As society grows increasingly stressed and anxiety-ridden the prevalence of anxiety disorder is also increasing. Patients and doctors are seeking safer alternatives to the usual pharmaceuticals which often have detrimental side effects. Advancements in cannabinoid research are looking into CBD’s effects on anxiety.
Anxiety is a normal an instinctual survival response to stress. However, chronic feelings of anxiety can have disastrous consequences on physical and mental well being.
Anxiety is subjective and patients often find the symptoms hard to describe. For example, one patient may say it feels like suffocating while another experiences it as stomach pain. This makes it difficult for pharma companies to design drugs that can target symptoms of anxiety.
CBD targets specific receptors in the brain and body, producing a range of beneficial biological responses.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is being shown in lab studies to have anti-psychotic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic (pain modulating) effects. And anxiety disorders, depression, inflammation, and pain, may all potentially be treatable with CBD. 
Understanding Anxiety Disorder
Stress and depression are common conditions that coincide with anxiety. Anxiety is not just one disease, but a number of different conditions including:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- General anxiety disorder
Medical professionals find it difficult to pin down the causes of anxiety disorders. And as with many mental health conditions, the root of anxiety is due to not one, but many factors. 
An individual’s risk of developing anxiety depends heavily upon factors such as:
- Brain chemistry
Epigenetic research also suggests that stressful and traumatic life events, diet, and lifestyle can even alter the way that genes are expressed.
Also, it’s important to note that anxiety disorders can induce other health issues such as sleep disorders, , depression and lethargy, and loss of focus, appetite, and libido.
Facts About Anxiety Disorder
- The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 40 million adults are suffering from some type of anxiety disorder.
- An astounding 75% of those experiencing anxiety disorders will never receive treatment. 
- Nearly half of all people treated for depression are also diagnosed with anxiety disorder. 
- Studies show that middle-aged women are twice as likely to take psychiatric medications. 
- 1 in 5 adults has used antipsychotic medications .
- The number of people using anti-anxiety meds, antidepressants, and other antipsychotic medications increased 22% in the ten year period between 2000-2010. 
- Those diagnosed with anxiety disorders are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not have anxiety.
- Teenagers 10-19 years old using anti-anxiety meds increased 50% over the decade. 
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD develops when we retain fear and perception of previous traumas are retained, putting the body and brain into flight-or-flight mode.
Fight-or-flight is a healthy and normal response. And when we experience, witness, or otherwise perceive a traumatic or life-threatening event, the body prepares to either flee from danger or stand and fight by activating certain biochemical stress responses. But, when biochemical potentials aren’t actually used to flee or fight the body and brain can retain vivid memories of trauma. Under certain circumstances, the mind will “replay” these traumatic memories triggering the symptoms of PTSD.
Research Studies on CBD’s Effects on Anxiety Disorder
CBD shows great promise in treating many types of conditions, including anxiety related to stress. And studies show the compound targets receptors in the brain, which are responsible for modulating stress responses, mood, and emotional stability.
In Rio de Janeiro, at the Institute Psychology, a team of researchers in the Laboratory of Panic and Respiration studied CBD’s effects of anxiety and, in particular, its anxiolytic and antidepressant properties. They reviewed studies of animal models using CBD as an anxiolytic and antidepressant type drug.
Their review states, “Studies involving animal models, performing a variety of experiments on [anxiety] … suggest that CBD exhibited anti-anxiety and antidepressant-like effects.” –
Most of the studies demonstrated active binding between CBD and neuro-receptor 5-HT1A, which is essentially a signaling hub for emotional balance.
The British Journal of Pharmacology, in 2009, published findings from a Brazilian study on CBD’s effects on anxiety induced by stress concluding that “CBD can attenuate acute autonomic responses to stress and its delayed emotional consequences by facilitating 5-HT1A receptor-mediated neurotransmission.”
In other words, CBD has the ability to alter our response, to events, thoughts, and emotions that trigger stress and anxiety.
CBD’s Effects On Trama-Related Anxiety Disorder
Research indicates that CBD is a powerful candidate to remedy anxiety disorders related to stress. But what about anxiety from past events like trauma? Could the compound be a candidate for anxiety disorders such as PTSD?
A group of UK and Brazilian researchers teamed up recently to undertake further studies into the effects of Cannabidiol on the brain’s responses to anxiety, fear, and trauma. They published their findings in the 2016 December issue of Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Scientists looked at CBD’s effect on anxiety as it relates to fear retention. The researchers used mice that had been subjected to fear conditioning. They studied their brain’s biochemical responses to stimuli in correlation to past memories. They found that CBD “reduced contextual fear memory expression.” 
Essentially, it seems that CBD changes the way that the memory processes past traumas and fear in relation to the present experience. For this reason, it might potentially be of enormous help to those who suffer from conditions such as PTSD.
CBD In the Treatment of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorder rates are on the rise, but scientists are hopeful that CBD can be a powerful alternative to traditional opioids and benzodiazepine drugs.
Traditional anxiety medications can have adverse side effects such as nausea and vomiting, weight gain, diarrhea, exhaustion, and sexual dysfunction.  Cannabis medicines may provide safe and effective alternatives.
According to Dr. Blessing from the New York School of Medicine, “Overall, preclinical evidence supports systemic CBD as an acute treatment of GAD, SAD, PD, OCD, and PTSD.” 
As each individual will react uniquely to CBD, medical professionals highly recommend consulting with your physician and medical marijuana professional before beginning any treatment regimen which includes CBD.
As cannabis laws and perspectives shift from prohibition to acceptance and regulation, CBD will continue to move into the forefront of alternative medicine.
You may also be interested in our article “CBD Oil for Anxiety.”
- Prevalence of Any Anxiety Disorder Among Adults; National Institute of Mental Health (statistics 2018) https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml
- America’s State of Mind; Medco. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/documents/s19032en/s19032en.pdf
- De Mello Schier AR. 2014; CNS Neurological Disorder Drug Targets. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis Sativa. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24923339
- The science of epigenetics and DNA. Muse Magazine (online 2018) https://www.musemag.com.au/the-science-of-epigenetics/
- Br J Pharmacology; Leonardo BM Resstel 2009; 5-HT receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioral and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2697769/
- Chenchen Song; Front. Pharmacology; December 2016 Bidirectional Effects of Cannabidiol on Contextual Fear Memory Extinction. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2016.00493/full – h1
- Esther M. Blessing; Neurotherapeutics 2015; Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/
- National Institute of Health “Mental Health Medications” https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml
Research Papers on CBD’s Effects on Anxiety
- CBDas an anxiolytic drug
- Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis Sativa
- CBDreduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients
- Neural basis of anxiolytic effects ofCBD in generalized social anxiety disorder
- Central anandamide deficiency predicts stress-induced anxiety: behavioral reversal through endocannabinoid augmentation
- Effects ofCBD on regional cerebral blood flow
- The anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol injected into the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis are mediated by 5-HT1Areceptors
- The anxiolytic effect ofCBD on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system
- Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, part 2
- A systematic review of plant-derived natural compounds for anxiety disorders
- The Endocannabinoid System and Anxiety
- CBDregulation of emotion and emotional memory processing: relevance for treating anxiety-related and substance abuse disorders
- Effect of prior foot shock stress andΔ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiolic acid, and cannabidiol on anxiety-like responding in the light-dark emergence test in rats
- Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report.
- CBDDoes Not Dampen Responses to Emotional Stimuli in Healthy Adults