With over-the-counter CBD products recently legalised in Australia, there are an increasing number of places, both in-store and online, where you can buy CBD oil. Together with this increased accessibility has been an uptick in interest in the therapeutic benefits of CBD products. And one of the richest areas of therapeutic potential is managing the symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. One in three women and one in ﬁve men will experience anxiety in their lifetime and more than 2 million Australians will suffer from anxiety in any one year.
A growing body of research is clearly showing how CBD oil can be used to manage the symptoms of anxiety. So, let’s have a look at what anxiety is and how CBD oil can be used to treat the symptoms and help to manage anxiety-related disorders.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety and fear are natural and adaptive responses essential to coping with threats and stress. They usually present as a heightened state when we feel under pressure or threat, with this state dissipating once the threat has gone.
However, for people with anxiety conditions these feelings of stress or pressure are more frequent and persistent and may not be linked to any immediate threat. This persistent and heightened state of anxiety can have serious and long-term effects on the sufferer including physical health problems, difficulties maintaining jobs or relationships, and can be associated with other mental health problems like depression.
Anxiety can manifest in a variety of conditions including:
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
Symptoms are broad and can vary from person to person and across conditions. However, general symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feelings of restlessness, tension or nervousness
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Trembling or shaking
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty focusing
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Panic attacks
- Avoidant behaviour
- Irritability or anger
- Addictive behaviours
Typical treatments for anxiety disorders include psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioural therapy, and medication. It’s important to note that medication doesn’t cure anxiety, but it does help to manage symptoms, allowing you to function better in day-to-day life. Medication can also be useful in facilitating the therapy process.
There are a number of types of anxiety medications available. Because every person is different, you may have to try several medications to find the right one for you. Common medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Lexapro and Prozac and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium.
While these medications can be useful for treating the symptoms of anxiety, they also come with a range of often quite strong side effects and can be addictive.
In recent years, studies have shown great potential into CBD oil and its abilities to treat the symptoms of anxiety naturally and without the side effects and addictive properties of medications.
So, let’s have a look at how CBD oil can be used to help manage the symptoms of anxiety.
How does CBD help with anxiety?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid, a compound naturally found in cannabis (marijuana and hemp) plants. CBD lacks the psychoactive effects that accompany tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid found in cannabis plants.
A significant amount of research has emerged in the past few decades into the therapeutic benefits of CBD. Much of this research suggests that CBD has broad therapeutic properties for treating a range of neuropsychiatric disorders including anxiety disorders.
CBD is believed to interact with several endocannabinoid (eCB) system receptors known to regulate fear and anxiety-related behaviours. The eCB system regulates a range of physiological functions and is also essential for forms of synaptic plasticity that determine learning and response to emotional and stressful events.
What the research shows
There is a growing body of research that strongly supports the potential of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders. The research suggests that CBD exhibits a broad range of actions relevant to multiple symptoms. These include anti-anxiety and anti-compulsive actions, decreases in autonomic arousal, fear expression and the effects of stress.
In a 2015 review, researchers found that evidence from human trials strongly supports the potential for CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders. The studies found that CBD reduces anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and shows potential for the treatment of PTSD, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and could be used to enhance cognitive behavioural therapy, which is often used to treat anxiety disorders.
A 2020 study examined the effects of CBD on a range of ailments including non-cancer pain, cancer-related symptoms, neurological symptoms, and mental health symptoms. This study also highlighted the potential benefits of CBD for treating anxiety.
A 2019 study found evidence for anti-anxiety effects of repeated CBD administration in teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD). The study found that CBD reduced the symptoms of SAD at levels comparable to the relief provided by Paroxetine, a drug commonly used to treat anxiety.
Another recent study found that 90% of patients reported a significant reduction in their levels of anxiety after taking CBD for just one week.
Dosage and Administration
While there are numerous recent studies that show the efficacy of CBD for treating anxiety disorders, more research is needed to fully understand the benefits and determine the best methods of treatment. For example, there is no clear consensus among health professionals regarding the standardised dosage recommended for CBD use.
Additionally, there are a number of ways of administering CBD including:
- Sublingual spray
- Vaporised oil or cannabis flowers
Each of these methods will deliver a different dosage and will determine how quickly the cannabinoids begin taking effect.
Since research into the therapeutic benefits of CBD products is still in its relative infancy, there isn’t a great deal of information on the long-term effects of CBD. However, research has still noted a relatively small number of minor side effects. These include:
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Decreased appetite
- Changes in weight
CBD may also interact with other medications or dietary supplements. Please consult your doctor before starting to take any CBD products to ensure that they are right for you.