress also increases the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which breaks down the endocannabinoid anandamide, lowering the levels of this “bliss molecule".
When our endocannabinoid system is not working optimally, it can leave us feeling more anxious. One study found a relationship between lower levels of anandamide and severity of anxiety. The more we learn about the ECS, the more expansive its importance is.
Why is CBD Helpful for Anxiety?
There are several ways that CBD may help combat anxiety. CBD binds to the CB1 receptors in the ECS, promoting the creation of new neurons in the brain's hippocampus, which scientists believe contributes to reducing anxiety.
Drug companies are experimenting with reducing FAAH, which will slow the breakdown of the “bliss molecule” anandamide for the next great anti-anxiety medication, but CBD does that naturally. Studies have shown CBD has the ability to delay the metabolism of FAAH, keeping anandamide in our system longer.
CBD’s ability to help with anxiety goes beyond the ECS. There have been animal studies that show how CBD interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain. These same serotonin receptors are often the targets for anti-anxiety medication, leading researchers to suggest that there is substantial evidence to consider using CBD as support for anxiety and everyday stress in humans.
How Much CBD Should I Take?
Studies that focus on CBD and anxiety tend to use the isolate form of CBD. This makes it difficult to translate the amount used during a study into an applicable amount of full-spectrum CBD for daily use. What is known is that a much higher dose of CBD isolate is needed to see desired effects.
Using a smaller dose of full-spectrum CBD (like the kind in Lily Hill's products) has proven effective in other studies. Currently, there are several clinical trials underway which are studying the effectiveness of CBD for anxiety, including one using 25mg full-spectrum CBD capsules.
With all of that being said, everyone has a different body chemistry. Finding the right dosage for you will take some time and adjustments. Starting low and slow is recommended. See our blog post How to Use CBD Oil for more information on dosage.
Life will always test us but we can continue expand our toolkit for managing anxiety symptoms. New research suggests that CBD could potentially relieve symptoms related to anxiety and stress. Adding a full-spectrum CBD product to your arsenal could be a beneficial addition to your routine, especially when it is part of a plan that includes a healthy diet, regular exercise and other methods of self-care.