CBD for Social Anxiety

cbd for social anxiety

Feeling anxious before speaking in front of a crowd or before going into a job interview is a completely normal part of the human experience. In fact, these feelings of anxiety may even help us to perform better. But when this stress is apparent in someone’s everyday life, from talking to your friends to ordering food at a restaurant, this becomes a problem. Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is one of the most common mental health conditions, affecting an increasing number of people throughout the world.

Luckily, it’s also a condition about which we have a lot of research. We know how to diagnose it, and how different forms of therapy can help. More recently, we’ve also seen an increase in the number of studies examining how we can use plants to treat this disorder. In this article, we’ll look at CBD in-depth, and what it can do against social anxiety, based on the latest studies. 

What is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) or social phobia is a disorder that makes people scared of social situations. For example, they may experience anxiety talking to people, being in large crowds, asking for help, and making new friendships. 

This anxiety is first and foremost mental. It can appear as a voice in your head, telling you not to go talk to people or that they may be making fun of you.

But it also has physical symptoms. In some extreme forms of SAD, people shake or feel lightheaded before engaging in social interaction. In milder cases, there are still physical symptoms, including:

  • Blushing
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Fumbling for words

In the long term, social phobia can make you miss school or work, it can prevent you from asking for help you need, and it can lead to social isolation due to difficulties making friends. 

What triggers social anxiety?

It’s not always clear what causes social anxiety. In some cases, there is an obvious trigger. For example, you may have started fearing social interaction after being bullied at school, or after being mistreated at home. 

For some people, it can be harder to find a cause. In fact, some scientists believe that this disorder may be partly genetic, as it seems to run in certain families. They also believe that chemical imbalances in the brain can trigger social anxiety. For example, people who suffer from depression and have lower serotonin levels may be more likely to feel socially anxious. 

dosage of cbd in treating anxiety

Is social anxiety a mental illness? 

Although many people see social anxiety as nothing more than shyness, it’s a real psychological disorder. Psychiatrists usually classify it as a subtype of anxiety disorder. 

However, just because social anxiety is a mental illness doesn’t mean it’s incurable. Like other anxiety disorders, it can be treated and people who suffer from it are often able to feel normal again. 

How is social anxiety treated?

Today, your best options for treating social anxiety disorder are different forms of therapy. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy can help people identify their harmful anxious thoughts and replace them with more positive ones.

Exposure therapy is also a great option with very high rates of success. It consists in exposing yourself to stressful social situations time and again until you feel comfortable approaching them. 

Unfortunately, these forms of therapy can be daunting to people with social anxiety. Meeting someone new (a therapist) is hard enough as it is, but opening up can be even more stressful. And although exposure therapy can work very well, it can take time for people with social phobia to accept that it’s what they need to do.

Treating social anxiety is a long process. In most cases, you can’t expect to get rid of that feeling of anxiety in a few days or weeks. But with patience and determination, patients can really see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

What is CBD and could it be helpful against social phobia?

Today, we’ve seen a few studies suggest that CBD could help with social phobia. So how does molecule make people feel more confident in social situations?

First, a few words on CBD. CBD is a cannabinoid compound, a molecule found in the cannabis plant. It has many health properties that make it useful in both medicine and psychiatry. For example, people who take CBD can experience:

  • Fewer seizures if they have an epileptic disorder
  • Lower inflammation, which could help with arthritis or IBD
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower levels of anxiety and depression

It’s not by chance that CBD provides relief from so many symptoms. It’s a result of its actions on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). As a cannabinoid compound, CBD is able to bind with the endocannabinoid receptors in our bodies and give a boost to our ECS. This biological system is crucially important in regulating a number of body functions, including stress management, brain chemistry, appetite, and many more.

A healthy endocannabinoid system is vital for good physical health, which is why CBD can help with pain, hypertension, painful joints, and even digestion. But the role of the ECS in mental health is equally important. Over the past years, researchers have found that CBD could help with mental health conditions including substance abuse, anorexia, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, and bipolar disorder. 

CBD is legal on a federal level in the United States, as long as it contains under 0.3% THC. However, it is still prohibited by certain state laws and doesn’t have FDA approval. We encourage you to consult a physician before you start taking CBD. 

effects of cbd on social anxiety

How CBD targets social phobia

So how exactly could CBD help with social phobia? First, it’s important to understand that there are two components to social phobia.

The first is psychological: it’s the thought pattern that makes you think people will judge you, or that it’s unsafe to engage in social interaction. 

The second one is biological: it’s the feeling of your heart racing, your muscles tensing and trembling, starting to sweat… the list goes on. 

Proper treatment for social phobia includes some form of therapy, which can help you change your thought patterns concerning social life. However, you can also get rid of social phobia by addressing its biological side. This is why people will sometimes drink alcohol to more easily face social situations. It’s a bad idea, especially in the long term, but it works because alcohol relaxes your body and mind so you’re less focused on what might go wrong.

Cannabinoids may have a similar effect to alcohol, helping anxiety by promoting relaxation of the body and lowering the stress hormone cortisol. However, molecules like CBD are not psychoactive, meaning that they can help with anxiety without causing a change in consciousness. In other words, they lower stress levels without making you high or drunk.

CBD and public speaking

In 2019, a group of scientists wanted to see how CBD could affect anxiety in a group of healthy subjects. They gave one group varying doses of CBD (ranging from 150 to 600 mg) and another group a placebo. Then, they subjected them to many people’s worst fear: giving a speech in front of a crowd. 

The placebo didn’t work, and neither did “low” (150 mg) or “high” (600 mg) doses of CBD. However, the group that had taken 300mg of CBD reported feeling a lot less anxious throughout the experiment. Their metrics (heart rate, sweating) confirmed that impression.

What this tells us is that CBD could be very effective in lowering anxiety. Moreover, the fear that people experience before giving a talk in front of many people is the same anxiety people with SAD can have simply talking to a colleague or asking for directions. This shows that CBD could be particularly effective in targeting social anxiety-related forms of stress. 

CBD and social phobia

Scientists have also examined the long-term effects of taking CBD on social phobia, for people who experience that disorder daily. In a 2019 study, scientists examined the effects of CBD on 37 Japanese teenagers diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. Over the course of four weeks, half of the patients were given a daily dose of 300 mg of CBD, while the other half were given a placebo. 

At the end of the experiment, those who had taken CBD scored much better on the Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire and the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. This indicated that they were less afraid of judgment, and now felt more comfortable in social situations. 

using cbd for social anxiety

How to take CBD for social anxiety disorder? Dosage and methods

One of the key issues that the study on public speaking we cited previously raised is that it’s hard to dose CBD. When scientists wanted to measure how CBD lowered anxiety, doses of 150mg and 600 mg didn’t work. Only doses of 300 mg had an effect. This tells us that CBD can be very effective, but only if dosed correctly. 

In the study on Japanese teenagers with social anxiety, the 300 mg dose also seemed to work. This tells us that this dosage might be a sweet spot when it comes to treating social anxiety.

The issue? 300 mg of CBD is quite a lot, and comes at a price few people can afford. Nowadays, CBD costs an average of $ 0.10 for 1 mg. 300 mg would therefore cost $30. If taken daily, few people could afford this medicine, especially as most health insurance companies don’t cover CBD. 

CBD dosage is hard to establish, and doses can have different effects on people. So if you want to try out CBD for social phobia for yourself, we recommend you see a health professional who is knowledgeable on CBD. They will be able to advise on what dose to start with, based on your age, size, and condition.

When it comes to methods of consumption, edible CBD is the best option for people with a social anxiety disorder. It provides long-lasting relief throughout the day, which is exactly what you’re looking for.

The best way to take CBD orally is to place a few drops of CBD oil under your tongue daily. That way the CBD is able to enter your bloodstream directly through the sublingual gland. This method is more efficient than simply eating CBD because your liver won’t be filtering it out as much.

But if you don’t enjoy the taste of CBD, then a CBD capsule or a CBD gummy are both good alternatives. 

Is CBD safe?

Many people are concerned about taking CBD for any kind of anxiety disorder because we sometimes associate cannabis with increased feelings of anxiety and paranoia. 

But while it’s true that THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana) can raise levels of anxiety in large doses, CBD does the opposite. It lowers levels of anxiety in both high and low doses, according to this review

CBD is very unlikely to worsen your social anxiety. However, it can have some other side effects, like causing nausea or diarrhea. These side effects are rare and mild, but it’s true that some people respond to CBD better than others.

Takeaway

Social phobia is a difficult condition to treat, which often requires a few different forms of therapy. Today, CBD is offering a new complementary way to relieve symptoms. A few studies have shown that it lowers anxiety, particularly in the case of social phobia. We’ve even found a dosage that works: 300 mg. The only problem to solve now is to see whether other doses might work, and how to make CBD more accessible to those with social phobia.

Bibliography

Benefits of CBD for mental health 

2018 review of the effects of CBD on physical and mental health conditions

CBD for social anxiety

2019 study on the effects of CBD for stress reduction in a public speaking context

2019 study on the effects of continuous CBD use for teenagers with SAD

2017 review of the effects of cannabis vs CBD on anxiety

Side effects of CBD

2017 study on the safety and side effects of CBD

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