Being a woman in today’s world is exciting – standing on the shoulders and reaping the rewards of the fearless women that came before us. Never before have we had so many freedoms, choices and opportunities.
But for many of us this come at a price. Having to juggle careers, family life, our relationship with our partner and all the other daily stressors can leave us feeling like we are continually being tested… merely surviving instead of thriving.
With all the day-to-day demands made on us, it is no small wonder that women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that the prevalence of any anxiety disorder was almost twice as high in women (23.4%) than in men (14.3%).
HOW ANXIETY BECOMES CHRONIC
When facing a stressful situation, we enter into a “fight-or-flight” state in which our bodies are flooded with stress hormones. Their job is to orchestrate physiological changes designed to prepare our bodies to either fight the threat, or run away from it.
This was a great survival mechanisms during our evolution, where the threat of bears and snakes were real. Helping us to make better choices, motivate us to action and helping our species survive.
But, we’re not living on the African savannas any more, having swopped tropical jungles for urban ones. And when this stress response is activated over a long period of time, persistent feelings of anxiety rapidly switches to a chronic state of anxiety and potentially leading to a diagnosable anxiety disorder.
How Anxiety Affects Health & Wellbeing
When we are in a constant state of stress and anxiety, our bodies are chronically flooded with high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenalin and norepinephrine. These wreak havoc on the body’s biochemical and physiological systems and can result in a cascade of different health problems, such as:
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Endocrine and immune system issues
- Weight gain
- Headaches and muscular tension
Most importantly however is that chronic anxiety can also cause an endocannabinoid imbalance in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) – a system which scientist believe is one of the major contributing factors in keeping our bodies balanced and healthy.
When we compare the long-term effects of chronic anxiety with those systems in which endocannabinoids and the ECS play a major role in regulating, the overlap is astounding. And this might just be the reason why CBD can be so effective reducing the symptoms of anxiety and helping us cope.
CBD FOR ANXIETY
If you are one of those women for whom feelings of anxiety and impending doom has become part of daily life, CBD can be a natural, relatively side-effect free and effective alternative to the usual cocktail of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tranquilizers that are usually prescribed.
A growing body of scientific data is supporting the anecdotal evidence from many women who swear by using CBD for helping them deal with their symptoms of anxiety. Several human clinical trials are now underway, with a good amount of evidence from animal research showing that CBD can be useful for conditions such as:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
How CBD Works for Anxiety
Scientists believe that the reason why CBD has such effective anti-anxiety effects is because of a couple of different reasons.
CBD Balances Endocannabinoids
Firstly, as mentioned before, stress and anxiety can cause an endocannabinoid imbalance. CBD can help to regulate the ECS and balance endocannabinoid levels in the body.
When we are anxious and stressed out, our body reduces anandamide, often referred to as the “bliss molecule” because of the role it plays in making us feel happy. When levels of anandamide are low, we experience feeling of agitation, anxiety and stress. At the same time our bodies increase the level of 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), another endocannabinoid which activates memory to help us remember to avoid this danger in the future.
When anxiety becomes chronic, the body starts to adapt to the fact that it cannot escape the situation and the high levels of 2-AG ends up overstimulating the CB1 receptors in the brain. In turn, the brain compensates by decreasing its CB1 receptors. And when our brains have fewer of these receptors, the brain has difficulty maintaining emotional balance, leaving us feeling like we’re all over the place.
CBD has been shown to not only act to support CB1 receptor activity – kickstarting our brain’s ability to regulate our emotions, but it also increases anandamide levels, helping us feel happier.
CBD Increases Serotonin Levels
One of the major neurochemicals involved in regulating our mood is serotonin. When we don’t have enough or too much of this neurotransmitter, our emotions end up being all over the place.
Usually prescription drugs called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft are prescribed to help reduce feelings of anxiety. As the name suggests, SSRI’s work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain which makes for an increase in its availability. This in turn allows it to bind to the serotonin receptors, helping the brain to send out more of the serotonin signals which help to boost mood and reduce anxiety.
Researchers found that CBD boosts serotonin signaling in the same way as SSRI’s do. Not only that, but the results show that CBD may even affect serotonin levels faster than SSRI’s do!
CBD Interacts With Our Neurobiology
Another way in which CBD can help with anxiety is because of the way that it interacts with parts of our brain called the limbic system which is implicated in mood and emotional processing.
When we are stimulated by something in our environment, the limbic system responds by increasing arousal and attention to that stimulus. However, when we are under stress, we end up being in a chronic state of arousal, causing this system goes into overdrive and making us feel anxious.
CBD seems to have the ability to directly affect the functional activity of the limbic and paralimbic brain areas. Using single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) imaging which measures blood flow in different regions of the brain, scientist found that CBD reduced activity in the areas responsible for arousal and anxiety, while increasing activity the area that helps us regulate our emotions.
CBD Helps With Hippocampal Neurogenesis:
As we discussed earlier, the limbic system plays and important role in helping our brains regulate our mood. One particularly important key player in this system is the hippocampus.
Scientists have scanned the brains of people suffering from anxiety and found that they tend to have a significantly smaller hippocampus – and the smaller the hippocampus, the more severe their symptoms are and the duration of their anxiety is longer.
This is why scientists are now starting to target treatments which help with the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus – a process called neurogenesis. And interestingly, just like SSRI’s, CBD has also shown potential for helping hippocampal neurogenesis, leading scientist to believe that this is yet another mechanisms by which CBD helps treat anxiety disorders.
HOW TO USE CBD FOR ANXIETY
If you are considering supplementing with CBD to help you deal with your anxiety symptoms, it is important to understand that CBD is not a cure-all. CBD works best as part of a comprehensive and wholistic anxiety treatment plan.
Similarly, look for a high-quality CBD product which has been third-party tested for purity and strength to ensure that you are getting an effective and safe product.
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult with a physician if you have a serious medical condition or use prescription medications. A doctor’s advice should always be sought before before embarking on any new treatment.