CBD for Anxiety and Stress

by | Dec 14, 2020 | Anxiety | 0 comments

What is Anxiety & Stress

Experiencing stress is a common part of our lives. The modern world is fast-paced and full of stressful situations. Often, there’s no time to catch a break and relax for a while. And with all the burdens of modern life bombarding us from every corner, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. As for the stress itself, the feeling is usually temporary, caused by a specific situation. 

Once that situation is resolved, the stress will dissipate, and life can get back to normal. However, when a person feels a sense of constant dread and uncertainty, they are experiencing something called chronic anxiety, which is a serious mental disorder.

As stated by the ADAA (Anxiety & Depression Association of America), approximately 40 million US adults suffer from anxiety 1. This makes anxiety the most prevalent mental illness in the USA

Now, when it comes to symptoms common to anxiety, we can include fear, apprehension, excessive nervousness, and worry. These, however, can lead to even further complications, such as mental anguish, insomnia, social isolation, and even depression. Anxiety can also cause physical health issues. For example, people with anxiety often experience headaches, a pounding heart, stomachache, fatigue, muscle aches, or difficulty breathing.

Generally speaking, anxiety can affect every system of your body. Below is a quick breakdown of how stress and anxiety impact our bodies:

Central Nervous System

Every time you experience stress or anxiety, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which are two of the so-called stress hormones. In essence, our brains do that to alert our nervous system, which will then trigger our natural response to a potential threat. 

Normally, or when experiencing short-term stress, these hormones can provide significant help, sharpening our senses and enhancing decision-making. However, if a person suffers from chronic stress, these hormones can result in headaches and dizziness. They may even lead to depression and weight gain.

Circulatory System

As covered, stressful situations put our bodies into a natural emergency mode. With the adrenaline pumping and nerves increasing, so does the heart rate. Once the situation is resolved, our nerves relax, and our heartbeat returns to its normal rhythm. 

However, if a person has chronic anxiety, they experience an increased heart rate for an extended time, which can often lead to chest pain and heart palpitations. This can have even further negative repercussions, such as high blood pressure. In some cases, chronic stress can even lead to severe heart disease.

Digestive System

We all experience a nervous stomach before big stressful events. We treat it as something natural. And while it shouldn’t lead to anything serious when dealing with short-term stress, people with chronic anxiety can experience constant stomach aches, loss of appetite, nausea, and diarrhea. What’s more, although there’s still more research required, anxiety disorders can cause the development of IBS – irritable bowel syndrome 2.

Immune System

As covered, our body enters the emergency mode when dealing with stress. We experience an adrenaline rush, increasing our heart rate and breathing. This provides the brain with more oxygen for it to respond to the stressful situation we’re dealing with. Again, in normal circumstances, everything goes back to normal once the concern passes. That’s not the case for people with chronic anxiety.

In their situation, the brain doesn’t get the signal that the ‘threat’ has passed. Because of that, the body stays in an emergency at all times. This can weaken immunity, making a person more exposed to illness and viral infections.

Respiratory System

In stressful situations, we often experience shallow and rapid breaths. Again, this is our body’s natural response to stress, as it tries to provide the brain with more oxygen. People with anxiety, however, deal with increased breathing rates chronically. This can lead to drastic changes in breathing patterns or even lead to severe respiratory conditions, such as COPD (obstructive pulmonary disease). Anxiety can also cause more serious issues if a person has asthma.

CBD and ECS

Cannabidiol, CBD for short, can be found within the Cannabis sativa plant. It is one of the more than 80 cannabinoids found in marijuana and hemp plants and one of the best-researched and popular. Studies have found CBD’s potential therapeutic benefits for a number of different conditions and ailments. From assistance in controlling epilepsy 3 to helping with pain 4 and inflammation 5, researchers are uncovering new possibilities all the time. While CBD research is relatively new, the results are encouraging for many who have tried other treatments without success. 

What makes this compound so powerful? To uncover this, we need to take a closer look at the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

In essence, the ECS system controls the homeostasis of the body. Within the ECS system, the body can sense internal disturbances and correct them. It works using three core elements – endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes:

  • Endocannabinoids are one of the natural human body’s chemical compounds. Interestingly, they are similar to cannabinoids found in cannabis. And since these two are similar on the molecular level, cannabinoids easily attach to endocannabinoids receptors.
  • Receptors work as an intermediary between endocannabinoids or cannabinoids and the body. They are found on the surface of the body cells, and by attaching to them, the two compounds can provide help to the ECS in maintaining homeostasis. 
  • Enzymes come into play once the receptors and endocannabinoids have achieved a satisfactory level of stabilization within the system, correcting the flux in homeostasis. The enzymes attach themselves to endocannabinoids, breaking them down. 

Now, what makes CBD such a powerful aid, is the previously mentioned similarity to the endocannabinoid. Because of that, CBD can interact with the human body in a unique way. For instance, by attaching itself to the ECS receptors, CBD can dampen or block some signals they are sending. In some cases, it can even work as a barrier between the receptors and enzymes, protecting the attached endocannabinoid in the process. 

In the next section, we’ll discuss how this affects anxiety and stress.

How CBD can help with stress and anxiety

As discussed, the Endocannabinoid System is responsible for controlling homeostasis within the body. This includes regulating stress levels. And since CBD and ECS interact with each other so easily, they can work together to help with anxiety disorders. More research is required to determine how exactly CBD can help here, though. 

As for the current studies, some have shown that CBD can alter serotonin signals, in particular the ECS receptor that plays the most significant role in dealing with anxiety 6. Does it mean CBD can positively impact anxious behaviors? Many researchers believe so 7. However, as mentioned, more studies are needed. 

Lastly, some studies show that CBD may play a pivotal role in neural regeneration 8. In essence, chronic stress and anxiety can damage the neurons and brain. In such a case, the body needs to form new neurons and make new connections. According to several studies, CBD helps boost this process, stimulating the growth of new neurons, which results in reduced anxiety levels.

Below is a more detailed explanation of how CBD can help tackle anxiety.

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

General Anxiety Disorder, GAD for short, refers to excessive and chronic worry. People with GAD worry about a vast variety of issues, starting from everyday problems like finances and ending at more significant and severe concerns, such as crises or natural disasters. That chronic worry makes people with GAD struggle with controlling their fears, which results in an endless cycle of chronic anxiety.

How can CBD help tackle this issue? Well, a recent study found that CBD successfully reduced stress in rats. As discovered, they showed lower behavioral signs of anxiety after CBD. They also helped reduce other signs of stress, including increased heart rate 9.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder, also referred to as social phobia, causes people to feel a constant fear of being evaluated and judged in social life. They’re concerned about how others may perceive them, worrying that they may be seen as boring or awkward. This leads to them finding themselves isolated and alone.

As observed in the 2011 study, CBD proved to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress levels in people with social phobia. Cannabidiol helped them act more relaxed in social situations, with fewer of their typical anxious feelings 10.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

When a person has experienced traumatic events, it is not uncommon for them to have anxiety and worry, especially when there is an occurrence that triggers memories of the original event. PTSD can be a debilitating condition, often causing years of depression and anxiety. 

PTSD is yet another anxiety issue that CBD has proven to be beneficial for. Various studies have shown that CBD can reduce the frequency of nightmares and traumatic memories, helping calm the mind and reduce anxiety levels 11. Thanks to its calming properties, CBD can also help people with insomnia 12, which is a common disorder for those suffering from PTSD.

Panic Disorder (PD)

Panic Disorder (PD) refers to a condition in which people can experience severe and spontaneous panic attacks. As a result, they become more anxious about such attacks occurring in the future, leading to chronic anxiety. Although researchers are not yet unanimous on whether CBD can help with PD, studies conducted on mice have shown that cannabidiol can reduce panic attacks and stress levels. And while it’s not yet certain if CBD can have similar effects on people with PD, there’s a possibility that it can be used to tackle this issue in humans 13.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder, better known under the acronym OCD, refers to a condition where people’s lives are marked by intrusive compulsions and obsessions that can cause stress and anxiety. These can refer to a variety of behaviors, such as performing everything in the given order or obsessive concerns regarding symmetry or hygiene. 

According to one research, CBD can help keep such behaviors at bay. Using mice for the study, it was found that test subjects were less likely to compulsively bury marbles after administering CBD 14.

Types of CBD

People can ingest CBD in numerous ways, which is one of the reasons why it has become so popular recently. The common types of CBD include:

  • Tinctures: Also called CBD oil, tinctures are presented in a dropper bottle, and dosage usually comes in the form of a designated number of drops on or under the tongue. CBD oil does have a distinct taste and texture that some may find unappealing.
  • Edibles: If someone wants to add CBD to their daily routine, edibles provide the best opportunity for that. Edibles come in various products, e.g., gummies, and they can taste like many commonly consumed foods, such as candy. 
  • Smokables: A more traditional approach to getting CBD into the system is by smoking it. It’s also one of the easiest and quickest ways to ingest CBD. The options here are also diverse, as you can smoke numerous CBD products, including hemp sticks, raw flower buds, and pre-rolls.
  • Concentrates: As pure and potent CBD products, using concentrated CBD is the best option for those who want to make their own edibles or experiment with CBD in the kitchen.

Choosing between different types of CBD

Choosing the best type of CBD will vary depending on a person’s needs and preferences. However, with the growing popularity and availability of CBD products, the range of options continues to grow, meaning that it’s incredibly straightforward to test several different products and see what works best for each individual.

And if you have any questions regarding various CBD products, don’t hesitate to ask CBD retailers and manufacturers for help. Most of them will be more than happy to assist you with any potential issue regarding their products. Keep in mind that when it comes to using CBD products to help with anxiety, it’s vital to ask as many questions as possible. Still, considering the number of options available, you shouldn’t find it difficult to find just the right CBD product for your needs and lifestyle.