CBD for Mental Illness

anxious woman trying to relax

As CBD becomes more popular, the effects of it are more widely known. While research is still needed on its effects on the body and specific diseases, it is becoming clear that CBD is a viable treatment option for mental illnesses, including anxiety. More and more studies are being conducted on just how effective CBD is in treating some of the most common debilitating disorders.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD, which is short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from the cannabinoid family that naturally occurs in the Cannabis plant. CBD is actually derived from hemp, which is one of the oldest crops. While THC and CBD are both cannabinoids, CBD does not have the psychotropic properties that THC does.

CBD and Mental Illness

The top rated reason that people take CBD is to combat stress, which can be brought on by many conditions, including mental illness. CBD is known to have calming and relaxing properties that can help with mental illnesses, such as anxiety, in addition to helping to deal with stress.


A study from 2015 showed the benefits of using CBD as a treatment against multiple mental illnesses, including General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


CBD provides a calming and relaxing feeling, which may be beneficial for those suffering with anxiety. A 2020 study showed that CBD was a promising treatment for General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, and others. Additionally, for those who have anxiety in relation to public speaking, CBD has been known to significantly bring down stress levels.


One of the most common mental illnesses, depression, affects millions of people around the world. Unfortunately, there are no studies showing the actual effect CBD has on people, but a research study from 2019 showed the benefit of CBD on animals. A 2014 review showed that CBD affected 5-HT1A receptors, which affect serotonin levels which in turn affect depression and mood.

Bipolar Disorder

There is a need for research regarding CBD and bipolar disorder. Back in 1998, a study showed that there were more positive reactions to cannabis than to regular bipolar medications. However, a later study showed that CBD was not effective for manic episodes. While CBD may help with some symptoms, there currently is not research proving it helps.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

While there is no specific research on CBD and OCD, early studies show that CBD alleviates some of the symptoms that OCD sufferers find most debilitating.  For instance, CBD helps lessen stress, anxiety, and fear which are some of the most difficult symptoms to handle. Additionally, there are positive effects of CBD on repetitive behaviors, such as Tourette’s Syndrome. Scientists also find that it helps with the similar repetitive actions of OCD. 

What should I look for?

The first thing to consider is talking to your doctor. They will be able to not only determine what treatment is needed, but how much. However, when researching CBD, there are many things to understand.

The Type of CBD

There are many forms of CBD. The top three are:

  • Full Spectrum: If your CBD is full spectrum, it contains all phytochemicals that are naturally found in the plant, including a miniscule amount of THC (less than 0.3%).
  • Broad Spectrum: If your CBD is broad spectrum, it contains all plant chemicals, except the THC is removed. It’s essentially a mix between full and isolate.
  • CBD Isolate: If you have CBD isolate, you have the purest form. This form is pulled from the natural environment, and all other ingredients are removed. In this form, you also have the highest concentration of CBD.  However, CBD isolate can be synthesized in a lab (synthetic), which may factor into your decisions on dosage and usage.

Which one you pick depends on what you are using it for, as well as how you will be using it. There are numerous ways in which you can use it, including:

  • Taking CBD orally can include oils or capsules. This would likely be the most effective for mental illness.
  • Topicals are lotions applied directly to the skin. These help specifically with inflammation and pain in concentrated areas. While this would not necessarily help mental illness, it may alleviate pain that causes stress.
  • CBD comes in many forms including candy, gummies, and even in drinks.
  • While there are concerns around vaping, inhalation through vaping is also one way in which to take in CBD.
  • A CBD pillow releases microdoses of CBD through the night while you sleep. It can help you sleep more soundly, so you wake feeling refreshed.

All of the criteria you select will be based on what your doctor says, how much you will need, what potency you need for the desired effect, and the most comfortable way to take it. Depending on those factors, you may find that you need to adjust the strength of your CBD to get the desired effect. While you may have to be patient, research is already starting to show that once CBD is taken, it may have positive effects on mental illness treatment.