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Social anxiety disorder has affected people for millennia, but it is only recently that psychologists have been able to identify this mental health disorder and provide assistance to those in need of help. With conventional treatments for social anxiety often coming at a cost, both patients and clinicians have increasingly looked to natural therapies for the answer.
Over the last decade, CBD has received a startling amount of attention as a potential social anxiety aid. During that same period, millions of people have used CBD for anxiety, providing a massive amount of anecdotal evidence. What does it all say about the usefulness of CBD for social anxiety? Find out in this review of recent research¹.
What is CBD?
CBD is the most popular and well-known cannabinoid found in hemp. Lacking intoxicating properties, CBD instead usually provides a gently relaxing feeling without manifesting any considerable side effects.
Since it is now abundant in hemp, products containing CBD are now equally abundant on the internet. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, cannabinoid products containing less than 0.3% THC are generally considered industrial hemp, so CBD products are bought and sold in all 50 states with few meaningful restrictions².
What does CBD do?
Not displaying the defining characteristics of THC-containing cannabis, CBD mildly calms and relaxes you instead of making you high. Even though they consist of the same atoms, CBD has a considerably different structure from THC. Furthermore, the two compounds have affinities for entirely separate parts of the brain.
Because of this difference, no matter how much CBD you consume, you will not get high. If the usual experience is any rubric, though, you will most likely feel increasing stages of relaxation as you take larger doses of CBD — to the extent that some users complain of falling asleep after taking unusually high doses of this sometimes-soporific cannabinoid.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is a psychiatric disorder typified by the fear of social situations, such as meeting new people or public speaking, with an underlying perception that they are under the scrutiny of others.2 Sometimes caused by trauma, social anxiety can also emerge due to no discernible cause or be related to neurochemical or genetic complications. Social anxiety can be debilitating to those who suffer from it and common pharmaceutical treatments are often ineffective or cause considerable side effects.
What are the symptoms of social anxiety?
Someone who experiences social anxiety will typically have anxious symptoms that become progressively worse when exposed to triggering social situations. These symptoms can manifest as both physical and psychological symptoms. On the psychological side, social anxiety often appears in the form of intrusive, negative thoughts regarding social situations. Patients commonly feel embarrassed or even humiliated by their intrinsic behaviors or personal appearance, or they may fear feeling that way when exposed to social situations.
The symptoms of social anxiety often take on the form of a negative synergy in which fear of exhibiting certain physical symptoms causes them to manifest, leading to a feedback loop that can end in full-blown panic attacks. Due to this inability to interact socially, individuals with social anxiety often retreat from society, depriving themselves of the many benefits of social interaction.
Research into CBD and social anxiety
Though studies into the usefulness of CBD for other forms of anxiety were conducted during the period, not much research was published regarding CBD for social anxiety after 2011 until a flurry of data suddenly arrived in 2019. The results of a clinical study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry in January of that year was one of the first to bring in this new data⁴.
This trial consisted of a much larger sample than its 2011 predecessor with 57 healthy male subjects participating. The volunteers were separated into groups that received either 150mg, 300mg, 600mg, or 0mg (placebo) of CBD prior to a social anxiety test.
Researchers found that while both 150 mg and 600 mg had positive responses, compared to placebo, pretreatment with 300 mg of CBD had the most significant reduction in anxiety during the speech phase. The results from this study indicate that acute doses of CBD can decrease public speaking anxiety in some individuals and that there may be an effective dose window when using CBD for social anxiety.
Is CBD useful for social anxiety?
People have bought and continue to buy large amounts of CBD with the express purpose of using it for social anxiety, indicating there is some merit to the idea that CBD should be investigated further for this potential purpose. When you take the reported personal accounts along with research studies of CBD into account, the apparent efficacy of this cannabinoid to potentially relieve symptoms of social anxiety becomes clear.
People who use CBD report feeling more confident and less afraid, explaining in common-sense terms why this simple, non-intoxicating cannabinoid has rapidly become one of the most popular natural remedies for anxiety in all its forms.
Which types of CBD products are best for social anxiety?
At this point, it is unclear which forms of CBD products might be the most effective against social anxiety from a scientific point of view. The majority of clinical studies that have been conducted with CBD and social anxiety typically involve administering large doses of CBD orally.5 Further research is needed regarding the specific dosage to improve the knowledge base on how to dose anxiety symptoms appropriately.
When you take anecdotal testimony into account, however, things become considerably clearer. As available scientific research suggests, people with social anxiety tend to report positive results when taking CBD orally. Thus, standard oral CBD products like tinctures, gummies, and capsules should all be taken into consideration.
Summary: Should CBD be used against social anxiety?
Putting aside the merits of CBD for a moment, there is a clear and critical need to identify and develop effective, safe, and natural treatments for social anxiety and all other anxiety disorders. As a result, it is imperative that any promising treatment — including CBD — be explored if it shows any likelihood of relieving the mental health crisis currently gripping the world. As long as it continues to not display any unexpected dangers or detractors, CBD should certainly be taken seriously as a potential solution to social anxiety and other anxiety-related disorders.
- 1. Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H. C., Chagas, M. H. N., De Oliveira, D. C. G., De Martinis, B. S., Kapczinski, F., … & Crippa, J. A. S. (2011). Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naive social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(6), 1219-1226. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/npp20116
- 2. Abernethy, A. (2019). Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill. US Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Testimony_Abernethy%2007.25.19.pdf
- 3. National Institute of Mental Health. (2023). Social Anxiety Disorder. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/social-anxiety-disorder
- 4. Linares, I. M., Zuardi, A. W., Pereira, L. C., Queiroz, R. H., Mechoulam, R., Guimarães, F. S., & Crippa, J. A. (2019, February). Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 41(1), 9–14. Retrieved from https://www.scielo.br/j/rbp/a/ksNG6tq9JC8pT8rdmCk7TTb/?lang=en
- 5. Skelley, J. W., Deas, C. M., Curren, Z., & Ennis, J. (2020). Use of cannabidiol in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 60(1), 253-261. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S154431911930514X
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