Going on a first date, making a speech to a broad audience or having a job interview – there are too many stressful situations in everyday life. The good thing is that the circumstances that cause sweaty palms and heart-pounding tend to pass quickly.
However, prolonged family problems or challenges at work may lead to chronic anxiety and require medical care. Besides medicaments, there are more natural ways of therapy, such as CBD consumption.
Nowadays, cannabis is promoted by the media as an alternative to traditional medicines and a natural cure to help prevent or even cure many illnesses. Numerous studies prove that CBD may be helpful with everything from anxiety and bad sleep, to Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain management. Let’s discuss how CBD can be helpful in coping with mental health problems.
How cannabinoids interact with your body?
There are two types of cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids come from the cannabis plant, while endocannabinoids are made within the body.
Cannabinoids help to keep the homeostasis of the physiological functions such as sleep, mood, appetite, or immune functions. For example, if your body lacks water, it will send thirst signals, or if you’re stressed, it will help regulate the heart rate.
The body keeps the balance with the help of our endocannabinoid system, a sensitive network of cannabinoid receptors, which are found mainly in nervous and the immune systems. A receptor is a protein molecule on the surface of cells, which can receive chemical signals and help to produce the corresponding cellular or tissue response to the outer changes. Cannabinoid receptors can easily be activated by the endocannabinoids naturally made in the body or external cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC. Therefore, by consuming these plant compounds, you can keep the endocannabinoid system regulated.
Are you anxious or stressed?
Usually, the terms stress and anxiety are used interchangeably. Even though both stress and anxiety share many similar symptoms, they are two different health conditions. It may be a challenge to see the differences between the two. However, you must identify which one you are struggling with and treat it accordingly.
Stress is the body’s reaction in response to a real or alleged threatening situation or discomfort.
Some of the psychological and physiological signs of stress include:
- Upset stomach, including diarrhoea and constipation
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Pain in chest and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Lack of sex drive
- Feeling tired, unmotivated, or unfocused
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Racing thoughts or constant worry
- Memory or concentration problems
Anxiety, on the other hand, is a reaction to stress. It is an emotion accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Excessive worrying
- Feeling nervous, restless, agitated or tense
- A sense of impending danger or doom
- Increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly
- Tense Muscles
- Panic Attacks
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling anxious or fearful of social situations
Various factors that may trigger anxiety disorders:
- Genetic predisposition. The latest studies suggest that such disorders may be partly genetic. A 2016 review demonstrated that social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder, are provoked by specific genes. A 2017 review of studies proved that generalised anxiety disorder could be inherited.
- Environment. Studies suggested that environmental factors could also influence anxiety. Socialising with people at school or work, surrounding and lifestyle may potentially lead to anxiety.
- Traumatic life experiences. The National Institute of Mental Health claims that an individual is more likely to develop an anxiety disorder due to lousy family relationships, abuse in childhood, neglect, and poverty.
- Smoking, alcohol and drugs use. Consumption of various medications and drugs, including alcohol, caffeine, and benzodiazepines, may play a role in anxiety development.
- Health conditions. Some physical conditions such as thyroid disorders may be linked to anxiety.
- Stress. Chronic stress trains the brain to feel anxious, so you can anticipate and avoid more stress and tension in the future. However, it can make you more resilient or more vulnerable to potential mental distress.
Unfortunately, anxiety may develop into further more damaging forms:
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is excessive worrying for no logical reason. Such a condition is considered a GAD if it lasts more than six months. In a mild case, it allows you to manage everyday activities and doesn’t affect your performance. On the contrary, more severe GAD can significantly change your lifestyle.
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD) implies a paralysing fear of social situations, the worry of being judged or humiliated by other people. Those who experience social anxiety disorder often feel alone and embarrassed.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Traumatic experiences such as natural disasters, military action or physical attack can lead to PTSD. The impact is usually immediate and may last for years.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People suffering from OCD may experience intrusive and unwanted thoughts that become a real obsession. Common compulsions are hand washing, counting of things, or checking if a door is locked.
- Phobia is a persistent urge to avoid a frightening object or situation. These can include the fear of enclosed places (claustrophobia), fear of heights (Acrophobia), fear of the dark (Achluophobia), and many others.
- Panic disorder leads to panic attacks, spontaneous feelings of anxiety, or fear. Physical symptoms may occur anytime and include heart palpitations, pain in the chest, and shortness of breath.
How does anxiety affect your body?
Small bursts of stress hormones make the body to prepare for “fight or flight”. Unfortunately, human bodies weren’t designed to manage a constant state of panic. High levels of chronic stress hormones, especially cortisol, may wreak havoc everywhere. Here are the main effects that anxiety may cause to the body:
- The central nervous system (CNS)
Regular panic attacks make your brain release stress hormones and lead to persistent headaches, lightheadedness, and depression. The brain releases adrenaline and cortisol in the nervous system, helping the body to respond accordingly to the threat. Prolonged exposure may negatively affect the body. For example, a high level of cortisol may cause weight gain over time.
- Cardiovascular system
Anxiety may cause heart palpitations, chest pain, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases. For those who already suffer from heart disorders, anxiety raises the chance of coronary events.
- Digestive systems
Anxiety can cause digestive disorders, such as stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhoea. Anxiety disorders may also lead to loss of appetite.
- Immune system
Constant feelings of anxiety and stress, and high levels of chemicals and hormones, such as adrenaline, weaken the immune system. This increases the risk of viral diseases and illnesses. Moreover, regular vaccines may not provide the desired result in this case.
- Respiratory system
Rapid breathing, caused by anxiety disorders, may worsen respiratory functions for people with asthma. Furthermore, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may also suffer from anxiety complications.
- Muscle tension
- Weight gain
- Social isolation
Once you’ve determined which disorder you have, if not both, it is time to start the treatment. CBD may be helpful for both stress and anxiety. However, some anxiety disorders require additional medications or therapy.
How may CBD alleviate stress?
Regular stress can be harmful for social life, mental and physical health. In this case, CBD products such as oil or tincture act as a natural way to lower the daily stress that stops you from living your best life.
If you experience chronic stress, the hypothalamus becomes less sensitive to cortisol, the main stress hormone. It means that you need more cortisol to obtain the same response. Lowered sensitivity causes us to remain stressed for a long time. CBD may increase the hypothalamus’ ability to sense cortisol and prevent stress from lasting for too long.
Stress causes an increase in blood sugar and metabolic activity, which in turn causes a buildup of free radical products and oxidative damage. CBD products such as oil are high in antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals and protects the body from damaging influence.
Animal and human studies indicate that cannabidiol has anxiolytic properties. A study conducted in 2010 showed that CBD can help reduce anxiety in people with social anxiety disorder, or SAD. It was found that CBD could affect limbic and paralimbic brain areas, help to minimise current anxiety and change the initial brain reaction to anxiety disorders. Similarly, a 2011 study demonstrated that CBD might significantly reduce anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort induced by public speaking, and significantly increase alertness.
In 2015, the research results suggested that CBD had considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Anxiety and sleep disorders may be the result of posttraumatic stress disorder. The 2016 research with a trial of cannabidiol oil resulted in a decrease in anxiety and an improvement in the quality of the young patient’s sleep.
How does CBD facilitates fighting anxiety?
Due to the different therapeutic properties of cannabidiol, it is difficult to know exactly what body part it may activate. According to the studies, CBD can reduce anxiety by stimulating neural regeneration and neurotransmitter systems.
- CBD can bind to the specific receptor of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is thought to play the most substantial role in anxiety disorders. This bind causes anti-anxiety effects.
- CBD may prevent overstimulation of CB1 receptors and trigger the production of endocannabinoids, which helps to restore balance in the endocannabinoid system. Usually, the body produces cannabinoids on its own. However, the system can become dysregulated under chronic stress. The experiments on rodents show that CBD may relieve Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other anxiety disorders by affecting the endocannabinoid system, which is important for the processing and forgetting the fears.
- CBD may encourage neural regeneration, particularly in the hippocampus. Even though chronic stress can damage neurons and shrink the brain, some areas of the brain are still able to regenerate. CBD may boost the formation of new neurons and, therefore, compensate for the brain damage caused by chronic stress. Its ability to reduce anxiety and help to form new neurons was successfully tested on mice with chronic stress.
Compatibility of CBD and medications
If you choose to take a CBD product, it will work best as part of comprehensive anxiety treatment. The best way is to speak with a trusted medical professional first and discuss your plans, especially if you are currently taking prescription medications. CBD may interfere with your body’s ability to metabolise drugs. A doctor can also help you manage other health issues.