Can CBD Relieve Symptoms of General Anxiety?
We all get anxious from time to time. It’s a normal reaction to the pressures we deal with every day. Once the stress is gone, the anxiety goes away and we begin to feel calmer. However, there are some people who feel tense and anxious most of the time, even if there’s no real reason for their heightened anxiety.
If you are suffering from uncontrollable anxiety, then you just might be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder.
What is generalized anxiety disorder and how do I know I have it?
Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is a mental disorder that affects about 6.8 million adult Americans. It’s a persistent and excessive feeling of anxiousness lasting for more than six months. The anxiety is typically uncontrollable and intrusive that it begins to affect one’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
I have uncontrollable anxiety; does it make me odd?
Your reaction to common stressors may be overwhelming that you feel like you’re suffocating and drowning in them. However, you should know that there are some things about GAD that you can’t control. And it has something to do with the neurotransmitters in your brain.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals found throughout the body. They facilitate the transmission of signals from one part of the body to the brain. Now, stress is a stimulus. Whenever you’re stressed out, your brain cells release certain chemicals called excitatory neurotransmitters. They travel from one brain cell to another until they reach and activate the part of your brain responsible for processing stressful situations. Once activated, your fight-or-flight response kicks in. Your heart rate goes up; your breathing increases; you begin to sweat; and you also feel nauseous.
To stop your brain cells from overreacting, your brain cells also release another type of neurotransmitter called the inhibitory neurotransmitters. What they do is to regulate the amount of excitatory neurotransmitters in your brain by “telling” your brain cells to reabsorb these excitatory neurotransmitters back. Once the excitatory neurotransmitter levels are back to their normal levels, you begin to feel calmer.
In people with GAD though, there is an imbalance between these neurotransmitters. Studies have found that there is a decreased level of inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain which keep the excitatory neurotransmitter levels up. Their increased levels keep your brain cells excited, so small issues and stressors easily trigger them to overreact. Their prolonged hyper-excited state also increases the intensity and frequency of your anxiety symptoms.
GAD doesn’t make you odd, nor does it make you weak or mentally deficient. This neurotransmitter imbalance distorts the way you react to stress, amplifying and worsening your stress response.
How do I treat my general anxiety symptoms?
GAD can be treated with anti-anxiety medications like antidepressants and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). These drugs work to control neurotransmitter imbalance.
However, while these can be effective in controlling GAD symptoms, they do have ugly side effects like headaches, nausea and vomiting, GI problems, fluid retention, motor incoordination, muscle weakness, and blurred vision. Long-term use can also lead to heart and kidney damage.
Can I use CBD for my general anxiety symptoms?
According to the study conducted by the New Frontier Data, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are two of the top conditions that benefit from CBD use. Their study also revealed that in states where medical cannabis is legal, there has already been a drop in pharma sales as an increasing number of patients switch to and/or use CBD together with their prescription drugs for their anxiety problems.
But is CBD really effective in reducing GAD symptoms?
Remember that in GAD there is an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. Now, what CBD does is to promote balance between the two. And how CBD does this is fascinating since it activates not only your cells’ endocannabinoid system but other biological systems as well.
Think of these biological systems as a sort of lock-and-key mechanism. Each cell has receptors (lock) which are activated by chemicals (key). When these receptors are activated, they produce several physiological responses such as mood and appetite control, memory and fear learning and retention, emotional and stress responses, sleep, pleasure, pain control, temperature regulation, as well as motor and sensory control. They also play a part in controlling inflammation.
These biological systems are basically involved in all bodily functions, regulating our cells’ responses to the chemicals that activate them. Now, the endocannabinoid system’s main function is to promote and maintain that balance.
Our body produces its own cannabinoids called the endocannabinoids. They are the major neurotransmitters that activate the endocannabinoid system to produce its calming and soothing effects. One of the effects of CBD is to prevent the reabsorption of an endocannabinoid called anandamide back into the cell. With more anandamide activating the endocannabinoid system, stress and anxiety are reduced.
CBD, while it can activate the endocannabinoid system, also activates other receptors responsible for regulating stress and anxiety. For example, CBD activates the serotonin receptor, a receptor that modulates stress response and helps calm you down. CBD also activates the adenosine receptor, another receptor responsible for regulating stress response. Activating these receptors also prevents the release of excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine (the “feel good” neurotransmitter) and glutamate. At high levels, these neurotransmitters can increase anxiety and stress.
Finally, CBD can also boost the levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitters the brain by preventing their reabsorption. This gives them time to counteract the effects of the excitatory neurotransmitters.
Is CBD safe for me?
CBD is not psychoactive, so it won’t produce the “high” typically associated with cannabis use. CBD also has a relatively good safety profile. This means that it’s nontoxic to your liver and kidneys and doesn’t negatively affect your heart, lung, and digestive functions.
There may be some side effects to CBD use, but these are usually short-lived and well-tolerated by the patients.
Are there studies that showed CBD’s effectiveness on generalized anxiety disorders?
There have been several studies done on CBD and anxiety.
One notable study worth mentioning included 12 individuals with no anxiety problems and 24 individuals with generalized social anxiety disorder. Half of those with GSAD were given CBD and the other half received placebo an hour prior to their simulation public speaking test. Those who received CBD reported significant improvement in their anxiety and discomfort prior to the test, while the placebo group reported increased stress and anxiety. The study even revealed that the CBD group had a stress response almost similar to that of the healthy control group.
As for anecdotal stories, CBD was able to help a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder control his anxiety symptoms. Ben Nichols has tried several medications to treat his PTSD and anxiety, but these were unsuccessful. It was only when he tried medical cannabis that he found some relief from his symptoms.
More studies are needed, of course, but these showed that CBD can be an effective treatment for GAD. If you want to try CBD for your anxiety, be sure to consult with your physician first.