Does CBD Help Anxiety—or Make It Worse?

CBD 101
Does CBD Help Anxiety—or Make It Worse?
Read Time: 6 minutes 

Anxiety disorders, one of the most common mental health struggles in the United States, affect about 30% of the adult population.¹ While there are many approaches to managing stress and anxiety, you may wonder where CBD fits into the picture. Can it help better manage anxiety symptoms—or will it only exacerbate them? Explore the science behind CBD and its potential for alleviating anxiety.

CBD & Anxiety: The Research

CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in both cannabis and hemp that won’t cause you to feel high, unlike its well-known cousin THC. According to the World Health Organization, CBD in its purest form is considered to be “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile”—meaning it doesn’t seem to cause any impairment and has a low risk for addiction.²

With that said, a lot of research has been conducted to help determine how effective it may be in our bodies. Studies indicate that CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system—which is the system responsible for keeping various “background processes” in balance.³ For example, your ECS informs things such as your mood, immune system function, inflammatory responses, and sleep-wake cycle.

Since CBD works together with the ECS, some evidence suggests it may help with anxiety. In fact, there’s a lot of scientific evidence supporting the idea that CBD may be helpful against a handful of anxiety disorders, such as:

  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)⁴
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD)⁵
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)⁶
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)⁷

The research discovered that CBD might improve various side effects of anxiety under different stressors, such as public speaking, general anxiousness, and panic attacks. Researchers in one peer-reviewed study in 2020 concluded “CBD has a promising role as an alternative therapy in the management of anxiety disorders,” including those who suffer from GAD, SAD, and PTSD.⁸ 

Can CBD Make You Anxious? 

While considerable scientific evidence suggests that CBD has a potent anti-anxiety effect, some anecdotal reports indicate certain CBD products may increase anxious feelings. That’s because CBD isn’t strictly regulated—so what you think you’re getting isn’t always what you were hoping for.

Some CBD products are made with full spectrum CBD, which contains all of the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other natural plant compounds found in hemp. These work together synergistically to stimulate what’s known as the entourage effect.⁹ 

However, full spectrum CBD products typically contain up to 0.3% THC. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for making people feel high, and evidence suggests that the psychoactive effect of THC may cause anxiety and paranoia in those sensitive to it.¹⁰ With that in mind, anybody with risk factors making them sensitive to THC could deal with anxiety or panic attacks when taking larger servings of full spectrum CBD.

Pure CBD on its own is unlikely to cause anxiety—and may even be able to help alleviate some of the adverse effects linked to it—but adding THC to the mix may complicate things. 

In fact, CBD has also been known to help with other cognitive issues, such as memory lapses. Curious whether CBD affects memory? Head to this blog to learn more.

Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate

Full spectrum CBD is a whole-plant extract made from the hemp plant. Contrary to popular belief, hemp still produces over 100 different cannabinoids alongside CBD, including THC. Some side effects commonly associated with THC are anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks. 

That’s not to say that THC makes everyone anxious, though. Research suggests that THC may help reduce anxiety in small servings, but can worsen it in large doses.¹¹ More importantly, how it may affect you boils down to a couple of different risk factors.

Research suggests that some may be more likely to encounter anxiety symptoms from THC due to certain personality traits, genetics, and environmental factors that may make a THC high feel a bit frightening.¹² Others may experience anxiety due to THC if they don’t use it often, or have a history of panic attacks or anxiety disorders. Some just have naturally higher anxiety levels on a physiological level; so there are numerous reasons THC may mellow some people out while making others nervous.

For a small number, even trace amounts of THC could worsen anxiety instead of helping it. 

Full spectrum CBD products can legally contain up to 0.3% THC under the 2018 Farm Bill.¹³ That means that a full spectrum CBD oil tincture may contain up to 3mg of THC in every mL of the oil itself. While that doesn’t sound like much, it can be enough to cause or worsen anxiety in anyone sensitive to THC due to some of the risk factors we mentioned. 

Luckily, you still have options if you want to avoid anxiety altogether when you take CBD. While full spectrum formulations are often said to offer the most significant potential benefits due to the entourage effect between the different cannabinoids and active compounds working in synergy, you can still enjoy CBD without the THC. 

Broad spectrum CBD is largely the exact same thing as full spectrum CBD, except that it goes through an additional process to remove THC from the mix. You’ll still get an entourage effect between the CBD and other cannabinoids, terpenes, and active compounds, but you remove the (potentially anxiety-inducing) THC entirely from the mix. 

You can also opt for CBD isolate products, which are purified to remove every other cannabinoid and plant compound from the final product—leaving you with nothing but CBD in its purest form. CBD isolate may not be as strong as the other formulations, as it doesn’t support an entourage effect, but it still may help manage anxiety.

Bottom Line: Does CBD Help Anxiety—or Make It Worse? 

Research indicates that CBD on its own may be effective in managing anxiety; including anxiety attacks, some mental health disorders, and PTSD. However, it’s vital to remember CBD affects everyone differently—and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing our anxiety.

If you’re sensitive to THC, you may have a better experience opting for a THC Free CBD option, like edibles or tinctures formulated with CBD isolate. Seeing as studies show that THC found in full spectrum products has the potential to exacerbate anxiety. 

If you’re dealing with a lot of anxiety, you should talk to your doctor to determine a solution that works best for you and your lifestyle. CBD functions by modulating the ECS—meaning it might help some people with anxiety disorders while doing nothing for others. Your doctor will be able to help determine if CBD will be a safe and effective option for you, as well as help rule out any possible complications with any other medications.

A CBD product like full spectrum CBD gummies may help provide temporary anxiety relief. And if you’re taking CBD, learn more about when to take CBD gummies for anxiety to maximize all their potential benefits!

THC Free CBD From Lazarus Naturals 

If you’re ready to explore CBD for the inevitable bouts of anxiety, take Lazarus Naturals with you on your journey. From CBD edibles to CBD softgels & capsules, each of our products is crafted with your daily wellness in mind. More importantly, all of our THC Free options are exactly that— 100% free of THC. Give the therapeutic potential of CBD isolate a try for helping better manage anxiety. It’s worth noting, however, that it’s not a bad thing to be curious about THC. While we’ve covered a range of benefits linked to CBD, further explore the potential benefits of THC to see if it’s something you also may be interested in trying.