It’s estimated that 40 million adults in the United States over the age of 18 suffer annually from some kind of anxiety. However, perhaps quite shockingly, only 36.9% of these people are thought to receive treatment for their anxiety disorder. And, for those who are seeking treatment, one visit to the doctor isn’t going to cure you. Generally, it’s a process of your doctor getting to know you, looking into what treatment methods would work best for you, and implementing them over a long-term period.
Panic attacks or panic disorders are very closely related to anxiety, and we all know that it’s not easy having distress occupy the brain. In fact, many people suffer from panic attacks due to their anxiety. More specifically, a panic disorder is listed as just one of the many different anxiety disorders. However, panic attacks take time to get control of. Once you are experiencing a panic attack, it’s not easy to calm yourself down. Studies have shown that CBD, however, may have the potential to help in the moment and even work as a preventative measure, similar to pharmaceutical drugs that are often prescribed.
With anxiety disorders being among the most common ailments in the mental health sector, it’s no wonder that many people are turning to CBD oil for relief. In this article, we will take a look at what panic attacks and panic disorder are, what CBD oil is, and how the hemp-based compound may be able to help treat panic attacks in some individuals.
What is a Panic Attack or Panic Disorder?
If you have experienced a sudden surge of overpowering fear and anxiety, then you are familiar with the feeling of suffering a panic attack. People who suffer from this disorder feel terror at random. During a panic attack, you could experience sweat, chest pain, and heart palpitations, among many other things. Sometimes, you might also feel like you are choking or having a heart attack.
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder distinguished by ongoing and severe panic attacks. It could also include significant behavioral changes that last at least a month. As panic attacks can’t be predicted, individuals may become distressed, worried or anxious wondering when the next panic attack might occur. This “induced panic” about have an episode, so to speak, is referred to as an “anticipatory attack.”
The difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack is that a panic attack occurs out of the blue, and lasts a shorter length of time but with more intense symptoms. Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, have stressors that build up to full-blown reactions. While less severe than panic attacks, anxiety attacks can last for weeks or even months.
Causes of Anxiety and Panic Attacks
While there isn’t a single cause for panic disorder, it has been found to run in families, meaning that genetics plays a significant role in determining who may get it. Also, it’s thought to exist as a comorbid condition, as it often arises along with other heredity disorders like alcoholism and bipolar disorder.
Psychological factors, life transitions, environment, stressful life events, and thinking in a way that exceeds relatively normal bodily reactions are also thought to play a role in the onset of panic disorder. The first attacks are often triggered by physical illness, certain medications, or significant stress. Individuals who are known to take on excessive responsibilities could develop a tendency to suffer panic attacks.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic Attacks
A panic attack will begin suddenly, and will usually peak within 10 to 20 minutes. However, some symptoms could last for as long as an hour, or even sometimes longer. Panic attacks often involve anxiety about being in a particular situation where escape might be difficult. This can include crowds, elevators, or traveling in a plane, bus or car.
An individual with a panic disorder will likely have at least four of the below symptoms during an attack:
- Dizziness or faintness
- Fear of dying
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Feeling of choking
- Numbness or tingling in the feet, hands, or face
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feelings of detachment
- Fear of losing control or impending doom
- A sensation of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of unreality
- Palpitations, fast heart rate, or pounding heart
- Trembling or shaking
- Sweating, chills, or hot flashes
There are other symptoms as well, but these are among the most common.
What’s CBD, and Why do Some People Say It’s Good for Panic Attacks?
Before we dive into what CBD oil is, let’s have a quick overview of CBD itself. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many chemical compounds that are found in the cannabis plant. While THC is the most well-known cannabinoid due to its psychoactive effects (it’s the compound that makes users high), CBD is becoming increasingly popular for its potential medical properties that have been disclosed in scientific research. Among other things, some of this research has shown CBD to be able to deliver physical and mental benefits, without the high that is associated with marijuana.
For example, recent peer-reviewed publications (see below for a list of references) have documented CBD’s ability to treat pain, PTSD, anxiety, nausea, stress, seizures, and erratic mood swings. As of 2018, more than half of US States and 16 countries around the world have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Nine of these states, plus Washington DC have legalized it on a recreational level. As cannabis continues to establish itself in the mainstream medical world, CBD is emerging as a promising solution for many who are looking at the medical benefits of weed, but who have no intention of getting high.
So what is CBD Oil?
CBD seems to be everywhere these days. People are infusing it into their tea, loading it into their vape pens, and swallowing capsules with the claims that the plant compound relieves depression, reduces stress, helps them sleep, and treats chronic pain. More importantly, however, is the fact that many say it works well at treating anxiety, and more specifically, panic disorders.
As we mentioned, CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant, and it can be used as an oil. CBD oil is often extracted from the resin glands on marijuana buds, but it can also be extracted from hemp, which is a fibrous and industrial form of cannabis that has small buds and a THC concentration of 0.3% or less. Since CBD is lipid-soluble and not water soluble, it is typically infused into another type of oil (such as MCT oil) for enhanced absorption by the body’s cells.
Since some people are not fans of the psychoactive effects of marijuana, it’s important to emphasize that CBD, and thus CBD oil, will not get you stoned. There are more than 80 known cannabinoids in cannabis, and the effects they have on us are believed to stem from the way they interact with specific receptors in our cells. THC, for example (the psychoactive cannabinoid found in weed), produces intoxication by interacting with CB1 receptors in the brain. The interaction of CBD with these same receptors is 100 times weaker than that of THC. As such, when it binds to the receptors it doesn’t alter our perceptions and thoughts in the same way.
Potential CBD Oil Side Effects
Generally, CBD is considered to be a safe form of plant-based therapy. In fact, in a 2017 global report issued by the World Health Organization, it was deemed safe, non-addicting, and without “adverse public health effects.” As such, when compared to many pharmaceutical drugs it is recognized that CBD is significantly safer with less negative side effects. However, on some occasions people who use CBD may experience the following:
- Sleeping difficulties
- Mood changes
- Dry mouth
Although the above are possible symptoms when taking CBD, it’s still considered by some as a preferred option over conventional medications. Remember, because of the chemical nature of pharmaceuticals, the side effects are often a lot worse. CBD, is pure, organic, and 100% natural – straight from a plant.
How Does CBD oil Work to Treat Panic Disorder?
While research into CBD oil and its treatment of panic disorder is limited, the studies to date have shown positive results. It’s worth mentioning that research strongly points to the role of CBD in treating short-term anxiety. However, little is known about its long-term effects, or even how it could be used as a prolonged treatment method.
An associate professor by the name of Yu-Fung Lin from the University of California-Davis School of Medicine, lecturers a course on the physiology of marijuana. She says that while CBD is not psychoactive – meaning it won’t alter the mind and get you stoned – it still has an impact on brain functioning. For instance, she says that while it doesn’t directly activate receptors in the brain in the same way THC does, it does target a variety of proteins in the central nervous system (which includes the brain) that regulate cell activities. In addition, as we mentioned before, because CBD interacts with the brain’s signaling systems in multiple ways, studies have shown it to provide relief from nausea, anxiety, and pain, among other things.
While research into CBD oil is still in its infancy, animal studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that it has the potential to treat everything from anxiety and chronic pain, to diseases of the central nervous system and substance abuse disorder.
A report published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for instance, states that CBD has been proven to reduce stress in animal studies. In these studies, subjects were observed to have lower behavioral signs of anxiety, while other physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, were also decreased.
Furthermore, a 2015 analysis (see reference below) on previous studies found that CBD oil is a promising treatment for several forms of anxiety, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
According to the studies mentioned, here are two of the proven ways that CBD oil has shown to treat panic attacks:
- Reduced fear: As part of a preclinical study published in the US National Library of Medicine, CBD showed the possibility of reducing symptoms of fear, which is common in people who experience multiple panic attacks. These people are conditioned to feel fear in certain situations that can cause their panic attacks. If the brain’s infralimbic cortex (the part of the brain believed to be responsible for emotional responses such as fear) is targeted, then it’s speculated that we can decrease these instances.
- Blocking unintentional memory retrieval: Memory plays a big part in anxiety, and the probability of having a panic attack due to the flashback of a traumatic event is one of the most common triggers. The same preclinical trial mentioned above found that CBD could block unintentional retrieval of memories in rats, stating that when CBD influences the CB1 receptor, it could block traumatic memories, thereby reducing the probability of a recurring panic attack.
According to research (as referenced below) here are a few other ways that CBD could potentially treat panic disorder:
- Functions molecularly as an anxiolytic (stress and anxiety reducer)
- Overall calming effect
- Helps you to think more clearly
On a more scientific level, it’s known that when consumed, CBD enters the bloodstream to work with our endocannabinoid system, or ECS. CBD doesn’t bind directly to the cannabinoid receptors that are on our neurons like THC would. Instead, it stimulates other cannabinoid receptors, elevates chemicals, and opens up pathways to create reactions throughout the body. This is the reason that you don’t experience the same high as you would with THC.
When you suffer from anxiety, the parts of your brain that recognize fear are overactive. During a panic attack, several chemicals are being sent from one cell to another, transferring terrorizing messages of fear. As we’ve discussed (and according to the publications of referenced articles), CBD works to elevate endocannabinoids which tells the “sending cells” to stop overloading the receiving neurons. This helps the body return to a normal state of balance, and calms down the mind.
Why CBD Oil Rather Than Conventional Medication?
Not only is CBD oil natural, but its benefits are far-reaching and have scientific backing. This means that the same CBD oil you use to treat your panic disorder, could also help to treat other conditions that you may have (such as insomnia, pain, inflammation, etc).
In a study published in 2017, for instance, 2,400 registered users of Hello MD were surveyed. One of the most interesting findings of the study was that 42% of people who used CBD reported giving up pharmaceutical drugs in favor of cannabis, at least some form of it. Whether or not it actually replaced pharmaceuticals, most of the responses reported that CBD helped them a great deal, and said that they used it regularly.
Moreover, 52% of the people who responded to the above-mentioned survey agreed that CBD was either “much more effective” or “more effective” than pharmaceutical drugs. These people used CBD for many diverse reasons, including for the treatment of panic attacks.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are a lot more prominent than many people realize. They can be brought on by a number of circumstances, and are often a result of genetics. It’s important to bring awareness to this condition, and more importantly, bring awareness to the notion that if you do suffer from a panic disorder, CBD oil may be a possible treatment method.
Often stemming from stressful situations or cases of trauma, panic attacks are definitely not something to take lightly, and they need to be treated with caution. While no one can make any direct claims that CBD is a guaranteed treatment method, the simple fact is that many people are giving up their pharmaceuticals in favor of the hemp-based compound. It’s making headlines for instance even in places like Forbes Magazine, so it’s about time the world knows what CBD is — and what it can do.
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