Anxiety is a normal emotion that can warn individuals of danger, or help them to focus and concentrate, for instance when preparing for a test or faced with making a significant decision. Unlike usual nervousness or anxiousness, however, anxiety disorders involve excessive worry and fear that are out of proportion to the situation. That ultimately hinders their ability to function normally and lead full, healthy lives. The term describes several conditions including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety disorder.
Who it affects and how it’s diagnosed
Anxiety disorders affect nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults, women more frequently than men. While the precise causes are unknown, research suggests that the condition may arise from a combination of factors, including genetics, environmental stresses, and psychological and developmental levels.
An individual who feels crippled with constant, overwhelming fear and worry is likely to avoid situations that might trigger or worsen their symptoms. When left untreated, they can withdraw and become isolated, which interferes with school, work, and personal relationships.
Diagnosis of anxiety disorder begins with a doctor visit to ensure that no physical issue is causing symptoms. The primary care physician will then refer the patient to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional, who will use diagnostic tests and tools as well as ask questions concerning the length and intensity of symptoms and effect on daily life. Diagnosis allows for the development of a treatment plan, usually consisting of medications as the first course of action, typically coupled with psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy with a mental health expert, also known as talk therapy, is individual counseling that helps the patient to understand and deal with their condition. Psychotherapy teaches individuals to think, react, and behave differently, thereby changing their responses to triggers that cause anxiety or panic.
Powerful psychotropic anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants are the most common course of treatment. However, while prescription drugs play a role in the therapy process, they come with potential risks. Physical side effects may include dizziness, drowsiness, sleep disturbance, and weight gain. Some patients have reported emotional and psychological side effects such as mood swings, emotional numbness, and lack of interest in activities.
Long-term use of antipsychotics may cause permanent damage, possibly leading to Parkinsonism or tardive dyskinesia, a condition that affects the nervous system. Taking the drugs for too long or at an incorrect dosage can prove fatal. There is evidence to show that some psychotropic medications pose a risk to patients by increasing suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Patients should always speak with a qualified health professional to determine whether the potential benefits of any medication are worth the risks, or if an alternative treatment method may be a better option.
Could CBD be the answer?
While marijuana prohibition and the ban on hemp production caused study of the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant to nearly cease, both THC and CBD have been the subject of recent research. CBD is the main non-psychoactive chemical found in cannabis and, unlike THC, has no mind-altering properties.
A 2011 double-blind study compared the effects of CBD on anxiety by inducing the state in healthy individuals and those with generalized social anxiety disorder through the use of a simulation public speaking test. Researchers found that in healthy individuals, CBD use showed no significant difference in data results, and subjects showed no signs of cognitive impairment or discomfort. Among test subjects with an anxiety disorder, pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and distress in their speech performance. Additionally, the study found that CBD reduced the induced anxiety levels in those with anxiety disorders to nearly the same level as healthy people.
A more recent study published in 2016 found that CBD significantly enhanced serotonin and glutamate levels, helping to relieve anxiety symptoms. Researchers concluded that CBD is a natural, fast-acting, and useful antidepressant drug.
While not a for-sure cure, high-quality CBD from a reputable vendor offers an alternative to traditional anxiety treatments without the harmful side effects. Recent research, along with anecdotal evidence, has found CBD effectively treats anxiety symptoms. Thanks to recent changes in policies regarding hemp, research on the benefits of CBD for anxiety disorder will likely continue, providing further evidence of its usefulness as a treatment.
DO NOT PUT IN ARTICLE
Bergamaschi, M M, et al. “Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients.” Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2011.
“Cannabidiol Induces Rapid-Acting Antidepressant-like Effects and Enhances Cortical 5-HT/Glutamate Neurotransmission: Role of 5-HT1A Receptors.” Neuropharmacology, Pergamon, 19 Dec. 2015.
Harvard Health Publishing. “What Are the Real Risks of Antidepressants?” Harvard Health, Mar. 2014.
“What Are Anxiety Disorders?” What Are Anxiety Disorders?, American Psychiatric Association, Jan. 2017.