At one point or another, each of us will experience some form of anxiety. It might happen while we’re fretting over a big presentation, gearing up for a job interview or – like so many right now – struggling with self-isolation. For those who suffer from chronic anxiety, that racing heart and rush of worried thoughts are all too familiar, and it’s understandable that the current climate could be making matters worse.
But what can be done about it? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, Dr. Balu, a private psychiatrist at Emotional Wellness Clinic, works with patients to discover individualised treatment plans. Here, Dr. Balu shares how some of his patients work with CBD for anxiety and are finding ways to ease negative emotions while social distancing...
What’s the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
It’s important to know the difference between stress and anxiety, because this will affect the way you approach treatment – should you decide that you want to seek medical advice. “Stress is the usual response to a perceived threat,” says Dr. Balu. “There are instances where stress can be useful, [such as] when you want to take action or you want to get away from something that could be damaging.” However, he explains that chronic anxiety is “when there’s no threat and your mind just goes into overdrive, overthinking, [then] it becomes a disorder.” He adds that, while many use the words ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ interchangeably, stress isn’t typically treated with medicines, while an anxiety disorder “needs to be managed and treated.”
How Might CBD Help Anxiety and Depression?
First, Dr. Balu points out that “the CBD we talk about is what we call the non-psychoactive kind,” which you can read all about in our ‘What is CBD?’ guide. “*What that means is that it’s not like THC, [which improves] your sense of excitement – it is more about giving you a sense of calm.” *
So, how might that work? “Our brain has so many receptors, and the CBD works with these receptors,” which is something you can read more about in our complete guide to the endocannabinoid system. Put simply, the human body has at least two known cannabinoid receptors: CB1, which is largely present in the brain, and CB2, which is in the peripheral nervous system - both recognised for their ability to regulate fear and anxiety behaviours(1). Phytocannabinoids, like CBD, can bind to these receptors and send messages, which may have a therapeutic, anxiety-calming effect. And, because enzymes in the body can’t easily metabolise these phytocannabinoids, it’s believed molecules such as CBD might have a longer-lasting effect.
What's the Research on CBD and Anxiety?
In recent years, increasing numbers of preclinical trials and scientific publications have been looking into the impact of CBD on anxiety, sleep and depression.
A 2015 Review(1) looked into the evidence from current pre-clinical, clinical and epidemiological studies around the benefits of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders. Overall, it found that current evidence supported CBD's effectivness as a treament solution for reducing anxiety behaviours, including PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD and SAD.
Another study(2) of 72 adult patients was conducted at a psychiatric clinic to document patients' anxiety levels and sleep quality across a one month period when taking CBD. Anxiety levels were shown to decrease within the first month for 79.2% of participants and remained decreased for the entire study duration. Sleep improvements were also documented for 66.7% of patients, although this was noted to fluctuate over time.
Whilst further research is needed in the form of randomised and controlled clinical studies to make definitive conclusions, both studies show inital promise for the usage of CBD as a safe treatment option for a variety of anxiety-related disorders.
What Type of CBD is Best to Take For Anxiety?
One of the most common ways of consuming CBD is with an oil, like the Cannaray CBD Oral Drops. The dropper is marked with measurements, making it easy to figure out how much you’re taking, and all you need to do is squeeze a little sublingually (underneath your tongue) and let it sit for 90 seconds. “I would recommend people take one dropper – so 1ml of 50mg of CBD once a day – to start with,” says Dr. Balu. “Then you can slowly increase it up to three droppers.”
There’s also a lot to be said for the knot-releasing, stress-reducing power of a massage, and while you can’t get to a spa right now, there’s nothing stopping you from massaging achy muscles at home. Try it with a little Cannaray Muscle Balm on the tips of fingers, then apply firm pressure to the shoulders, the ‘webbing’ between the thumb and forefinger, and the hollow just above the intersection of your big toe and second toe. It’s perfect for a nighttime wind-down.
3 More Ways to Calm Anxiety in Stressful Times
Between the flurry of COVID-19 news headlines and quarantine cabin fever, you might be finding anxiety is more persistent than ever before. Dr. Balu recommends introducing new habits that keep your brain and body occupied. Here are three of his top tips…
1. Think of it as ‘physical isolation’. “I’ve been telling my patients that, although the governments around the world are talking about social isolation, we’d like to think of it more as physical isolation to keep the spread of the virus at bay,” he says, adding that we can still “come together socially and feel connected.” Try apps like FaceTime, which allow us to talk and share our fears, instead of internalising them.
2. Try to keep moving. “Obviously, you can’t go for a long run or play football,” says Dr. Balu. “But you can still move. Dance is good, listening to music… things like that are definitely going to be very useful.” Look to social media, where you can find endless on-the-spot cardio and toning workouts, including live-streamed sessions that let you interact with the instructors. Our favourites include Chill Yoga and Slow Flow, live from Fly Ldn’s Instagram, or for some endorphin-flowing cardio, the boxing-inspired HIIT workouts on Rumble’s Stories.
3. Focus on the good news. While it’s important to understand and process the realities of the current situation, Dr. Balu points out that a lot of news stories will be causing an increase in panic rates. “There is a lot of hope in stories of bravery, people getting together, nature getting better, so there will be positivity in the news [too]. It’s having that balance that’s important.”