Can CBD Help with Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

couple in bed looking anxious

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, in the United States, anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness. Each year, they affect 18.1% of the population (40 million adult individuals) ages 18 years old and over. While anxiety disorders are easily treatable, only 36.9% of individuals struggling with one receive treatment.

One particular anxiety disorder many people struggle with is General Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Symptoms of GAD

General Anxiety Disorder impacts how you think, but it can also cause physical symptoms, too, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Ongoing, excessive tension, and worry
  • Feeling on edge or restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • An unrealistic look on problems
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Having to use the bathroom often
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Being easily startled
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Tiredness

A lot of people worry about taking GAD medicine because of the potential side effects such as nausea, weight gain, sexual problems, sleepiness, and dependency.

Because of this, more curiosity has been raised about whether or not cannabidiol (CBD) could actually help GAD symptoms. Here, you'll learn how CBD for anxiety could potentially be an effective GAD treatment.

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid, or a compound you find naturally in cannabis (hemp or marijuana) plants. But, unlike the other cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it doesn't cause intoxicating effects, or make you feel "high."

Research is starting to show promise with CBD for anxiety.

How CBD Works

In your body, you have various different receptors. These are chemical, protein-based structures that attach to your cells. And, different stimuli sends them signals.

CBD interacts with your CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are mainly found in your peripheral nervous and central nervous system.

While researchers are still unclear about how CBD interacts with these receptors, they think it might alter your serotonin signals.

Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in your mental health. Low levels of serotonin are often linked with individuals struggling with depression, and in some circumstances, low serotonin levels could cause anxiety.

Conventional low serotonin level treatment is typically a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) like fluoxetine (Prozac) or sertraline (Zoloft). You need a prescription for these types of medications.

However, some individuals with anxiety could benefit from CBD to manage their condition instead of using an SSRI. But, this is something you would need to talk with your doctor about.

CBD for Anxiety

There's been research on CBD for treating anxiety disorders that have pointed towards its therapeutic potential. While a lot of research on CBD involves animal models and preclinical, there are now human participant clinical studies emerging.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse conducted a study for GAD that showed a decrease in stress in animals when provided with CBD. The animals showed decreased behavioral signs of anxiety. They also showed an improvement in physiological signs of anxiety like increased heart rate.

When anxiety levels are low, certain coping mechanisms may be enough to help, such as:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Deep breathing
  • Working with a therapist
  • Journaling

However, for some, these alone simply aren't enough, and they seek alternative solutions, like CBD.

One dietitian in particular, Carlene Thomas, RDN, who's also the author of the upcoming "CBD Drinks for Health" recipe book, told Health U.S. News that out of all her resources for wellness, CBD oil was a great addition to help with her anxiety. She said it worked right away, and was effective and effortless, unlike years of meditation and adaptogens (roots, herbs and mushrooms that "adapt" theoretically to the needs of your body, and help protect you against a variety of stressors) that hadn't.

One 2019 double-blind study showed CBD's anti-anxiety properties reduced symptoms associated with social anxiety disorder (SAD) in Japanese teenagers when they were given either a placebo or 300 mg of CBD oil each day for four weeks. The relief they experienced was comparable to the drug Paroxetine, which is often used for treating the condition.

And, nine of the 17 teenagers, in the follow-up, who received CBD also said they made the decision to seek some treatment form. This is interesting, since teenagers with SAD don't often look for help because of the stigma that surrounds the disorder, and because they fear interaction with therapists.

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