This is not medical advice and you should ask your healthcare provider before using any type of CBD treatment.*
Since CBD’s inception, many have claimed that it can be used as a treatment for a variety of medical conditions including cancer, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and chronic pain. However, at the time of writing this, the only CBD medication approved by the FDA is Epidiolex, a treatment for two severe forms of epilepsy. While other CBD treatments have not yet been approved by the FDA, there are numerous studies done that provide evidence of the benefits of CBD treatments for anxiety—and these studies are generally positive.
It might be best to first understand what anxiety is and the many forms it can take.
So, What is Considered an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety affects everyone differently and can present itself in multiple forms. The five major anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- bsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder, and
- Social phobia (social anxiety disorder).
Generalized anxiety is when someone experiences chronic anxiety, which includes excessive worry and tension, even without reason. Common worries are health, money, family, or work. While everyone worries about these things, someone with GAD will worry so much and so often that it negatively affects their life. Due to the stress and anxiety caused by the worry and tension, those who are diagnosed with GAD are often also diagnosed with depression.
OCD is characterized by recurring, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and redundant behaviors (compulsions). OCD behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking, cleaning, or touching, are performed with the expectation that they will obliterate or prevent the obsessive thoughts. Unfortunately, performing these behaviors typically provide immediate and temporary relief.
Panic disorder involves a person experiencing sudden and repeated episodes of intense fear and anxiety—sometimes without reason. Symptoms of panic attacks may include chest pain, chest tightness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, wheezing or hyperventilating, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder developed after someone experiences a terrifying or traumatic event, typically where physical harm occurred or was threatened. Common events that trigger PTSD are violent personal assaults, natural disasters, human-caused disasters or accidents, or military combat—although what someone deems as traumatic to themselves may vary.
Social phobia or anxiety is the overwhelming fear, anxiety, and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. While this may be limited to a fear of public speaking or eating in front of others, social phobia can also occur anytime they are around other people. Symptoms can manifest as a fear of social situations where you can be openly judged, fear of humiliation or embarrassment, fear of interacting or talking with strangers, and low self-esteem.
It is also possible for a person to be diagnosed with multiple anxiety disorders. Many people diagnosed with one or more of the above disorders find help in therapy and other doctor-prescribed medications. Additionally, they may seek out alternative or supplementary treatments including the use of over-the-counter CBD treatments.
How is CBD Used?
Without FDA guidance, CBD use varies from person-to-person. One method may work best for you over another. The various ways you can consume CBD are via oils and tinctures, gummies, capsules, vapes, and creams or gels.
CBD can be ingested through a variety of methods, including:
- Sublingually, by placing the oil under your tongue via a dropper and allowing the oil to stay there for up to a minute before swallowing
- Orally, by taking capsules or adding CBD oil to your food or drinks
- Topically, infusing CBD oil into lotion and applying directly onto your skin
There is no specified dose for any of these methods. Typically, studies have found that 300–600mg works best for reducing anxiety—although more research is needed on the subject.
Please note that, according to Healthline, “CBD is generally safe and rarely causes dangerous side effects. However, it can interact with a long list of medications including medications used to treat depression or anxiety.” Therefore, we insist you consult a doctor before self-prescribing or self-medicating with CBD.
How Can CBD Treat Anxiety Disorders?
THC actually has a negative reputation for being intoxicating and anxiety-inducing. However, cannabidiol (CBD) is used to relieve symptoms of anxiety. You can read more on the reality of THC-free CBD here. In fact, according to Forbes Health, “In fact, 51% of U.S. adults who use CBD do so to help alleviate their anxiety [based on a] survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.”
If you want to dig into the science behind the benefits of CBD, a 2015 review from MedicalNewsToday says, “CBD interacts with the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R), the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, and other receptors in the brain that regulate fear and anxiety-induced behaviors.” In other words, some research shows that CBD affects serotonin levels in the brain. Thereby affecting a chemical in the brain that can alter your mood, sleep, digestion, and behavior.
What Does Research Say About CBD and Anxiety?
Now, let’s look at studies that show how CBD treatments can be used for the aforementioned anxiety disorders and symptoms.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder
CBD The National Library of Medicine implemented a 2015 study to research CBD as a potential treatment for GAD. Even low doses of CBD have been seen to decrease anxiety within the first month of treatment, as well as improve sleep quality. Certain studies have found that CBD has an anxiolytic-like effect, meaning it reduces anxiety in those who may experience panic attacks.
Low serotonin levels are associated with depression, and CBD can potentially affect how your brain’s chemical receptors respond to the serotonin already in your brain. According to Forbes Health, “in 2020, Participants with…mental health-related symptoms experienced significant improvement in anxiety and depression, as well as in their abilities to complete their usual activities.”
There are relatively few studies on OCD and CBD. However, some CBD treatments have been found to help manage symptoms of OCD by improving relaxation, sleep quality, and decrease stress. A 2019 study resulted in CBD reducing anxiety, fear, and certain repetitive behaviors in those with OCD.
In 2019, a study examined the benefit of CBD with patients experiencing PTSD. According to the results of the study, “91% experienced a decrease in PTSD symptom severity.” After eight weeks of treatment, CBD was “generally well tolerated, and no patients discontinued treatment due to side effects.”
In a 2011 survey by Neuropsychopharmacology, subjects with social anxiety disorder were given an oral dose 600mg of CBD oil and then tested on public speaking in varying time intervals after ingesting the CBD. The study showed the CBD reduced anxiety and discomfort during their public speaking. Some research also concluded that even 400mg of oil proved to be beneficial.
The Bottom Line
Despite its lack of FDA approval, there have been and continue to be exhaustive studies on the benefits of CBD treatments for anxiety disorders.
Whether it’s CBD therapeutic usage to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety or to improve the fading of traumatic memories in those experiencing PTSD, the research is promising. Therefore, it’s up to you—and your doctor—to determine whether CBD is an appropriate treatment for your anxiety disorder(s).