From social anxiety disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder, an extraordinary 31.1% of all adult Americans will suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. That adds up to approximately 40 million people in America alone, making anxiety disorders the most common mental illness in the country. On a global scale, a report released by the World Health Organization in 2017 suggests that almost 264 million people are living with anxiety worldwide.
Fortunately for these people, anxiety is highly treatable with the right therapies. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what anxiety is and how natural remedies can help alleviate the symptoms of these debilitating disorders.
What is Anxiety?
Let’s begin with a closer look at what anxiety is. Often used as a blanket term for any feelings of unease, anxiety is sometimes minimized in modern culture. Saying, “I feel anxious” is synonymous with saying, “I feel worried” in today’s vernacular. However, anxiety comes in many shapes and sizes and at varying degrees of intensity. For example, severe agoraphobia falls under the same general umbrella as occasional shy bladder syndrome – both are social anxieties – however, one prevents the sufferer from leaving their home altogether and the other is inconvenient and uncomfortable.
Traditional treatments for anxiety disorders include talk therapy, exposure therapy, and pharmaceutical medications. While pharmaceuticals may offer relief from the most intense symptoms of anxiety, they come with a litany of unpleasant side effects and drug interactions. In an attempt to avoid these side effects, more and more patients and their therapists are seeking natural ways to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Home Remedies That Really Help
Pharmaceutical medications don’t have to be your only line of defense when it comes to battling your anxiety. Simple practices like meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises can all help you manage the symptoms without resorting to chemicals. Resources like Calm.com and YouTube are full of meditation exercises, gentle yoga practices, and other professional guidance to help you develop management techniques you can take with you everywhere you go.
Strategies like these aren’t intended to replace treatment, but they are perfect to pair with your professional therapy, as long as they don’t interfere with your therapist’s advice for you.
People have also been turning to other natural treatments like cannabidiol oil for decades. Unlike THC – the cannabinoid that, in large amounts, can make you feel high – CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive effects. And, thanks to a direct impact on CB1 receptors, CBD can positively impact your serotonin levels, which often play a role in mood disorders.
Why CBD Works
The good news for anxiety sufferers is that there is scientific evidence proving the efficacy of CBD oil in the treatment of anxiety symptoms. While most of the studies currently available are preclinical and based on results from animal studies, the insights they provide are invaluable.
- Serotonin Receptors:
- Many pharmaceutical medications for the treatment of anxiety and depression target the serotonin system in the body. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin, thus increasing the amount of serotonin available. The end result is that brain cells transmit more serotonin signals, reducing anxiety overall.
- CBD behaves in a similar way, without the chemicals. Researchers have found that CBD enhances 5-HT1A, a subtype of the serotonin receptor. In fact, researchers noted that, “The fast onset of antidepressant action of CBD and the simultaneous anti-anxiety effect would solve some of the main limitations of current antidepressant therapies.”
- Hippocampal Neurogenesis:
- The hippocampus is a primary area of your brain, playing a significant role in memory formation and cognition. Research has shown that patients suffering from anxiety disorders or depression often have a smaller hippocampus, while successful treatment of depression is associated with the creation of new neurons in that area.
- Research in mice has determined that, with ongoing use, CBD also has a positive impact on neurogenesis in the hippocampal region of the brain. This suggests that CBD will be useful in treating anxiety and is especially significant, as neuronal plasticity may influence suicidal behavior.
As more and more human studies are conducted and concluded, we’re learning just how effective CBD is at treating anxiety disorder symptoms. For example, researchers in Brazil recently conducted a double-blind study of patients with social anxiety. After consuming CBD, participants reported a decrease in feelings of anxiety, and these subjective reports were validated by brain scans. Additional studies have indicated that CBD reduces performance anxiety for public speakers, with the result of less cognitive impairment and discomfort.
While more research and clinical trials are needed to examine the potential and effects of CBD, the existing evidence strongly suggests that CBD treatments may be poised to play a significant role in the future of anxiety disorder therapies.