CBD Oil and Generalised Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) - Does CBD Help?

can cbd help anxiety

An Intro to Generalised Social Anxiety Disorder

Generalised Social Anxiety Disorder, often referred to as SAD, is the 3rd largest mental health problem in the world today affecting approximately 7% of the population at any given point according to epidemiological data [1]. The defining feature of SAD is an intense fear or anxiety of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected in social and performance situations [2]. For people suffering with SAD, a fear of speaking in public is said to be one of the cardinal manifestations [3].

SAD is associated with the impairment of social adjustments to daily life, increased disability, dysfunction and a loss of productivity [4] [5]. Furthermore, generalised social anxiety follows a long-term and incessant course, and is rarely resolved without treatment [6] [7].

Despite the guidelines and consensus statements issued by bodies such as the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the pharmacological treatment of SAD remains problematic. Only around 30% of people ever achieve true recovery without remission or residual symptoms, leading them to search for alternative treatments, such as cannabis [8].

Cannabis and Anxiety

People suffering with anxiety orders such as SAD are more likely to use cannabis than those without such disorders, in an attempt to ‘self-medicate’ [9]. Interestingly, the relationship between cannabis and anxiety is a double-edged sword. Many cannabis users state a reduction of anxiety as one of the primary motivations for use. On the other hand, intense anxiety and panic are some of the most commonly reported undesirable effects of cannabis use [10]. Such conflicting statements arise because THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the most famous compound found within cannabis, is anxiolytic (decreases anxiety) in low doses and anxiogenic (causes anxiety) in high doses [11].

Conversely, CBD (cannabidiol), another major constituent of the cannabis plant, has displayed substantially different psychological effects to those of THC [12]. When administered orally, CBD has been shown to reduce, or ‘block’ the anxiety causing effects of THC [13]. The aforementioned studies, plus other studies in the area have led researchers, doctors and patients to wonder, could CBD be a potential treatment for anxiety disorders such as SAD?

CBD and Generalised Social Anxiety Order

In 2011, researchers at the University of Sao Paulo set out to compare the effects of a simulated public speaking test on healthy control patients vs SAD patients who received a single oral dose of CBD. The SAD patients selected for the study had received no prior treatment for their condition, neither pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy. Simulated public speaking tests are considered a valid way to test for and predict generalised social anxiety, as the fear of speaking in public is a fundamental component of the disorder.

A total of 24 participants with SAD were selected alongside 12 healthy controls. The participants with SAD were split into 2 groups of 12 – one group to receive CBD prior to the simulated public speaking test and one to receive a placebo.

After allowing the participants 15 minutes to get used to the lab environment, baseline measurements were taken followed by a single dose of CBD or placebo. Following ingestion, participants were given the instructions regarding the public speaking test. Each participant had 2 minutes to prepare a 4 minute speech about ‘the public transportation system of your city’. Furthermore, participants were told that their speech would be recorded and analysed by a psychologist. Measurements were taken before participants started speaking, during the middle of the test and at several points after the test had concluded.

The results of the test showed that participants with SAD who were pre-treated with CBD displayed significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance. The measurements taken from participants diagnosed with SAD, but pre-treated with CBD, were similar to those taken from the healthy control group. [14]

The results indicate that a single dose of CBD can reduce the anxiety experienced by people with generalised social anxiety disorder when undertaking anxiety-inducing tasks, such as public speaking.

Which CBD Oil to Use For Anxiety

When it comes to using CBD oil for anxiety, technically any type of CBD can be used, be it a full spectrum CBD product or a CBD isolate. Furthermore, various ingestion methods are available and should be chosen based on personal preference. However, studies showing improvements in anxiety using CBD typically use relatively large doses. Regardless of whether you choose to inhale or ingest your CBD, we recommend using a higher strength product, such as a 15% CBD Oil.

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