Mental health conditions are a growing concern across the world with a large number of people suffering from various mental conditions. It is estimated that about one-fifth of the people in the US suffer from some mental condition every year.
Despite various treatment methods including therapy and medications being available, alternative approaches to handle the symptoms of mental disorders are popular. CBD is one such alternative that is used to treat the symptoms of various mental conditions including panic attacks.
What Are Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks are intense episodes of anxiety, fear and worry that are associated with physical symptoms like increased heart rate and shortness of breath. Panic attacks can occur without any trigger at a time when you least expect it and sometimes people confuse it with heart attacks.
What Are The Symptoms Of Panic Attacks?
Common symptoms of panic attacks include:
- Chest pain
- Fear of death
- Trembling and shaking
- Fear of losing control
What Is Panic Disorder?
Some people may only have to experience one or two panic attacks in their lives but some may have to suffer from frequent attacks and in that case, it can be stated that the person is suffering from panic disorder.
About 2-3% of the people in the US suffer from panic disorder. A person with panic disorder has to handle the symptoms of panic attacks and also have to suffer from the worries of a future attack and the consequences the present attack will have on their behavior.
What are the risk factors associated with panic disorder?
As observed in most cases, the symptoms of panic disorder start when people are in their teenage or early twenties. It is found that women are more likely to suffer from panic disorders than men. Although the exact causes of panic disorder are not known completely, there are several risk factors associated with the condition including:
- A family history of panic disorder or panic attacks
- Major life stressor like divorce or the loss of a loved one
- Cigarette smoking and excessive caffeine consumption
- Traumatic events like abuse in childhood, sexual assault, or death of a child
Can We Use CBD For Panic Attacks?
Currently, the standard treatments for panic disorder include SSRIs or anti-anxiety medications that may cause some side effects and are known to produce moderate positive effects alone. Panic disorder is commonly associated with symptoms like fear, anxiety and panic. It indicates that stress-management is an integral part of managing panic attacks.
The potential benefits of CBD for panic attacks are associated with serotonin receptors and the endocannabinoid system.
CBD And Serotonin Receptors
Animal studies have suggested that cannabinoids can activate the serotonin receptor (5-HT1a) in various parts of the brain. These are the same receptors that are targeted by SSRI drugs, that are used to treat panic attacks. This finding suggests that CBD can be useful in reducing panic and anxiety.
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors found across the body. CBD stimulates CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system that are involved in various bodily functions like memory, pain perception, behavior, mood, emotions, and inflammation.
Research suggests that when the CB1 and CB2 receptors are stimulated by CBD, a person’s fear and anxiety level is lowered, and hence it is effective in handling panic disorders.
Research On CBD And Panic Attacks
To date, most research exploring the effectiveness of CBD in handling panic attacks are conducted on animals. However, there are a few human studies supporting the anti-anxiety effects of CBD in other mental disorders.
Social anxiety disorder is another condition that is associated with anxiety and fear of certain social situations and events. Clinical trials where individuals with social anxiety disorder were given CBD found that CBD reduces anxiety symptoms and probably influences the activity of limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain, the two areas involved in emotions and fear.
Some human studies have suggested that lower levels of anandamide, a cannabinoid, are linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental condition that develops in response to a traumatic event in one’s life. Similar to panic disorder, people suffering from PTSD also experience panic attacks.
From what can be inferred from animal studies and clinical trials, CBD is a promising treatment for panic disorder. If you are bothered by panic attacks and feel that your current treatment options are not effective, you may consider taking CBD, but you will have to consult with your doctor first. Discuss the dosage and make sure that CBD won’t interact with other medications you are currently taking as part of the treatment.