CBD for Stress and Anxiety: The Most Common Mental Illness in the World

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 13 people suffer from anxiety globally. Along with depressive disorder (like major depression) and phobias, anxiety disorders are the most common types of mental disorders worldwide.  


In 2017, the WHO estimated that this accounted for over 284 million people worldwide. However, now in 2021, this number is expected to have exponentially increased from then—anxiety skyrocketing from the many crises and social upsets experienced around the world, including the COVID-19 pandemic. 


How to help decrease these numbers worldwide? And how to fight anxiety or anxiety-related issues and symptoms in our day-to-day lives? Studies have shown that CBD can effectively help reduce stress and anxiety levels without the side effects of conventional pharmaceuticals.  

Everything you need to know about stress and anxiety 

Most people experience stress and anxiety at some point in their lives. Stress and anxiety are normal and healthy reactions to emotional events or threats, like when a student feels stressed before a school exam. From an evolutionary perspective, a healthy amount of stress or anxiety is a key survival cue, sending the message to pay attention to a certain event in order to overcome it.  


However, it’s when stress or anxiety manifests in an unhealthy or abnormal amount that it can become problematic and can turn into a permanent or more persistent disorder. In such cases, palpitations, nausea or lack of appetite, excessive sweating, or even panic attacks are symptoms that can appear frequently. Long term, chronic stress or anxiety can trigger depression and affect a persons’ physiological functions, including sleep or sexual health.   

Difference between stress and anxiety 

Stress and anxiety are terms we often hear or use as interchangeable. That said, they are not exactly the same thing. Although stress and anxiety both operate on a spectrum—you can have low or high levels of stress or anxiety—and share many emotional and physical symptoms—tension, headaches, high blood pressure, sleep issues—their origins are different. 


In general, stress is a response to an external cause. The external cause, or stressor, can be financial stress or a fight with a partner, for example, and eventually the stress subsides once the stressor is gone. As such, the best way to address stress is to address the stressor (stress factor). If a person experiences prolonged periods of stress or chronic, recurrent stress, things like physical activity and breathing exercises, or talking to someone, can help manage stress symptoms. 


Compared to stress, anxiety’s origin is internal. Anxiety is the body’s response to stress and characterized by a persistent feeling of fear, worry, or nervousness even in situations that are not threatening in reality. Unlike stress, anxiety persists even after the stressor has passed. Severe cases of anxiety can turn into an anxiety disorder or major depression. Anxiety disorders are classified as:  


  1. Generalized anxiety 
  2. Panic disorder 
  3. Phobias 
  4. Social anxiety 
  5. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)  
  6. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 


People that live with anxiety, or persistent and chronic stress, should consult with their doctor or health professional to ensure their symptoms don’t worsen. 

Effects of CBD 

Overall, CBD (cannabidiol) interacts positively with the brain's receptors, which help alleviate anxiety and stress symptoms. 

Helps regulate serotonin levels 

Serotonin is known as the happy hormone, and is also a neurotransmitter that has an influence on mood and behaviour, including emotions, appetite, digestion, and more. The concentration of serotonin in a person’s body when that person is under stress or suffers from anxiety. This then has a cyclical effect: the more a human is stressed, the less serotonin they produce, and the less serotonin they produce, the more stressed they feel (and so on). 


CBD (cannabidiol) has the ability to activate the brain's serotonin receptors to produce and regulate levels of serotonin in the body, which helps calm nerves. The serotonin receptors CBD interacts with include:  


  1. 5-HT1A: to help relieve pain, reduce anxiety, regulate sleep, restore appetite; 
  2. 5-HT2A: antipsychotic drug action; 
  3. 5-HT3A: nausea relief, mood regulation. 

Helpss stimulates the endocannabinoid system (ECS) 

It is through the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that cannabinoids (which includes cannabidiol) come into contact with serotonin receptors. The ECS naturally synthesizes cannabinoids, and a healthy system promotes cell balance and helps maintain essential body functions such as weight, blood sugar levels, body temperature, heart rate and more. 


Studies have also shown that CBD stimulates the ECS, helping alleviate symptoms related to anxiety disorders, including depression.  

Benefits of CBD: a natural remedy 

The benefits CBD (cannabidiol) has on a person (and the level of effectiveness) can vary case per case, but generally those suffering from anxiety report:

  1. Improved mood;  
  2. Reduced frequency of panic attacks; 
  3. Reduced feelings of stress and anxiety; 
  4. Reduced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTD) symptoms; 
  5. Reduced in social phobia or social anxiety; 
  6. Improved results for treatment of depression, schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). 

Additional information 

It is important to note that CBD (cannabidiol) is not considered a certified medical solution or long term cure for anxiety or anxiety disorders. It can however be an effective temporary solution to help relieve anxiety symptoms when they occur, along with other complementary aspects such as a healthy diet, exercise, etc. It is essential and recommended to consult a medical doctor or health professional for an appropriate treatment plan. Since CBD may or may not interact with other chemical or natural substances (which can sometimes lead to undesired effects), it is important to inform your practitioner should you wish to start using CBD. If you are currently on other medications, such as prescribed for depression, talk to your doctor. 


You should also be careful not to confuse CBD with THC, as they are different cannabinoids found in the hemp plant (cannabis). THC can increase stress and aggravate anxiety symptoms, as well as expose you to the risk of long term dependence. Many brands sell products marketed as CBD products that can still contain traces of THC in various amounts, so it is always important to check the brand label for CBD and THC concentrations. 


Lastly, only CBD is authorised for legal consumption across the EU/Europe, including France, the UK, and Switzerland as well as across Canada and the United States. In most parts of the EU (as well as in some parts of the U.S.) it is products containing THC that are more largely restricted or illegal, even in medical cannabis. We recommend verifying the governmental entities of your country, such as the FDA for the United States (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to verify the laws pertaining to purchasing and consuming CBD and THC products in your area. 

Ways to consume CBD 

There are many ways to consume hemp-derived CBD (cannabidiol), from oils to edibles, to help with anxiety. The form in which CBD should be taken depends on your needs (like how quick of an effect you need), desired potency, and also personal preference. Consider: 


  1. Vaporisation or sublingual CBD oil for unexpected and sudden anxiety attacks; 
  2. Daily CBD oil or capsules to be taken weeks before an anticipated stressful event; 
  3. CBD tea, capsules or oil (sublingual or oral) for chronic or generalized anxiety.  

Appropriate CBD dosage 

The intensity of effects and effectiveness of CBD (cannabidiol) operates on a spectrum and is different for everyone. As such, there is no precise dose to follow. Each person must find the dose that suits them best and that effectively relieves the symptoms they are looking to address.  


That said, it is always recommended to start with a low dose (minimum quantity) which equals to around 20 mg per day, and gradually increase if no improvement is observed. It is important to remember to hydrate and eat properly when you opt for incorporating this natural supplement on your day-to-day, as with any other wellness or health supplement. 

Key takeaways 

Symptoms of anxiety and chronic stress, such as anxiety attacks, can be debilitating, particularly when left unaddressed. According to numerous clinical studies and research conducted around the world, CBD (cannabidiol) has been proven to be effective in relieving anxiety-related symptoms by positively interacting with the brain's serotonin receptors. Unlike THC, another cannabinoid found in cannabis (hemp), it has anxiolytic (calming) properties without causing adverse effects and is non-addictive. CBD in its pure form, without THC, is legal in most of Europe (including the UK) as well as in the United States (USA) and Canada. CBD is available for purchase without a medical prescription in specialised shops. That said, it is strongly advised that you consult your doctor or a health professional before taking CBD, especially if you are already taking other medications such as ones prescribed for depression. As will all natural solutions to help treat anxiety, things like practicing a healthy diet, learning about breathing tactics and incorporating exercise, such as meditation or yoga, can be effective and complementary approaches to keeping the mind and body healthy. 

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