Social Anxiety has been painted as something cutesy or quirky in today’s world – if you’re socially anxious, it just means you’re a bit kooky, right?
In actual fact, social anxiety is a serious disorder wherein people genuinely fear social situations. It comes in a variety of degrees, but every one of them seriously affects a person’s life and causes emotional and psychological distress.
It’s one of the worst types of psychological conditions to have because it alienates you from those that help you to overcome it, leading to continuous social suffering and a feeling of intense loneliness and despair.
Most treatments for social anxiety involve intense cognitive behavioural therapy, but could we be using CBD to help treat those with social anxiety?
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is simply characterized as suffering from a feeling of anxiety, intense stress or otherwise discomfort at the prospect of being in social situations. This differs from regular anxiety in the fact that it only focuses around when you are being social.
‘Social’ refers to any kind of interaction with other people. This is the killer, as human society is built around social interaction. So much of what we do in our lives is necessarily social, so there are more difficulties in living with social anxiety than you might realize.
Most people might assume someone with social anxiety is the person who doesn’t want to come out for the night, or refuses invitations to parties. They might laugh with their friends, jokingly saying “Oh, he’s just socially anxious”. However, while that may be true, it affects a person on a day to day basis as well.
Going to the bank, shopping at the supermarket or even just passing people on the street – these are all social situations that can result in a severe attack of social anxiety. Very often, people don’t understand what it’s like to live with it and assume you’re just being antisocial.
Well, a person with social anxiety is antisocial, but they don’t want to be. It is very common for people with social anxiety to desperately want to be social, but they are simply unable to without experiencing severe stress and anxiety.
There are numerous ways to try and treat social anxiety, but it’s evident they don’t work especially effectively, seeing as social anxiety affects 6.8% of people in the US alone!*
Conventional Medications That Treat Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a very tricky thing to try and treat, because the root cause of it isn’t some sort of mental imbalance or an illness, but an altered, malignant way of thinking.
Social anxiety itself is simply the persistence of negative thought patterns that cause you to treat social interactions as an adversity.
Due to this, the treatment options are scarce. The most commonly utilised is simply self help – the concept of retraining the way your brain thinks through meditative thinking.
This is about as effective as you’d expect – for those with milder cases of social anxiety, it can help to simply reframe their mental state, but most people need something more effective and hands on.
For those people, scaling levels of therapy are the most useful, ranging anywhere from frequent therapy sessions aimed at talking through feelings and discussing the reasons you are socially anxious, all the way up to full on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The latter is what people with serious cases must resort to, as CBT aims to entirely rewire how you think and feel about the world around you through intense psychological therapy.
For those that therapy just doesn’t help, there is the potential to use antidepressant medication, the same as those used for people with depression. This has the benefit of rewiring your brain chemically, especially so for antidepressants focused around Serotonin release. These act by regulating the amount of Serotonin released by your brain, allowing you to mitigate feelings of loneliness, sadness or anxiety. The main drawback with antidepressants, as ever, is the fact that they alter your mental state to such a degree that you will rarely feel extreme highs or extreme lows.
There are also the frequently taken Benzodiazepines, or Anti-Anxiety medication. These work by essentially slowing down the nervous system, hopefully allowing you to relax mentally and physically and avoid unwanted feelings of anxiety of panic.
The problem with these types of medications is that they are very addictive and can lead to a whole slew of unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness, slurred speech and even memory problems.
Is it really worth it to trade social anxiety for a lack of control of your emotions or the inability to remember?
What if we could be doing something different? Could CBD Oil help those with social anxiety?
How Does CBD Oil Work for Social Anxiety?
CBD is, slowly but surely, becoming recognised for the medicinal properties it can have on the human body. From treating aches and pains to skin conditions, CBD seems to have a huge number of benefits for people with any number of health concerns.
However, could we also use CBD to treat mental conditions?
CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis which interacts with the Endocannabinoid system within the human body. This system is responsible for a huge variety of chemical and health processes, mostly to do with how cells regrow and how our central nervous system reacts to external stimuli.
So, how could CBD affect social anxiety? Surely it can’t affect the brain as well as the body?
CBD Oil & Social Anxiety
One study* conducted by Zone et al. found that, after the imbibing of CBD, lab animals all experienced similar effects as felt when using anti-anxiety medication. Lab animals, used as a human model, were given either CBD or a placebo and then made to do a variety of cognitive or physical tests, each straining the animal enough to normally create feelings of stress and anxiety. In every animal that was given CBD, the scientists reported anti-olytic effects, but without mood displacement as is commonly felt while under the effects of an antidepressant.
Another study* conducted by Crippa et al., found that people have been self-medicating with cannabis when suffering from social anxiety, but it was the CBD inherent in cannabis that was providing the majority of the benefits. As more and more strains of cannabis teeter towards a higher THC content for the purpose of getting high, it’s likely that just imbibing cannabis isn’t what you need to help deal with social anxiety.
The exact mechanics of how and why CBD interacts with the Endocannabinoid system and helps with Social Anxiety is, at present, unclear, but we do know that it acts in a very similar way to normal anti-olytic drugs, serving to inhibit the brain processes that allow you to experience anxious thoughts, but without the physically addicting effects, or any other neurological side effects like slurred speech or drowsiness. This is massively important, as taking one drug only to develop another serious problem is not ideal.
The important thing to remember about social anxiety is that it isn’t some sort of physical medical condition stopping you from not fearing social situations; it’s just an ingrained manner of thinking.
CBD can help inhibit the progression down this avenue of bad thoughts, instead allowing you to break through and face social situations without utter terror. This is significant because CBD seems to not target the nervous system at such a serious degree as Benzos, or the Serotonin release system like with antidepressants; this means that you can enjoy the reduction of anxiety or panic, without having to suffer the possibly serious side effects of either drug.
Patients in a variety of studies have been demonstrated to be able to beat their anxious thoughts thanks to the effects of CBD. That said, it would be nice if we knew why.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Social Anxiety
CBD is widely becoming known as a bit of a miracle drug – it acts effectively in a variety of ways, allowing the body to heal itself faster, or affect your mood in positive ways.
CBD and its interactions with the brain’s mental states is still being studied and understood, thanks to a lack of funding towards CBD research – something that is, ever so slowly, being alleviated. We only know the effects that CBD has on those with social anxiety, but not the exact mechanisms of why it works.
But the important thing is that it has been demonstrated to work. We still may not know the exact processes, but we do know that CBD helps deal with social anxiety, all with little to no side effects.
Thanks to CBD being thankfully legal in many countries to purchase medicinally, consider trying it to help deal with your social anxiety – you might find it’s just what you need.
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