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What Happened When I Tried CBD for My Anxiety

Is CBD the magic potion it’s cracked up to be? See what happened when one woman stopped her prescription anxiety meds and tried CBD oil instead.

Photos: Kristina Strasunske / Getty Images

I was born with ants in my pants-it’s very difficult for me to calm my brain. And when my brain isn’t calm, my body isn’t calm. It’s something I’ve experienced my whole life, but it didn’t become an issue until I grew up.

The more I added to my life (work, social life, romantic relationships, family responsibilities)-plus the addition of a smartphone-the more my anxiety became a constant struggle. (Here’s how to know if you have an anxiety disorder.) It wasn’t in social situations, it was just because of everyday life. Everything was piling on, and I’d become so overwhelmed and feel so uncomfortable, it was like I always had knots in my stomach. I carried a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders, so I always had headaches. I would get massages at the gym and they’d ask when I’d last gotten a massage because I had so many knots-when I had just gotten one two days ago. I would grind my teeth at night, which gave me even more headaches. It was too much, and I couldn’t find relief.

For a long time, I tried to manage it holistically. I take really good care of myself: I eat clean, I exercise, I drink a ton of water, I don’t smoke or drink, I meditate, and I do yoga. I was doing absolutely everything to keep my brain and body calm and to relax. But I still felt overstimulated all the time. (Related: Try This Guided Meditation for Anxiety)

The Prescription Fix

I went to the doctor, and they were quick to suggest a remedy: prescription anxiety medicine. I opted in and noticed the effects almost immediately. (Literally, 15 to 20 minutes later.) The feeling of being overwhelmed and uncomfortable went away. I felt a little bit tired too (which I didn’t love), but I liked the results otherwise and it seemed worth it.

With this anxiety medication, you take it as needed. But I found that the more I took, the more I needed it. I found myself burning through a 30-day supply pretty quickly and having to call my doctor to get my prescription upped. I was very aware that I wanted and needed more to feel comfortable.

I never had issues sleeping before. But soon, I found that if I didn’t pop a pill before bed, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. At that point, I realized I was becoming very dependent on it.

After two years, I talked to my doctor and decided to come off of the prescription meds. As I did, I found that my anxiety was worse than before. Ten times worse. The doctors suggested things like meditation and taking a bath-nothing particularly helpful. All my symptoms were back, and I was willing to try anything. I did acupuncture. I hadn’t eaten much processed or added sugar in about 10 years, but I decided to cut it out completely, in case it was the cause of my chronic headaches. I even stopped caffeine. I would peruse the wellness department at the natural food stores and I tried everything-melatonin, valerian root, kava-to no avail.

I kept hearing about all the benefits of CBD (including for anxiety), but I dismissed it for a while. It sounded questionable, expensive, and too good to be true, like modern-day snake oil. I was reluctant because I had also tried all the other holistic remedies I’d heard of, and it all seemed fruitless. (Related: How One Woman Used Alternative Medicine to Overcome Her Opioid Dependency)

I was feeling more overwhelmed than ever and had no leads on a fix. This was my rock bottom.

Trying CBD for Anxiety

So I decided to try CBD for my anxiety. After all, what did I have to lose?

I started taking a tincture every day, without expecting any results. At about the seven- to 10-day mark, I realized that it was helping. It wasn’t a huge aha moment, because I was used to prescription drugs that hit me instantly with a really harsh effect. This was more subtle: I realized that I felt much calmer, relaxed, and just

all-around. All the tension that I’d had in my neck and shoulders felt like it had melted away. People were actually commenting on how relaxed I seemed. I had thought that feeling anxious and stressed was inevitable when you’re a busy person and a mom and you have a job and you sit in traffic and you spend too much time on devices. But it wasn’t normal. Once I started taking CBD, and once I started feeling good, I realized what I had been feeling wasn’t normal at all. CBD changed my life, and I was obsessed. (BTW, CBD doesn’t get you high. Here’s the difference between CBD, THC, hemp, cannabis, and more.)

After using CBD for about a year and a half-and being obsessed with it for just about as long-I decided to go work for a CBD company. Eventually, my passion for the product (and how it changed my life) inspired me to start a CBD company of my own: The H. Hemp Company.

Without being a total cliché, I’m feeling the way I always wanted to feel. And now I get the chance to help other people feel that way too-no prescription required. (Want to give it a try yourself? Read up on how to buy the safest and most effective CBD oil products.)

Read what happened when one woman stopped taking prescription anxiety medicine and tried CBD oil for anxiety instead.

Using CBD Oil for Treating Anxiety

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman’s World, and Natural Health.

Arno Kroner, DAOM, LAc, is a board-certified acupuncturist, as well as an herbalist and integrative medicine doctor. He operates a private practice in Santa Monica, California.

In recent years, cannabidiol (CBD) oil has become a widely favored remedy for anxiety. While some individuals take CBD oil to soothe their everyday worries, others use it to treat more serious conditions like generalized anxiety disorder.

A container of cbd oil on a table

A compound found in the marijuana plant, cannabidiol has increased in availability as marijuana use is legalized in more and more states across the country. A growing number of companies have begun selling supplements, salves, and other products made with CBD oil, typically touting these items as natural remedies for issues like anxiety and pain.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC, another compound found in marijuana), cannabidiol doesn’t produce a “high” when consumed.

Anxiety Disorders That CBD May Help Treat

The most common mental illness in the U.S., anxiety disorders affects more than 18 percent of the population each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Although anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two, many people opt to forgo these standard approaches and self-treat with products like CBD oil.

According to a survey published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2018, almost 62 percent of cannabidiol users reported that they used CBD to treat a medical condition, with the top three conditions being pain, anxiety, and depression.  

Due to a lack of research, scientists aren’t sure how CBD oil might help treat issues like anxiety. Some research suggests that in addition to impacting the endocannabinoid system, cannabidiol may influence receptors involved in the modulation of serotonin (a chemical messenger thought to play a role in anxiety regulation).

Research

So far, most of the evidence for CBD’s effects on anxiety comes from animal studies and laboratory experiments.

For a report published in the journal Neurotherapeutics in 2015, scientists analyzed this preliminary research and found that CBD oil shows promise in the acute treatment of conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Social Anxiety Study

While there’s currently a lack of large-scale clinical trials testing the use of CBD oil in the treatment of anxiety, a small study published in Neuropsychopharmacology in 2011 determined that CBD may help alleviate social anxiety.  

For this study, 24 people with social anxiety disorder received either 600 milligrams (mg) of CBD or a placebo an hour and a half before performing a simulated public speaking test. Additionally, 12 other people with social anxiety disorder performed the same test without receiving any CBD treatment.

Results revealed that pre-treatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort while participants were delivering their speech.

Dose-Response Study

The anxiety-reducing effect of CBD may follow a bell-shaped dose-response curve, suggests a study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.   After administering different dosages of CBD before a public speaking test, researchers found that subjective anxiety measures were lowered with the 300 mg CBD dose, but not with the 100 or 900 mg CBD dosages.

Paranoid Trait Study

Another study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2018, tested the effects of cannabidiol in people with high paranoid traits and found that cannabidiol had no impact on anxiety, cortisol levels, heart rate, systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading), and persecutory ideation.  

Anxiety in Healthy Participants Study

Cannabidiol did not reduce responses to negative emotional stimuli or reduce anxiety in healthy participants, according to a study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2017.   Researchers tested participants’ responses to negative images or words and threatening emotional faces and sensitivity to social rejection after taking oral cannabidiol.

Safety

Using CBD oil may cause a number of side effects, including anxiety. Some research indicates that CBD oil may also trigger the following side effects:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Cannabidiol has been found to slightly increase heart rate at a dose of 900 mg. In addition, there’s some evidence that the use of CBD oil may lead to increased levels of liver enzymes (a marker of liver damage).

CBD oil may also interact with several medications, including benzodiazepines, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, and some types of anti-epileptic drugs. If you are on any of these types of medications, consult your doctor before using CBD oil.

A research review found that in the treatment of certain types of refractory epilepsy, participants used lower dosages when using a CBD-rich extract compared to purified CBD products, and found adverse effects were less frequent in those using CBD-rich extracts.  

Labeling Inaccuracy

It should also be noted that, because CBD oil is mostly unregulated, products may be incorrectly labeled. To that end, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 found that nearly 70 percent of all CBD products sold online are mislabeled and that a number of products contain a significant amount of THC.  

Since THC can aggravate anxiety and make your heart beat faster than normal, it’s possible that using CBD oil that contains THC might make your anxiety worse.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re experiencing symptoms like frequent restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue, lack of control over feelings of worry, and sleep problems, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. By working with a mental health professional, you can find the anxiety treatment plan that’s right for you.

Because letting an anxiety disorder go untreated can deplete your quality of life and lead to physical health problems (such as digestive conditions), it’s crucial to consult a doctor rather than self-treating. If you’re thinking of using CBD oil to help manage your anxiety (and it is legal where you live), make sure to talk with your doctor about whether it’s right for you.

Discover how CBD oil is touted as an all-natural way to find relief for people suffering from anxiety.