Use of CBD oil for social anxiety

cbd and social anxiety

Social anxiety, or social phobia or social neurosis, is an anxiety disorder from the group of neurotic disorders. The affliction is often confused with excessive shyness, but shyness it is not. Social phobia is the apprehension and fear of interacting with other people. It is a fear of being judged and a panicky fear of being laughed at, a fear of public speaking, dealing with official matters, talking to strangers or even going to the doctor. It is a belief in being rejected, unaccepted and an ever-deepening negative self-esteem. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders. Some researchers even claim that it is a disease of civilisation.

Causes and symptoms of social phobia

There are no conclusive research findings that indicate the causes of the onset of social phobia. It is considered to be a condition resulting from a wide variety of factors. These may include biological, social and psychological factors. Perhaps surprisingly, social anxiety can also have a genetic basis. Social neurosis can also be caused by the environment; children or adolescents who are bullied by their peers at school, for example, can develop social phobia. 

Social anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways, so to those around them it often goes unnoticed or is mistaken for shyness or stage fright. For some, it is just a fear of public speaking, at school, university or in front of family. Others have a fear of interacting in any way with other people. Left untreated, the disorder progresses and has an increasingly negative impact on more and more areas of everyday life. A person with social phobia has a strong belief that everyone is watching and judging them, so they try to be almost transparent when they are in a group. This is because they are convinced that they will be negatively perceived and criticised. 

These anxieties are very often accompanied by complaints of a somatic nature. Symptoms can be, for example, trembling hands, pacing, palpitations, increased sweating, a feeling of hot flashes, a feeling of pushing on the bladder, nausea or tinnitus.  

People affected by social anxiety move away from other people, which further exacerbates the anxiety and over time it becomes increasingly difficult to break free. The most important thing is to realise that the phobia problem exists at all, and then seek the help of a psychotherapist. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CTB) works well. It involves "looking" not only at one's own thoughts and beliefs, but also at physical symptoms and so-called protective behaviours, such as masking blushing with powder, coughing or grunting, which, contrary to expectations, do not mask anything but exacerbate symptoms even more. 

Once we are aware of the above, CTB therapy teaches us to overcome fears, expose ourselves to social situations and observe our own behaviour as if from the sidelines. Such training allows us to tame our fears over time and turn them from paralysing fear into increasingly less stressful situations. The question is whether CBD, which studies have shown to have stress- and anxiety-reducing properties, would support the treatment of social anxiety? The key to the answer is, as in most cases, endocannabinoid systemwhose receptors are found in almost every part of the human body.  

What is the endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors located in the immune system, gastrointestinal tract, central and peripheral nervous systems, among others. It produces endocannabinoids, which are remarkably similar to the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis (mainly the inflorescences). The endocannabinoids in the system have a great influence on the physiological processes in the human body, primarily striving to maintain balance (homeostasis) in the body. They are regulators of, for example, sleep, stress, pain, inflammation or cognitive function.

As soon as the endocannabinoid system detects a deviation in the body, the release of endocannabinoids starts immediately. But if it is not possible to provide the right amount of them, cannabidiol (CBD) is an excellent support to provide the right amount of phytocannabinoids. 

Science on the use of CBD oil in the treatment of social anxiety

Although the results of studies to date support the effectiveness of the positive effects of CBD oils used to treat social anxiety, there are actually relatively few of these studies. Which is strange, considering how much benefit they could provide. Nevertheless, the ones that do exist already provide a picture of the efficacy of cannabidiol. 

Mention can be made of studies conducted on rats or wild mice. In the former, it was observed that CBD administration was followed by activation of CB1 receptors in the grey matter, resulting in a reduction in the escape response to stress. The mice, on the other hand, were subjected to continuous stress for a period of 14 days and their responses after CBD administration were studied. The study showed that cannabidiol prevented anxiety reactions to stress. 

Human studies have also been conducted. Patients with social phobia were administered CBD oil, neuroimaging their brains at the same time. Cerebral blood flow was measured in this way. The first time was when one group of patients was given 400 mg CBD and the other a placebo, and then the roles were reversed and the first group received a placebo and the second group this time received CBD. The results were very clear. There were no responses in placebo-treated subjects, while the administered cannabidiol resulted in reduced activity in the left parahippocampal, hippocampal and inferior temporal cortex. This is important because these areas are responsible for anxiety-related processes, which may be an indication that CBD has anti-anxiety effects. 

There is other highly relevant research on the effects of CBD oils on people struggling with social anxiety. Well, in 2011, a study was conducted that measured the effect of cannabidiol on public speaking anxiety in people diagnosed with social phobia. Twenty-four people entered the study, plus an additional 12 people in a control group (healthy people). They were divided into two groups, one receiving 600 mg of CBD one hour before the public speech, the other a placebo. During the speeches, everyone's blood pressure, heart rate and skin conductance were tested and, in addition, afterwards, each participant was required to describe a scale of their mood and negative thoughts. Afterwards, the results of those who received CBD were compared to those who took the placebo. Analysis of the results showed that cannabidiol significantly reduced anxiety, agitation and discomfort. Interestingly, both people suffering from social phobia and people in the control group experienced improvements. Anxiety levels when speaking were reduced for both groups compared to the group where a placebo was given.

Both studies have shown that a sufficiently high dose of CBD is able to reduce discomfort in patients struggling with social anxiety. These results are extremely promising, but too little research has yet been done to take this for granted. It is certainly worth reaching for CBD oils in the treatment of social phobia. However, if the patient is taking psychotropic medication, the inclusion of CBD oils in the treatment must be consulted with a doctor. 

  1. Fobia społeczna
  2. "Hemp and cannabinoids" (Cannabis and cannabinoids); Paweł Siudem, Iwona Wawer, Katarzyna Paradowska; Department of Physical Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy with the Division of Laboratory Medicine, Warsaw Medical University
  3. "Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders"; Nobuo Masataka; Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Inuyama, Japan


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