It’s OK to feel stressed sometimes.
Let’s face it, there are days when being positive feels like a chore. Like the depth of winter, when daytime isn’t just short, but it’s cold and grey.
The extended lack of sunlight zaps your energy. The snowy and blustery conditions cut you off from friends. Winter blues, some call them.
But, what if even the start of summer can’t lift your mood? You blow every little problem into a crisis and are never happy!
That’s anxiety disorder territory.
Medication and having people around you to draw strength from helps. But a more effective remedy may have emerged.
This article proposes, as suggests several studies, CBD for anxiety and stress.
We will explain why some in the mental health space are excited about CBD therapy. Before that, let’s unbundle stress and anxiety:
Stress and Anxiety: What are The Differences?
Stress and anxiety are not the same thing.
So, what are the key differences? We will start with stress.
I will quote the Google dictionary, which says;
Stress a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances..
Though never welcome, stress can be positive.
For example, when you worry about a school assignment that you know you shouldn’t keep pushing forward. Stressing over the possible late submission will force you to just get it done in time, and avoid flunking your course.
We will not dwell on this positive kind of stress in this article.
We want to deal with the negative kind of stress. We say ‘negative’ because it can have harmful effects on your mental and physical health.
I will take a moment to expand a bit more on what stress is, and how it differs from anxiety.
Stress is the Body’s Reaction to a Dreaded Circumstance
Put another way, stress is a feeling you experience when you are challenged and overwhelmed.
It is how your mind responds to a particular threat or to the prospect of something you don’t particularly enjoy.
Ask any shy person how they feel standing in front and addressing a room full of people. They will likely mention:
- A fast heart rate
- Sweaty palms and feet
- Difficulty swallowing
But these effects are temporary. Your palms aren’t constantly sweaty, unless there is the prospect of addressing a crowd.
Honestly, though, everyone has their own stress triggers. Yours could be a troublesome boss or a struggling business. And mine, a sick loved one.
All these stress triggers may affect us differently.
Among common symptoms of stress are frequent headaches, irritability, sleep disturbance, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal problems.
Anxiety Disorders are a Long Term Effect of Chronic Stress
Unlike stress, anxiety is a more prolonged mental disorder. The scary part is, once triggered, anxiety is difficult to shake off.
Stress, however, is the leading trigger for anxiety.
What makes anxiety so tough to manage is, even after the trigger has been remedied, you can still feel anxious long afterwards.
If untreated, anxiety disorders will severely impair your occupational stability and social relations. But here is what is problematic about the relationship between stress and anxiety:
The symptoms of the two frequently overlap. One can easily fail to notice what they consider to be stress has now evolved into a full-on anxiety disorder.
In basic terms, if you feel overly anxious and worried more days than you are not for a period exceeding six months, then you may have a case of generalized anxiety disorder.
Sufferers of generalized stress disorder worry about everything, all the time. They are quick to assume the worst in every situation.
Anxiety disorders can come in other forms, too:
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Social Phobia
- Panic Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
In all these, intense fear and constant worry are common symptoms.
Living in this perpetual state of dread, you’ve got to ask if it’s possible to lead a healthy life – socially, mentally, and physically:
Effects of Stress on Physical and Mental Health
It is easy to look at stress from a purely mental health perspective.
In fact, over time, stress from prolonged adversity will start to have a negative effect on your mental health, as this study concluded.
Interestingly, this same study also found a history of moderate stress can be beneficial.
People with some history of adversity in their lives have significantly better mental health than both people with no history of adverse experiences and those with high history of adversity.
So, somewhere between high, prolonged stress and no stress at all is the sweet spot. If it is not excessive and prolonged, stress can actually make you more mentally resilient.
The same study also established that people who have been stressed by a particular adversity before are less affected by it in the event they faced it again in future.
How Does Stress Affect a Person’s Mental and Physical Health?
The effects of stress on the mind and physical body is the work of three stress hormones – epinephrine, cortisol, and norepinephrine.
Note, however, that the function of these stress hormones is not negative by their nature. It is when these hormones are activated too often that they will start to take a toll on your mental and physical health.
While stress initially manifests as a mental problem it can have significant effects on your physical health as well.
Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is a key component of the fight-or-flight response.
Aroused by feelings of fear, epinephrine enables an increase in the flow of blood to the muscles. It also triggers the release of glucose from the body’s energy stores.
This gives you an energy boost that can be the difference between getting bitten by a snake and fleeing in time.
But adrenaline also causes your heart to beat faster than normal, which raises your blood pressure. When this happens too frequently it exposes you to a higher risk of hypertension.
Your Body’s Built-in Alarm System
Cortisol, for its part, is your body’s built-in alarm system. The hormone fuels the same fight-or-flight response we referred to above. But it has other uses, including:
- Regulating how the body uses carbs, fats, and proteins
- Boosting energy so you can handle stress better
- Controlling the sleep-wake cycle
- Keeping inflammation down
As with epinephrine, when overstimulated, cortisol can start to wear down important body organs.
In particular, cortisol can cause the inner lining of blood vessels to not function the normal way. This is an early step in triggering atherosclerosis, which is a disease of the arteries caused by the deposition of cholesterol plaque on their inner walls.
Atherosclerosis itself is the primary cause of heart disease and stroke.
We can point to another negative correlation between the human body’s stress response system and its physical health.
This one is noted through chronic anxiety’s effect on the intestinal nervous system. We normally feel this brain and gut connection through the familiar ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling.
But, behind the scenes, this feeling of nervousness can also cause irritable bowel syndrome and increase your gut sensitivity. Related effects are also felt on the digestive system.
Cortisol can also increase your craving for high-cholesterol foods as a way of replenishing depleted body energy stores. The resulting fat build-up will increase your risk of developing chronic diseases.
Cortisol Can Impede Brain Function
Overproduction of cortisol due to persistent stress is known to decrease electrical signalling in the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory creation.
More seriously, high levels of cortisol can cause cerebral atrophy, which is a loss of brain cells that leads to its shrinkage.
The result is poor concentration, a lowered aptitude for decision making, as well as a diminished ability to create and maintain healthy social relations.
Apart from causing the loss of brain cells, chronic stress also limits the brain’s ability to generate new cells. When this happens, you become more susceptible to depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Looking at the fast paced nature of modern lifestyles, there are potential stressors all around us.
Still, anxiety is a more prevalent mental health disorder than you may think:
Anxiety and Mental Health Disorders Prevalence in Canada
The first step towards beating stress and anxiety is admitting you have a problem and that you need help.
The fact you are here and are reading this is a good sign. And, just so know, you are not alone:
Anxiety rates in Canada and the whole of North America are high. One in five Canadians suffers from anxiety or another mental health disorder in any given year.
As we have said already, different anxiety disorders can interfere with your day-to-day activities and severely degrade your quality of life.
Mental health sufferers are also the most likely to suffer a premature death. Of these deaths, a staggering number (4,000 per year in Canada) are due to suicide.
Perhaps the reason why sufferers end up taking their own lives is the stigma they also suffer. As high as 55% of Canadians say they are unlikely to enter into a spousal relationship with a mental health sufferer.
It is clear that chronic stress is unhealthy and will get you one way or another. Time to take action…
CBD for Anxiety and Stress: How to Take Control of Your Mental Health
Do you live your life feeling like you are riding a runaway train and are seconds away from crashing into the side of a mountain?
If your answer is yes, it is possible yours is no longer just a case of chronic stress. You could now be battling an anxiety disorder.
Research has now established CBD, an active compound in cannabis and hemp plants, to be effective in controlling stress and anxiety.
Before we dig deeper into the CBD therapy option, let’s quickly discuss other treatment options for anxiety.
Alternative Treatment Options for Stress and Anxiety
We are now at a point where anxiety disorders can be properly diagnosed in a clinical environment.
Where we still have big problems, as mental health professionals will agree, is that available anti-anxiety drugs aren’t always the most effective.
Some of these drugs like, Xanax, Valium, and Librium are also dangerously addictive. There are claims some anti anxiety drugs are actually deadlier than opioids.
After diagnosis, besides or with medication, psychotherapy therapy can also be tried.
While it works, it is also accepted that psychological counselling as a way of managing anxiety takes time and great patience.
For the reasons cited against medication and psychotherapy as effective anti-anxiety treatments, people are now experimenting with different herbal remedies.
But there is a critical lack of research proving that these actually work. In some cases, suggested herbal supplements have been condemned as unsafe. Kava, touted as nature’s Xanax, for example, can lead to serious liver damage.
It is no surprise, thus, growing numbers of stress and anxiety sufferers are now giving CBD therapy a try.
But does science support this enthusiasm?
What Available Scientific Evidence Say About CBD’s Efficacy for Treating Anxiety and Stress
If you are considering CBD for anxiety and stress, you will be happy to learn that several studies have proven that the cannabis compound is indeed an effective therapy.
Before reviewing what available research tells us about cannabidiol’s efficacy for treating anxiety and stress, it worth pointing out that there is also plenty of anecdotal evidence from people who have used CBD therapy.
I am happy that I can draw from the experience of someone very close to me. My wife Sarah now swears by her CBD gummies.
She started munching on them on the recommendation of a colleague. They both work high pressure jobs that constantly leave jaded and anxious.
At first I was skeptical, but as she continued chewing on her gummies everyday before bed, I noticed she stopped tossing and turning, slept longer, and woke up feeling more refreshed.
Now there is CBD in everything in her carry-all. Pointless to say, she has managed to convert me, too.
Still on the fence?
Let’s now look at what studies have found:
Cannabidiol Can Reduce Symptoms in Social Anxiety Disorder
You work up a drippy sweat just thinking about what you will say to your crush when you go to get your daily caffeine fix at the coffee shop they work at.
You want to engage in cool, intelligent chit chat when you see them. You actually rehearse your lines. Instead, you’re such a clumsy, nervous wreck every time you get in there your crush is starting to notice.
Could knocking back a couple of CBD capsules in the morning, or substituting your favorite soda with a CBD fortified energy drink during lunch improve your chances at love?
Apparently it could. Findings from a small study revealed that CBD therapy could reduce symptoms in social anxiety disorder (SAD) sufferers.
SAD, or social phobia, sufferers have an intense fear of being watched or evaluated negatively by others. It is more than just shyness.
In this double blind study, SAD sufferers were administered either an oral 400 mg dose of CBD, or a placebo in the first session.
In the second session, the dosages were reversed so that each would be monitored for how they respond to CBD medication. This was meant to eliminate the placebo effect.
The results were conclusive. CBD reduced SAD symptoms in the tested subjects.
CBD Could be Effective in Treating Paediatric Anxiety and PTSD Induced Insomnia
A 2016 study investigated the effectiveness of CBD in treating anxiety and sleep disorders in PTSD sufferers.
The study subject was a 10 year-old girl who had suffered sexual abuse. The girl had also lacked adequate parental care when she was still under the age of five.
When she was first treated with pharmaceutical drugs relief from symptoms was partial and didn’t last long. Even worse, the girl suffered serious side effects.
But when she was medicated with cbd oil, her anxiety decreased, and the quantity and quality of her sleep steadily improved.
There is more more emerging scientific proof supporting the hypothesis that CBD is effective in relieving several mental health disorder symptoms. One in particular showed cannabidiol to have antidepressant properties.
But how does CBD accomplish all this?
CBD Can Boost Serotonin Levels in the Brain
How does that help an anxiety sufferer?
Known as the happy chemical, serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and feelings of well-being. When the hormone levels in the brain deplete, a person is likely to feel stressed and anxious.
Using its ability to act on the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A, CBD can temporarily increase serotonin levels in the brain.
This is the same way Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) work when used to reduce symptoms in anxiety and other mental health disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
The difference between SSRIs and CBD, however, is that these drugs also come with major side effects. A few of these side effects include sexual dysfunction, dry mouths, insomnia, weight gain, and headaches.
What if, in the case of cerebral atrophy, a person has already suffered brain damage due to persistent stress?
CBD Can Help You Grow New Brain Cells
In other words, CBD medication can help reverse brain damage due to chronic stress.
A study done on mice to establish the true nature of CBD’s anxiolytic (anxiety relief) effects produced surprising but important new knowledge.
The study showed anxiety relief due to chronic CBD administration was a factor of its proneurogenic action (cell regeneration) on the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that shrinks when one suffers chronic unpredicted stress.
An actual study on human subjects in a clinical environment will obviously be more useful.
But this new knowledge shows CBD holds great promise. Not just for its ability to suppress anxiety and depression symptoms, but for its potential for neurogenesis.
Ready to give CBD a try?
How to Use CBD for Treating Anxiety and Stress
In all prescribed mental disorder cases, the common advice is always to consult a trained mental health practitioner before experimenting with new treatments.
The good thing is, for cases of mild stress and where doctor’s advice has been sought, CBD is generally safe to self-medicate.
But how do you medicate? What is the recommended dosage for CBD oils, tinctures, pills, and topicals? And are there any cbd side effects you should be aware of?
CBD is safe to use. But being a cannabis constituent, you may worry whether or not it is intoxicating. The answer is CBD, unlike its relative – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), will not get you high.
Side effects may be reported in cases of high dosages. But these are mild when compared to those from anti-anxiety prescription drugs, which can be more severe than the anxiety itself.
High CBD dosage side effects may include drowsiness, nausea, and changes in appetite.
There are Several Ways CBD Can Be Delivered
CBD can be taken in the form of capsules, tinctures, oils, and as an edible. You can also use CBD through creams and salves that can applied directly on the skin.
Of all methods of CBD delivery, it would seem oil drops or tinctures administered under the tongue are the quickest acting and most potent.
This method bypasses the digestive and pulmonary systems, which can dilute the potency of any medicine. The CBD absorbs right into the bloodstream.
The blood vessels’ proximity to the brain also means the CBD does not take long to act.
Note, though, that when CBD is offered in an oil, a proportion of it is in fact only a career oil. You thus need to be careful of your CBD oil sources and make sure the oil has effective CBD levels.
What is the Ideal CBD Dosage for Stress and Anxiety?
This answer to this important question is a moving target. We can’t give a direct, universal answer.
The reason is CBD affects people differently.
Apart from severity of symptoms, how much CBD you need to see relief from anxiety symptoms also depends on such factors as your metabolism,weight, and height.
But generally, you want to start on a low dose and work your way up. Adding one more drop each time, you should get to a dosing size where you start to experience relief.
For people using CBD for anxiety the first time, it may also help to separate your dosage into smaller ones spread throughout the day. This gives your body time to adapt to the medication.
Again, potency levels differ depending on how you take your CBD. CBD capsules and tinctures are generally more potent than CBD fortified gummies and energy drinks.
For CBD capsules, one study found a 600 mg dosage to produce effective relief. But, for the same reasons we have pointed out, this dosage will not work for everyone.
At this point we can state with confidence that it is almost impossible to overdose with CBD for one who uses it sensibly.
To cap, the right dosage when using CBD oil for anxiety is a factor of many variables. But your body will always give the best answers. So, listen to it.
Worry and Stress Less With CBD
We are excited about CBD’s potential as a treatment for anxiety and other mental health disorders.
If you are looking to give it a try, after reading this article you should hopefully be more informed about CBD’s anti-anxiety qualities.
We are still trawling the market to see which CBD products are the best for anxiety and stress. When we are sure, we will be back here with recommendations.
Until then, here is to less stress and anxiety.