National Stress Awareness Day 2021 Discussion - CBD and Stress

CBD and Stress

If you have lived within the United States of America for the past few years, it's probably safe to say that you have experienced some stressful situations. Whether it be medical, social, economic or relational, unhealthy stress all stings the same and can have some very serious consequences. 

Let's face it, stress is extremely common. Rarely can anyone completely escape it. But in recent years, self-reported stress has skyrocketed. 

Here is a closer look at the numbers:

  • More than three-quarters of adults report symptoms of stress, including headache, tiredness, or sleeping problems. (American Psychological Association, 2019)
  • Eighty percent of U.S. workers say they experience stress on the job. (American Institute of Stress)
  • Nearly half of all U.S. adults (49%) say that stress has negatively affected their behavior (American Psychological Association, 2020)
  • Nearly 1 in 5 American adults say that their mental health has declined since last year (American Psychological Association, 2020)
  • Sixty-five percent of adults surveyed in 2020 reported that increased stress has:
    • Negatively affected their behavior (49%)
    • Increased tension in their bodies (21%)
    • Caused them to “snap” out of anger (20%)
    • Caused unexpected mood swings (20%)
    • Sixty-five percent of Americans surveyed said that the current uncertainty in the nation causes them stress (American Psychological Association, 2020)

Q&A About Stress

Q: What Causes Stress?

A: Some stress happens as the result of a single, short-term event -- having an argument with a loved one, for example. Other chronic stress happens due to recurring conditions, such as managing a long-term illness or a demanding job. 

Q: Is all stress bad?

A: No, nature built the stress response into our bodies for a very important reason. Short-term stress, which is considered "fight-or-flight stress", is nature's fundamental survival mechanism. Long-term stress, which is considered "chronic stress" can have significant negative effects on health.

In general both chronic or long-term stress can have harmful effects, while acute or short-term stress can have protective and beneficial effects.

Q: What is happening in my brain when I'm stressed?

A: The Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School explains: Stress is a chain reaction. “When someone experiences a stressful event, the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This area of the brain functions like a command center, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system so that the person has the energy to fight or flee.”

Q: What is happening in my body when I'm stressed?

A. The “fight-or-flight” response is triggered, which brings on physical reactions such as increased heart rate, heightened senses, a deeper intake of oxygen and the rush of adrenaline. Also, a hormone called cortisol is released, which helps to restore the energy lost in the response.

Q: What is Cortisol and why should I care about it?

A: Cortisol’s functions are part of the natural process of the body. In moderation, the hormone is perfectly normal and healthy. Its functions are multiple, explains the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. In addition to restoring balance to the body after a stress event, cortisol helps regulate blood sugar levels in cells and has utilitarian value in the hippocampus, where memories are stored and processed.

Q: What if my body stays in a stressed state for too long?

A: When chronic stress is experienced, the body makes more cortisol than it has a chance to release. This is when cortisol and stress can lead to trouble. High levels of cortisol can wear down the brain’s ability to function properly. According to several studies, chronic stress impairs brain function in multiple ways. It can disrupt synapse regulation, resulting in the loss of sociability and the avoidance of interactions with others. Stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain. Chronic stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Q: What is CBD and how can it help me manage my stress?

A: CBD is a phytonutrient that is known to be a safe, natural, and extremely effective treatment of various neurological ailments including stress.

CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body can give you sensations of well-being. These receptors are usually acted upon by endocannabinoids. CBD oil allows the body to create more of it's natural endocannabinoids. Basically what that means is CBD oil allows your body to create more of the things that make you feel naturally very good.

When we are depressed or when we are anxious we have less receptors and less ability for the body to process certain types of serotonin. Serotonin is the feel good neurotransmitter. It's the neurotransmitter that allows us to get a sense of well-being. Now what ends up happening is CBD directly affects this receptor, making it more sensitive. So it's not like we're coming in and we're adding more of something that's going to make us feel good, we're making our body more responsive to it. We're helping the brain become more receptive to the neurotransmitters that help us feel good.

Your body produces serotonin and if it produces too much it takes the extra and it reabsorbs it and releases it again later. It basically recycles it. What CBD does is it acts on the receptor to make it so that it doesn't have to recycle it. The reason you feel good when you take an antidepressant is because it's blocking the reabsorption of the serotonin. What CBD does is it naturally allows this receptor to absorb more than what your body's already released, so ultimately there's less to reabsorb because your body's fully utilizing it.

Now additionally there's another more long term component that happens when it comes down to consuming CBD. The hippocampus is the portion of our brain that is responsible for memory, long term memory, spatial memory, even navigation. And when we're talking about navigation, we're not talking about just geographically, but navigating in life in general and emotionally as well. What ends up happening is unfortunately when people suffer from anxiety and depression there are a lot of studies and scans that show that these patients end up having an atrophy of the hippocampus portion of their brain. They have less activity, less neuron activity and their brain cells actually start to die.

There's an interesting study that was actually published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. And it found that those that were suffering from a shrunken hippocampus that were consuming CBD on a regular basis, so CBD that was administered regularly for an extended period of time, actually started to have neuroregenerative effects. They were creating new neurons in the hippocampus. That neuroregeneration is extremely powerful. So not only can you have a short term effect by utilizing CBD properly, you can actually have an effect that lasts beyond just the actual utilization of the compound.


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Case Study Info:

For generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)Trusted Source says that CBD has been shown to reduce stress in animals such as rats.

Study subjects were observed as having lower behavioral signs of anxiety. Their physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, also improved.

CBD may also benefit people with other forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It may help treat anxiety-induced insomnia as well.

Multiple recent studies have shown that CBD can help with PTSD symptoms, such as having nightmares and replaying negative memories. These studies have looked at CBD as both a standalone PTSD treatment as well as a supplement to traditional treatments like medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

  • In 2011, a study researched CBD’s effects on people with SAD. Participants were given an oral dose of 400 milligrams (mg) of CBD or a placebo. Those who received CBD experienced overall reduced anxiety levels.
  • In a 2018 study, male subjects received CBD before undergoing a simulated public speaking test. The researchers found that an oral dose of 300 mg, administered 90 minutes before the test, was enough to significantly reduce the speakers’ anxiety.
  • Members of the placebo group and study subjects who received 150 mg saw little benefit. The same was true for subjects who received 600 mg.