Fifteen Million Americans Have Social Anxiety. Can CBD Help?

By Harris Wheless
Tiago Bandeira, Unsplash

Anxiety is a common mental health issue that many people experience. It’s estimated that 40 million adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder, making it by far the most common mental illness in the country. About 18% of the population suffers from these disorders, which commonly go hand in hand with depression and have varying degrees of success when it comes to conventional treatments.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is one of the most common anxiety disorders in the U.S. It affects 6.8% of the country’s population, which amounts to 15 million adults. It is equally common among men and women and usually begins around the age of 13. For those who are concerned about the effects of prescription medication or have found it ineffective, CBD may offer the relief you’re looking for without the risk.

What is CBD?

CBD is an alternative treatment that people have found to be useful in alleviating all kinds of symptoms—from chronic pain and inflammation to sleep-deprivation and stress. It’s also a potential remedy for anxiety disorders. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in cannabis that can offer some therapeutic benefits. However, it’s good to keep in mind that the FDA has not evaluated CBD products, nor has it approved them to prevent, cure, or treat anxiety.

In the United States, most CBD is extracted from hemp, which differs from marijuana in that it has less than the legal limit of 0.3% THC. If you’re concerned with marijuana’s psychoactive effects (which some people find to be anxiety-inducing) CBD oil has far too little THC to bring about any effects that would constitute a high.

The CBD market is populated with a lot of different brands and sellers, some of which are trustworthy, while others are not. The lack of regulation means that you as a consumer should be especially careful when shopping. Be sure to do your research on a brand, pay attention to the contents of the product, and check to see that the company is taking the proper safety precautions.

What is anxiety?

Although Social Anxiety Disorder is the second most common anxiety disorder in the U.S., it is one of many. Along with SAD, those that are most frequently diagnosed include:

  • Specific Phobias—These are strong irrational fears in the presence of a specific object, place, or situation. A person might feel unreasonably afraid of bridges, elevators, driving, or a certain kind of animal in such a way that overpowers them.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)—This disorder is typified by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with this disorder find it difficult to control worry, which may last for days and can be brought on by several things at once.
  • Panic Disorder—People with this disorder experience sudden panic attacks and are often in constant fear of the next attack.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)—This disorder is characterized by obsessions, which are intrusive and unwanted thoughts, and compulsions, or behaviors the person feels compelled to perform. Although people with this disorder are often aware that their thoughts and actions are not rational, they feel a strong need to act on them.

Social Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed in people who feel shyness to such a degree that they have an excessive and unreasonable fear of certain social or performance situations. They may go to great lengths—interrupting their daily routines, work obligations, or social lives—to avoid being placed in these situations. Physical symptoms of SAD may include rapid heart rate, nausea, and sweating, all of which could lead to a panic attack.

Because the symptoms of SAD are usually first felt in adolescence, many millenials and Gen Zers may currently be struggling with how to treat the disorder. About 9% of adolescents in the U.S. are currently being affected. Research has shown that when taken by subjects who were placed in an anxiety-inducing setting, cannabidiol reduced feelings of stress and anxiety. So, if you’re someone suffering from social anxiety, CBD may be able to offer some help.

How can CBD reduce social anxiety?

Studies performed on the ways CBD affects people who are experiencing anxiety show that the compound can have health benefits that include lowering blood pressure, reducing heart rate, and inducing a sense of calm. CBD also has limited side effects and is available in a number of different forms, so you can take your pick.

Here are a few additional things you should know if you’re considering using CBD for social anxiety.

CBD products will have varying application methods, so you’ll have to consider which one is best suited for your condition. In order of how fast they offer relief, the application methods available are as follows: vape, CBD oil, then edibles or capsules. Inhalation via vapor can give you almost instantaneous relief, and it’s also easy to take, so it may be a good option if you’re feeling anxious at a particular moment.

However, if you struggle with anxiety on a daily basis, a consistent daily dose of something with longer lasting effects may bring more effective relief. For this, you might want to try CBD oil or an ingestible product like capsules or gummies. While CBD oil is taken sublingually and will take effect in under 20 minutes, edibles might take longer to work—but also last longer.

You should also consider dosage. The concentration, or amount in milligrams of CBD on the label will help you calculate the serving size. With dosage, it’s best to work your way up incrementally until you find a sweet spot.

Regardless of what application method or dosage you use, be sure to consult your doctor if you’re taking any existing medication, or just to get a professional opinion on how it will affect your anxiety.

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