CBD and Anxiety

CBD and Anxiety

With over-the-counter CBD products recently legalised in Australia, there will soon be an increasing number of places, both in-store and online, where you can buy CBD oil.

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.

So, let’s have a look at what anxiety is and some of the ways 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
  • Sweating
  • 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.

But what about CBD?

Can CBD help?

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 into CBD has emerged in the past few decades. Much of this research suggests that CBD has a range of applications.

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

In a 2015 review, researchers found that evidence from human trials supports the potential for CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders. The studies found that CBD reduced anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and showed potential for the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

A 2020 study examined the effects of CBD on a range of ailments including pain, 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).

Another recent study found that 90% of patients reported a significant reduction in their levels of anxiety after taking CBD for just one week.

While there are numerous recent studies indicating the potential benefits of CBD, more research is needed to fully understand the benefits and determine the best methods of treatment.

Side Effects

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
  • Diarrhea
  • 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.