CBD for Anxiety and Depression: What You Need to Know

by Jane Meggitt

People turn to CBD for relief from various ailments, and anxiety and depression are among the top contenders. Research is still ongoing, but users claim CBD does decrease their symptoms. While there are many prescription medications for these disorders, side effects are common and many prefer natural therapies to those produced by the pharmaceutical industry.

Serotonin Levels and CBD

Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine, is a neurotransmitter found in the body that’s linked to mood regulation, sleep, libido and social behavior. It’s often referred to as “the happiness hormone.” The most-prescribed class of antidepressants is known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which work by increasing active levels of this substance. SSRIs include such well-known brands as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

According to a Brazilian study published in a 2014 issue of the journal CNS & Neurological Disorder Drug Targets, researchers found that CBD exhibited antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects in animal models. CBD was found to directly affect the 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptor, promoting an antidepressant and anti-anxiety effect. The anti-anxiety medication buspirone, marketed under the trade name Buspar, had a similar effect.

Social Anxiety Disorder and CBD

Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is among the most common types of anxiety, and it’s a rare person who hasn’t experienced social anxiety at some time. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) describes the condition as “intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.” When social anxiety seriously affects a person’s quality of life, CBD can help.

A study published in the January, 2011 issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology used functional neuroimaging of the brains of patients diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. During the first imaging session, participants were given either a placebo or 400 mg of CBD. For the second session, subjects who previously received the placebo were given CBD and vice versa. The imaging revealed blood flow changes to the brain in regions associated with anxiety.

The study found that, relative to placebo, CBD was “associated with significantly decreased subjective anxiety.” The study concludes that “CBD reduces anxiety in social anxiety disorder,” and the reduction is related to CBD’s effects on activity in the limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain. The limbic system of the brain deals with memories, emotion and stimulation.

Types of Anxiety CBD May Help

Anxiety and depression are not one-size-fits-all. There are many forms of anxiety and depression, with social anxiety being just one example. Other types of anxiety that CBD may help include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

People suffering from extreme forms of these disorders should seek medical attention. For those with milder cases, CBD may help. While numerous studies show that CBD proves promising in these areas, there is not much information to date on whether CBD offers long-term improvements in these various types of anxiety. Expect more studies to address these issues in the near future.

Using CBD for Anxiety and Depression

While CBD can help sufferers combat anxiety and depression, there is no firm rule regarding dosage or frequency of use. Obtaining a reliable, consistent brand of CBD is critical. While some users may experiment with dosages and frequency to determine their own results–and CBD oil is a relatively safe substance–it is best to consult a doctor rather than just self-medicate. If your doctor is unfamiliar with CBD and its effects, ask for recommendations. More physicians are investigating CBD and its uses, as patients increasingly find it to be a promising alternative to standard medications.

Jane Meggitt’s work has appeared in dozens of publications, including USA Today, The Alternative Daily, nj.com, The Houston Chronicle and The Nest. She is a graduate of New York University.