In the UK, we are no stranger to mental health problems, with 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem of some kind each year, and 1 in 6 (approx. 45.8 million adults) experiencing a common mental health problem in any given week in England alone. Indeed, just under half (43.4%) of adults think that they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life, but 61% don’t access treatment.
Signs and symptoms of mental illness will depend on the disorder and several other factors, such as circumstances. However, some common symptoms of mental illness include —
- feeling sad or down;
- excessive fears or worries;
- extreme feelings of guilt;
- confused or unable to concentrate;
- extreme mood swings;
- tiredness, low energy or insomnia;
- paranoia or hallucinations;
- problems with alcohol or drug use, including addiction.
Symptoms of mental health disorders can also manifest as physical symptoms, such as stomach pain or headaches.
In general, mental health problems can have a range of causes. For example, trauma, domestic violence, bereavement, discrimination (such as racism), long-term stress, loneliness, debt and chronic misuse of alcohol and drugs might increase your chance of developing a mental health condition. For some, certain genes also mean you have an increased risk of developing mental illness, with research suggesting that some mental health problems may run in families.
While there are traditional treatments available for our mental health, such as counselling and medication, lots of us are turning our attention to natural solutions as a supplement or alternative. This includes Cannabidiol (CBD).
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the non-psychoactive compound found in the hemp plant. It has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, but has been celebrated as a natural treatment for mental health conditions in recent years, with emerging studies showing that CBD can help to treat depression, sleep disorders, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions. Unlike traditional medications, CBD is also non-addictive and has no major side effects.
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How CBD Helps Mental Health
Cannabidiol (CBD) is thought to interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the cell-signalling system that helps to regulate a wide range of our physiological processes, including mood and sleep. It is thought that CBD can bind to and activate certain receptors in this system, and prevent the enzymes from breaking down, which helps to regulate factors that can have a positive impact on our mental health, such as mood, stress and sleep.
Indeed, preclinical evidence demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviours relevant to multiple disorders, including PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD, and SAD.
CBD for Specific Mental Health Conditions
Let’s look a bit more at how CBD can help specific mental health conditions.
Depression is the main mental health problem worldwide, and it affects around 1 in 6 adults in the UK. There are different types of depression, though it is typically characterised by lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness. It is also associated with other mental health issues, such as stress and loneliness. Severe depression can make you feel suicidal.
Referred to as the “feel-good” chemical, serotonin is believed to contribute to feelings of happiness, with low levels of serotonin linked to depression. Although CBD doesn’t boost serotonin levels, it might affect how your brain’s chemical receptors respond to the serotonin that’s in your system. Similar to traditional antidepressants, it is thought that CBD binds to your receptors to slow or stop the degradation of serotonin. And the research shows promising results.
- A 2018 study on rats showed that a single dose of CBD helped to reduce symptoms of depression for up to one week.
- A 2014 animal study found that CBD’s effect on chemical receptors in the brain produced both antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.
- According to a 2014 review, results from a variety of studies indicate that ‘CBD appears to act as an antidepressant and antianxiety compound in animal models of depression.’
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that ranges from mild to severe. It is the main symptom of several conditions, including panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. It is also thought that 50% of ADHD adults also suffer from an anxiety disorder. CBD is thought to help as it has been shown to have anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing, properties.
- Early-stage clinical studies suggest that CBD might be able to reduce anxiousness in “stress-inducing” situations.
- A review of eight related studies concluded that CBD has a promising role as alternative therapy in the management of anxiety disorders.
- The Cannabidiol Youth Anxiety Pilot Study found that young people with treatment-resistant anxiety had an average 42.6% reduction in anxiety severity and impairment following 12 weeks of treatment with cannabidiol.
- One 2019 study found that CBD significantly reduced anxiety during a simulated public speaking test.
Schizophrenia is a type of psychosis that leads to a range of different symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, muddled thoughts and speech, and feeling disconnected from your feelings or emotions. Schizophrenia can impact all areas of life, including personal, relationships, social and educational, with people who have schizophrenia experiencing higher rates of stigma, discrimination, and violation.
Although there is insufficient evidence for CBD to be used as a treatment for schizophrenia, emerging research does suggest a potential positive correlation between the two.
- A clinical trial published in 2012 found that CBD is a promising candidate for the treatment of schizophrenia due to the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol. In addition, ‘CBD was well tolerated and [no adverse side effects] were reported in patients [who] administered CBD.
- In another trial to test if CBD causes cognitive improvements in people with schizophrenia, it was concluded that ‘CBD is as efficacious as the standard antipsychotic in ameliorating cognitive impairments in patients with schizophrenia.’
- In a 2018 trial with 88 subjects with schizophrenia, ‘patients receiving CBD showed a statistically significant reduction of PANSS for positive psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia, compared to the placebo group.’
Upcoming research, led by Professor Philip McGuire at Oxford University and supported by King’s College London, will assess 1,000 participants before and after treatment using a range of neuroimaging techniques to clarify how CBD acts to produce its effects, and determine if it is effective in treating people with psychosis.
Please note that you should not use CBD as a substitute for medical treatment, nor without first contacting your doctor.
It’s estimated that 50-70% of people will experience a trauma at some point in their life, with 1 in 10 people in the UK expected to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The NHS also forecasted 230,000 extra cases of PTSD in England due to Covid in 2021.
“Re-experiencing” is the most typical symptom of PTSD, which is when a person experiences vivid flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, intense distress, and physical sensations, such as pain or nausea. Although more research is needed, there is promising research on the relationship between CBD and alleviating PTSD symptoms.
- In one case series, it was concluded that the administration of oral CBD, in addition to routine psychiatric care, was associated with PTSD symptom reduction in adults with PTSD. CBD also appeared to offer relief for patients who reported frequent nightmares as a symptom of their PTSD.
- 2021 research concluded that CBD reduces PTSD symptoms via the DRN and corticoraphe circuit, with chronically administered CBD acting via the corticoraphe circuit to favour fear extinction over fear memory reconsolidation.
- In another small study of 11 patients with PTSD, 91% of the patients reported a decrease in nightmare symptoms, with no reported side effects.
- A 2016 study found evidence that drugs acting on the endocannabinoid system may reduce the symptoms that a person with PTSD experiences after a memory extinction procedure.
- A review of studies concluded that ‘human and animal studies suggest that CBD may offer therapeutic benefits for disorders related to inappropriate responses to traumatic memories. CBD also shows an action profile with fewer side effects than the pharmacological therapy currently used to treat this type of disorder.’
Bipolar (BPD) is a mental health disorder that is characterised by significant mood swings, including manic highs and depressive lows. Bipolar is the fourth most common mental health problem worldwide after depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. In the UK, it is thought that 1 in 50 people have bipolar (1.3 million people), with recent research suggesting that as many as 5% of us are on the bipolar spectrum.
Although more clinical research is required on the relationship between CBD and bipolar, the initial studies show promising results.
- A 2020 clinical trial suggests that CBD could be beneficial as a supplemental treatment for bipolar depression.
- A 2020 review found that CBD might be ‘helpful in the treatment of depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder due to its antidepressant effects.’
As well as tackling the mental health issues that might be impacting your sleep, CBD can tackle insomnia by helping you to relax before bed.
- In a 2021 study, 48% of people taking CBD for sleep reported that it helped them to fall asleep quicker, with 40% saying it also helped them to sleep better.
- A systematic review in 2022 concluded that CBD alone, or with equal quantities of THC, may be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of insomnia.
- Another study examining the effects of cannabis on insomnia found ‘CBD more effectively decreased symptoms of insomnia than delta-9 THC.’
- A few small studies have seen positive results when using cannabinoids to treat sleep apnea, by preventing pauses in breathing during sleep in animal studies.
We hope this article has helped you to better understand how CBD can help with several mental health conditions, with more to be discovered in the coming years. We are Purity Hemp, the UK’s #1 Online CBD Shop. Backed by science, and built on the principles of traceability, transparency & trust, we are dedicated to improving the mental and physical health of all our customers.
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