Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – commonly abbreviated to “OCD” – is a common mental health condition that falls into the bracket of anxiety disorders. While the term “OCD” in general usage has become synonymous with a compulsive neat-freak personality, the disorder is actually a severely damaging mental illness.
While there are certain medications available pharmaceutically for OCD, the illness is notoriously difficult to treat. It is often managed with antidepressants- medications not designed for the illness itself. Given the anxiety and distress that OCD causes the sufferer, exploring the potential for cannabinoids to provide relief from the condition is a breathtaking possibility.
How OCD Works
Put simply, OCD is a pattern of obsessive thoughts and behaviours. The behaviour – most commonly known as a compulsion – is performed to alleviate the distress of the intrusive thought. For example, a stereotypical OCD symptom is excessive hand washing. The intrusive thought in this instance will be similar to: “I have germs that could make me unwell on my hands”.
The compulsion then follows; in this case, washing their hands. The sufferer can help reassure themselves the intrusive thought is inaccurate by performing the compulsion. The issue occurs when the intrusive thought is not satisfied by a single washing of hands; it demands another, and another, and another. This is why many OCD sufferers will wash their hands until they crack and bleed; it’s all an effort to calm the intrusive thought.
Why do they want to calm it? The intrusive thought is inherently distressing. It causes major spikes in anxiety, which the sufferer will do anything – by way of the compulsions – to release.
Where Cannabinoids Enter The Equation
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds secreted by the marijuana and hemp plants. While the marijuana plant is better known in popular culture, it contains high levels of a compound called Tetrahydrocannabinol (abbreviated to THC). This is the element of the marijuana plant that is synonymous with the ‘high’ experienced by those who smoke cannabis recreationally.
When discussing the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids, it is more useful to focus on hemp cannabinoids. Unlike its cousin from the marijuana plant, hemp contains far more of a compound called Cannabidiol (abbreviated to CBD). It’s this compound that is particularly useful for the treatment of anxiety conditions like OCD.
The Difference Between THC and CBD
THC is responsible for the ‘high’ feeling that conventional marijuana smokers talk of. Marijuana contains 5-10% THC. Conversely, hemp cannabinoids contain only around 0.8-1.5%. THC can be beneficial, but it’s also psychoactive, meaning it can cause nausea and make the sufferer feel anxious. The exact opposite is true of CBD, which has a myriad of scientific evidence behind it to support its therapeutic, anti-anxiety effects. For the treatment of mental health and chronic pain conditions, CBD wins the day every single time.
How CBD Can Help OCD
The benefit that CBD can offer to OCD sufferers is found in the aftermath of the intrusive thought. As previously discussed, when an OCD sufferer has an intrusive thought, they feel compelled to carry out an action to ease how anxious that thought makes them feel. It’s at this point CBD would be particularly effective, helping to soothe the panic of the intrusive thought and potentially being able to prevent the need to carry out the compulsion.
This is particularly vital for OCD sufferers, because compulsions can be seriously damaging. This can be in a physical sense – such as sores from washing your hands too much – but also in a mental sense. Compulsions actually strengthen the intrusive thoughts rather than weakening them. This effectively means the OCD sufferer is caught in a loop: more intrusive thoughts beget more compulsions, which beget more intrusive thoughts, and so the cycle continues.
Being able to interrupt this loop with the use of CBD could prove to be genuinely groundbreaking for OCD sufferers. There have also been studies in lab conditions which have shown an almost immediate ceasing of OCD behaviours when CBD is introduced. At present, this is just in rat models, but the future is bright for research in this area.
The use of CBD is not about OCD sufferers wanting to ‘get high’, as there is relatively little THC in hemp cannabinoids. Instead, the CBD found in hemp could play a crucial role in interrupting the damaging cycle of obsessive compulsive thoughts. This is a life-changing development in and of itself, but made all the more powerful by the fact moderate-to-severe OCD can be persistently resistant to conventional medicines.
Maximum Lifestyles researched and published a popular article about CBD and its many uses and we recommend you check it out here.