CBD In the Treatment of Anxiety
Anxiety is a general term that is often used to describe all kinds of worrisome thoughts or feelings of unease. However, the reality is that there is more than one type of anxiety and each exhibits different symptoms.
Types of Anxiety
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are five major types of anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness in typical social situations, such as interacting with store clerks or talking to people at a party.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by frequent panic attacks and intense fear. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, crying, hyperventilation, increased heart rate, or dizziness.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by involuntary, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is caused by traumatic experiences. Exposure to violence, physical harm, or other traumatic experiences can lead to the development of PTSD. PTSD is very common in rape victims, military veterans, and people from abusive situations.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that produces excessive worrying and tension without any apparent reason.
How Many People Suffer From Anxiety in the US
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 40 million adults in the United States (18.1% of the population) suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental illness nationwide. Although anxiety disorders can be easily treated, only 37% of patients receive treatment.
People who suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder are up to five times more likely to consult a doctor and up to six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders.
Facts and Statistics By Type of Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A total of 6.8 million adults (3.1% of the US population) are affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Only 43% of them are receiving treatment. Women are twice as likely to be affected than men.
A total of 6 million adults (2.7% of the US population) are affected by Panic Disorder. Women are two times more likely to be affected than men.
Social Anxiety Disorder
A total of 15 million adults (6.8% of the US population) are affected by Social Anxiety Disorder. According to ADAA, almost 40% of the people have been experiencing symptoms for many years before seeking professional help. This type of anxiety disorder appears equally among males and females.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
A total of 2.2 million adults (1% of the US population) are affected by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 33% of them first experienced symptoms in childhood, while OCD appears equally among men and women.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A total of 7.7 million adults (3.5% of the US population) are affected by PTSD. This disorder is formed by a traumatic experience and happens twice as often in women.
Causes of Anxiety
According to the Medical News Today Journal, there are many factors that may trigger anxiety disorders: environmental, medical, or even genetic predisposition. Sometimes imbalances in brain chemistry in combination with the stress of everyday life can lead to anxiety disorders.
Anxiety caused by environmental and external factors
External factors can play a big part in the development of several types of anxiety. Some of those factors are:
- Stress at work or school
- Strain in a personal relationship
- A painful breakup
- Financial stress
- Other Disorders/Diseases
Anxiety caused by medical factors
Sometimes anxiety is triggered by medical factors such as heart conditions or asthma attacks. Medically-related causes of anxiety include:
- Stress caused by an illness
- Stress caused by medication side effects
- Stress caused by a lack of oxygen caused by a medical condition
Anxiety caused by substance abuse
According to Medical News Today, almost half of patients who seek treatment for General Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder are associated with alcohol or prescription drug abuse. Cocaine or amphetamines are known culprits, while anxiety attacks can occur as a withdrawal symptom from illicit or prescription drugs like Vicodin or barbiturates.
Anxiety caused by genetics
A family history of anxiety increases the probability of one person developing some form of disorder in the future.
Anxiety caused by brain chemistry
Sometimes, abnormal levels of neurotransmitters in the brain increases the likelihood of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Failure of neurotransmitters can cause a communication breakdown in the brain, leading it to react in unpredictable ways.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Symptoms of anxiety disorders include a variety of psychological and physical manifestations that can also be attributed to other medical conditions. This can create confusion for the patient, further aggravating their anxiety disorder.
Symptoms associated with anxiety disorders are:
- Bowel irritation
- Headache and back pain
- Increased heart rate
- Numbness and tingling in the fingers
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of focus
- Mood swings
- Sleep disorders
How is Anxiety Diagnosed
Anxiety disorders are usually identified by licensed professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists etc.) that will study all the necessary information from the patient’s medical and personal history. A physical examination is also conducted.
An individual is diagnosed with anxiety disorder if their fears and worry start to impede their judgment and ability to function normally in everyday situation. People who are diagnosed with anxiety disorders usually exhibit chronic fatigue, mood swings, muscle pains, insomnia, and loss of focus.
Small variations on the symptoms lead to the diagnosis of different disorders. For example, if the source of worrying is public embarrassment, the patient is diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. If the anxiety is closely associated with a very traumatic experience, the patient is diagnosed with PTSD, and so on.
Anxiety disorder often goes hand in hand with clinical depression. Most of the time, patients are diagnosed with both conditions.
How Harmful Is Anxiety
Normal levels of anxiety are not immediately harmful. However, people with diagnosed anxiety disorders can exhibit symptoms that can seriously affect their everyday life. For example, insomnia could relate to underperformance at work or school or excessive worrying only serves to perpetuate the problem.
How Is Anxiety Treated
People who suffer from anxiety disorders respond well to treatment. Standard methods of treating anxiety are through psychological counseling or medication.
This method includes many subcategories like cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, or a combination of therapies.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
This therapy aims to alter the patient’s negative thinking patterns through a two-step process: a cognitive part, that limits worrisome thinking and a behavioral part, that changes the way in which people react to emotional triggers.
Psychotherapy is one of the most usual types of counseling treatments for anxiety disorders. It is a long but highly effective process that involves lengthy and deep discussions with a trained mental health professional. The goal of these sessions is to explore the roots of anxiety and find out ways to alleviate the symptoms.
Drugs like antidepressants, benzodiazepines, tricyclics, and beta-blockers are often prescribed to patients in order to limit negative effects of anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines have been excessively used by doctors in the past, but their use is now limited due to their highly addictive properties. According to Medical News Today (MNT), common benzodiazepines include:
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
How Does CBD Help Treat Anxiety
CBD research has only recently started to get the attention of the medical community, therefore the exact way in which CBD works to relieve or reduce anxiety has not yet been completely identified. Scientists believe that CBD can increase the levels of serotonin in the body, which are usually very low in people with anxiety. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that triggers the production of serotonin in the body, inducing relaxation and feelings of safety.
Research in lab mice has shown that CBD administration can prevent anxiogenic effects by increasing anandamide levels through the CB1 cannabinoid receptor. Additional preclinical evidence demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders, including PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD, and SAD.
CBD is known to interact with certain cannabinoid receptors in the brain, however, the exact mechanisms are not yet clear. Human experimental findings agree with the preclinical findings, emphasizing the need for the potential use of CBD in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Studies involving CBD in the treatment of anxiety
- The anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system
- Is there a role for cannabidiol in psychiatry?
- Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
- The Endocannabinoid System and Anxiety
- CBD regulation of emotion and emotional memory processing: relevance for treating anxiety-related and substance abuse disorders
Additional sources of information
- Dept. of Human Health Services
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Project CBD: Anxiety
- Leafly: CBD For Treating Anxiety
- Medical News Today: Can CBD oil help anxiety? What you need to know
- Healthline: CBD for Anxiety
- Action 12 News: CBD Oil Helps to Reduce Stress, Anxiety, and Pain
- PROHBDT: How Cannabis Affects Anxiety and Paranoia
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