What is anxiety?
Anxiety and nervousness are a normal, sometimes even healthy, part of life. You might feel anxious before giving a speech, confronting a problem at work, or making a major decision. But for people who live with anxiety disorders, those anxious feelings can interfere with and impede their daily routines. They experience anxiety that is constant, fearing and worrying about things that most people wouldn’t think about twice.
Every aspect of their lives is affected. People suffering from anxiety often experience insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Some people endure panic attacks, periods of sudden and intense fear that are characterized by an accelerated heartbeat, trembling, shortness of breath, and feeling out of control. Anxiety can also lead to a number of other mental health issues, including depression, ADHD, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Types of anxiety disorders
There are a number of anxiety-related disorders. People with generalized anxiety disorder feel excessively anxious about a number of things, including work, social interactions, and other daily routines.
- Social anxiety disorder leads to a fear of social interactions and feeling embarrassed or inadequate about the way you are perceived by others.
- Separation anxiety causes people to excessively fear losing someone they love.
- Specific phobias are also a form of anxiety – while many people have a fear of spiders, heights, or public speaking, phobia-related anxiety disorders can turn a healthy sense of caution into a paralyzing nightmare.
More than 40 million adults in the US live with anxiety-related disorders – making the drugs that treat these disorders a huge market for pharmaceutical companies. Anti-depressants like Zoloft and Prozac are often prescribed, along with tranquilizers like Valium and Xanax. However, these treatments come with their fair share of risk. Some patients don’t respond favorably to the drugs, and the tranquilizers especially carry high potential for addiction and abuse. That’s why researchers started looking into how cannabis can be used to treat these all-too-common disorders.
Medical cannabis for anxiety
While both CBD and THC based treatments have proven therapeutic for people suffering from anxiety, most physicians lean towards recommending using high-CBD, low-THC products to their anxiety patients. Studies have shown that CBD can decrease anxiety by boosting serotonin levels. in the brain, working in a similar way to most common anti-depressants. Animal studies have shown that CBD may even help regenerate neurons in the region of the brain that controls memory and cognitive function.
The relaxing properties of high-THC products can also help reduce symptoms, but the psychoactive effects of THC can actually increase anxiety in some patients.
As with any cannabis-based treatment, every patient’s response will be different. It takes time and practice to find the right products to treat your condition, but with careful guidance and physician supervision, many anxiety patients will find that cannabis can be an incredibly helpful alternative to pharmaceuticals.