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CBD for anxiety: Let’s explain.

19/10/2021 6 MIN. READ Mirko Berger
19/10/2021 6 MIN. READ Mirko Berger

Fear is a feeling that unites us. All people — and most animals, too — can feel the sensation of both anxiety and fear. So every now and again, it’s only natural that everyone experiences it. That’s kind of reassuring, right?

It only becomes a problem when it limits our way of living. But by looking at the inner workings of fear and anxiety, we can better understand it and how to deal with it. In addition, nature might be able to help, as there are already indications that taking CBD for anxiety could result in positive effects.

Anxiety: A blessing or a curse?

Imagine that you were no longer afraid of just about anything. Sounds tempting at first — but it’s actually considered to be a rare genetic defect, and it comes with a lot of problems.

For one thing, you’d probably never experience the euphotic adrenaline rush that can often accompany fear and anxiety. Like the exciting rush when you go bungee jumping or, perhaps a bit more common, the butterflies before your first kiss — and the fireworks during and afterward.

Another important reason is that fear is simply necessary for survival. Without it, you wouldn't feel compelled to lock your door when you left your apartment. You wouldn't look left and right before crossing the street. And you probably wouldn’t have any qualms about grabbing a dangerously hot pan … and severely burn your hand in the process. 

So maybe fear wasn’t a superfluous evolutionary trait after all. At least it seems to be more useful than our appendix or body hair in rather unappealing regions.

How does anxiety develop?

The almond-shaped area in our brain called the amygdala plays a crucial role in the development of fear and anxiety. It can evaluate a situation within milliseconds based on sensory stimuli that you and your body receive. If the amygdala perceives the situation threatening, your brain prepares itself for the (supposed) dangerous situation and you go into the so-called ‘fight or flight’ mode.

That’s when the following two things happen: First, your body activates the functions that could be important for your protection and possible defense. Among other things, your pupils dilate and you ‘prick up’ your ears to presumably take in more of your surroundings. Your heart also beats faster, your muscles tense and your breathing rate increases to prepare you for action.

Second, bodily functions that are not absolutely necessary at that moment are temporarily put on pause, like your digestion process or sex drive.

As alluded to earlier, these sensations were more practical way back when maybe a saber-toothed tiger was standing in front of our prehistoric ancestor’s cave. But these reactions are rather extreme when we get an email from our boss or when we have to speak in public.

Fortunately, scientists are constantly researching for new, better ways for us to deal with our fear and anxiety. One of the realms that’s being explored relates to cannabinoids. These components are found not only in the cannabis plant but are also produced naturally within our bodies and regulated through the our body’s endocannabinoid system..

There are a number of recent studies that suggest that the endocannabinoid system is involved in how our body processes emotions such as fear and anxiety. Perhaps it plays a role in sorting out the various stimuli in the amygdala, and plant-based CBD might be able to work with our body’s existing system to help us with anxiety.

When is it an anxiety disorder?

It’s ironic how those heart palpitations and sweaty hands tend to creep up on us exactly at the most inconvenient moments, like before an exam, interview or a hot date. 

Such a reaction is quite normal to a certain extent when it comes to challenging situations. After all, feeling worried shows that the situation actually means something to you and it might also help make you feel more focussed. Facing your fear, in the best scenario, could result in a great deal of satisfaction and help you grow from the experience. 

However, should the anxiety become unusually intense and/or persistent or be based in unreasonable beliefs about the situation or ourselves, that’s when it might be considered an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are typically divided into the following classifications:

  • panic disorder
  • phobias, such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
  • generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

If you fall into one of these categories, you are by no means alone: ​​It is assumed that around 3.8% of the world's population suffer from an anxiety disorder.

CBD oil for anxiety disorders?

In a 2011 study, participants with social anxiety disorder were asked to take a public speaking test in front of an audience. One group received CBD beforehand, while the control group received a placebo.

As compared to the control group, the group that received CBD reported feeling significantly lower levels of anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in speaking.

In 2018, a similar study suggested that the exact dosage of CBD might play a key role in anxiety. As opposed to the previous study, these other participants had not been diagnosed with any pre-existing anxiety disorders. 

These results could hint at a possible connection between taking 300 mg of CBD and a significantly lower self-reported levels of anxiety. As with the placebo, there was no significant change among those participants who took 150 or 600 mg of CBD. This implies that mapping out a graph of CBD effectiveness and dosing might look like a bell-shaped curve. Other studies also indicate that CBD could have a positive effect on anxiety disorders.

Panic attacks – and ‘the fear of fear itself’

Panic attacks are a common type of anxiety disorder. Should they become repetitive, they might develop into what is known as anticipatory anxiety in which one experiences fear just thinking about a future event or situation and, as a result, tries to avoid situations in which they fear they might get a panic attack. (It's a bit like what American president FDR referred to when he said ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’.)

So even between panic attacks, people often experience anxiety, tension, restlessness and irritability.

Unfortunately, the effects of CBD in this particular context have not been yet adequately researched. However, based on the studies on anxiety, perhaps it could have a positive effect on general restlessness.

So there’s no need to worry?

  • First of all, fear is not our enemy — it helps us survive.
  • Our body’s endocannabinoid system might be involved in how we process fear and anxiety.
  • CBD is a plant-based cannabinoid that might play a role.
  • Initial studies suggest positive effects with CBD, yet the over effects of CBD need further research.
  • If you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, you should definitely speak to a medical professional.

FAQs 

What helps reduce anxiety?


If you start to feel anxious, take a break from whatever you were doing. Do something to take your mind off of what’s currently in front of you. Even a few minutes outside to stretch your feet or a brief conversation with a loved one might help.

If you start to feel heart palpitations or sweating, let your body embrace the feeling and try not to resist it. Put one hand on your stomach and do a short breathing exercise. Note how the breath feels like a wave coming over you — and notice how it passes again and again.

Initial studies suggest that CBD could have a positive effect on anxiety.

How quickly does CBD work? 

The speed at which your body processes CBD depends on how it’s administered. CBD that’s been administered through a vape pen, CBD tablets or as oil under the tongue can affect the body within 15 minutes and the effects can last for XXXXX.

When CBD is used topically in a cream or orally such as in a capsule, it can take 1-2 hours for the effects to set in and they can last for up to 4-6 hours.

Before you purchase CBD products, it’s important to consider what you’re hoping to achieve and how quickly and long-lasting you’d like the effects to be. You might also enjoy making CBD a part of your regular routine to add a basic level of relaxation to your daily life.

CBD dosage: How much is appropriate for anxiety?


Dosage depends entirely on how you use the CBD and how CBD affects your particular body. Everything you need to know about using different cannabis products can be found in our guide.

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