Claims that cannabidiol (CBD) is an effective treatment for anxiety and stress are a big factor behind why the supplement has become so popular. As nearly one in five Americans currently suffers from an anxiety disorder, it’s not surprising that people are rushing for an all-natural and affordable solution. But does CBD oil help with anxiety and stress, or is it just a fad? The answer isn’t clear yet, but a number of scientific studies have produced very promising results. And aside from that, thousands have taken to social media and YouTube to share their success stories after trying CBD. More research is needed, but these five ways CBD helps with anxiety and stress are what we know so far.
Words: Benjamin Gorman
5 Ways CBD Can Reduce Anxiety and Stress
CBD interacts with the body in multiple ways that could help to reduce stress and anxiety. Here’s what science has shown us.
1. CBD Could Reduce Social Anxiety
In a 2011 study, human subjects were tested to determine if CBD had an effect on social anxiety disorder (SAD). Of 36 subjects, 12 SAD sufferers were given CBD, and 12 SAD sufferers were given a placebo. An additional 12 healthy individuals were given nothing. The subjects were then asked to participate in a public speaking test. Throughout the test, scientists measured physiological and visual data, and the subjects also self-evaluated based on their perceived levels of stress. The results were clear: the CBD group had significantly reduced levels of anxiety and discomfort. In fact, their measurements were about the same as those of the healthy group.
2. CBD May Make You Feel Relaxed
Many people find that, when taken the right way and at the right dosage, CBD produces a relaxing “buzz” that reduces anxiety and stress. It may even be an effective way to counter panic attacks. However, it is important to keep in mind that CBD does not cause a high as marijuana does. How does this work? CBD affects the GABA neurotransmitter in our brains. When GABA receptors are stimulated, our bodies feel sedated and relaxed. Those who have low GABA activity feel more stress, anxiety, and are prone to panic. CBD modulates binding at GABA receptors in much the same way that popular anti-anxiety medication does. The result is a relaxed feeling, reduced neural activity, and a drop in stress.
3. CBD Can Help Reduce Fear
One of the classic symptoms of anxiety is fear. Overthinking outcomes, imagining terrible situations, and unrelenting worry are all different expressions of this base emotion. Those who suffer from anxiety often suffer from increased levels of fear that they can’t control. CBD has been shown to reduce fear by binding with a key serotonin receptor in the brain and endocannabinoid receptors in the body. What does all that science garble mean? It’s complicated, but basically, CBD helps your mind to stop learning new fear patterns that could persist and even develop into phobias.
Think about it like this: an anxious person who hears a strange noise at night might not be able to let their fear go, even if it was just the wind. They’ll think about all the terrible possibilities and may even develop a long-term fear of home invasion. CBD may help this same person by allowing the fear to pass and a normal emotional state to return.
4. CBD May Reduce the Effects of Traumatic Memories
Another way that we process fear is through memory. Some people who have suffered trauma in life develop an anxiety disorder that doesn’t allow their trauma, or their response to it, to go away. This is commonly known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One way that CBD helps manage these memories is through something called fear extinction. Fear extinction is the process of dissociating learned behavior from a stimulus. In other words, it makes it so a traumatic memory no longer causes a negative emotional response (panic, fear, grief, etc.).
A 2013 study on 48 humans participants showed that CBD increases the ability to consolidate extinction learning and improves the response to trauma. When CBD was given to subjects, trends clearly showed a reduction in negative responses to traumatic cues.
5. CBD might Boost Happiness
Anandamide, known as “the bliss molecule” is a naturally occurring endocannabinoid (our bodies produce it) that makes us feel happy, among many other things. But, as is the case with most good things, anandamide breaks down quickly and those happy feelings flutter away. But not when you take CBD.
CBD has been shown to stop the breakdown of this compound, which suggests that users may feel happier for longer. Not only that, but keeping anandamide from breaking down increases neurogenesis (the production of new nerve cells) which has anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.
Try CBD for Anxiety and Stress
The science isn’t conclusive on the effects of CBD for anxiety and stress, but the medical community is clearly excited about its many potential applications. In fact, one pharmaceutical drug containing CBD has already been approved by the FDA. If you’d like to try CBD for anxiety or stress relief, make sure to talk to your doctor first. Then, read up on reliable CBD companies so you can get a product that’s safe and effective.