Can CBD be effective at supporting your mental health?
Just like our physical health, we all need to take care of our mental health. Sometimes this can mean getting extra assistance. This article explores if CBD could play the role of best supporting player in the pursuit of good mental health.
The investigation into the potential of cannabinoids like CBD in treating neuropsychiatric disorders actually began in the 1970s. After a slow start, hampered by sociopolitical factors and regulation, the subject has seen exponential growth in the last decade. This ongoing research has revealed that CBD shows positive results for a wide variety of physical health concerns such as chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease; but what about our mental health concerns. We wanted to examine the latest research and report the findings into the effects of CBD on the most common mood disorders.
Mental health in the UK
1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental health problem in their lifetime. At any given time, 1 in 6 people aged between 16 and 64 in England are experiencing a common mental health condition. The proportion of people with the most severe symptoms has risen steadily since the early 90s. Maybe it’s that people are more willing to talk about their problems nowadays; maybe it’s that 21st Century life is taking its toll. Whatever the reasons, it’s clear that mental health is a topic that requires far more attention and treatment options.
Mind, the mental health charity, reports that just 1 in 8 adults with a mental health problem are currently receiving help, with prescription medication being the most common type of treatment. The number of antidepressant prescriptions has nearly doubled in the past 10 years to 71 million in 2018.
The most common mental health conditions are anxiety disorders including Generalised Anxiety Disorder, OCD, and Panic Disorder. Anxiety is such a big topic that we dedicated an entire guide to the way that people are using CBD to find relief.
However, with instances of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar affective disorder increasing globally, and people searching for a substitute to long term prescription drugs, there has been a noticeable shift towards alternative therapies. CBD is just one such alternative that is showing positive results.
What are mood disorders?
If you have a mood disorder, your general emotional state or mood is inconsistent with your circumstances. You may feel extremely sad, empty, lonely, worthless, or quick tempered - in other words, depressed. Your periods of depression may also alternate with periods of being excessively happy - also known as mania. It is quite common for anxiety disorders to present alongside depression. Severe mood disorders can cause self harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behaviours.
There are several common mood disorders including:
- Major depressive disorder which is also known as clinical depression and is categorised by prolonged and persistent episodes of extreme sadness and/or fatigue
- Bipolar disorder which is also called manic depression or bipolar affective disorder and presents as alternating periods of depression and mania
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which is a form of depression associated with fewer hours of daylight
- Cyclothymic disorder which is a less extreme form of bipolar disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder which used to be known as dysthymia and is long term, or chronic, depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder which occurs in the week leading up to menstruation
- Postnatal depression which is known as postpartum depression outside the UK and occurs after having a baby
- Illness related depression which is directly linked to the physical effects of another medical condition
- Substance related depression which is linked to the use of or withdrawal from substances or medication
CBD has been found to be an effective natural treatment for mood disorders. While CBD cannot cure depression, it has been linked to improvement in the symptoms.
How could CBD help with depression?
CBD is a (phyto)cannabinoid, and we produce (endo)cannabinoids within our own bodies. These endocannabinoids regulate key functions within our bodies such as sleep, appetite, pain sensation, and mood. They bind to cannabinoid receptors and check if there is an imbalance anywhere in our body before telling the body what to do next. This process is called homeostasis.
When endocannabinoids detect an imbalance in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, they trigger a chemical reaction to restore the balance.
Serotonin, also known as the happy chemical, is a powerful messenger that plays a major role in regulating our mood. When we lack serotonin it has an impact on our psychological state and can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, aggression, insomnia, low self esteem, impulsive behaviour, poor appetite, and depression.
Serotonin deficiency can also cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), carbohydrate cravings, and weight gain.
CBD and serotonin
CBD doesn’t actually create additional serotonin. What it is thought to do, in essence, is act as a natural antidepressant.
A widely used type of pharmaceutical antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) work by blocking the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin. They target certain serotonin receptors in the brain and central nervous system and inhibit reuptake, thus allowing the serotonin levels in our body to remain higher for longer.
CBD for bipolar disorder mania
The depressive nature of bipolar disorder is dealt with in the section above. However, we also wanted to explore the manic aspect of bipolar disorder.
When people with bipolar disorder cycle through a manic phase, they can experience periods of elation and excitement, inflated self esteem, inability to focus, inability (or unwillingness) to sleep, racing thoughts, and seeking out pleasurable activities.
In bipolar I disorder, mania can last for more than a week and severely disrupts day-to-day activities. Manic episodes can be so serious that they result in hospitalisation. In bipolar II disorder, manic episodes are known as hypomania and, although less severe than mania, they can still have a disruptive effect on routine, mood, and behaviour.
As well as antidepressants to treat the ‘down’ cycle of bipolar disorder, many patients are prescribed mood stabilisers such as lithium to prevent or lessen the intensity of their manic episodes. However, lithium comes with some nasty side effects, including reduced thyroid and kidney function. Another point to note is that many people with bipolar disorder don’t respond to medical treatment at all.
Bipolar disorder and the endocannabinoid system
Postmortem studies have discovered that there are abnormalities in the ECS of people diagnosed with variants of bipolar disorder. This has led to the theory that phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, could be used to manipulate the ECS and regulate the level of chemicals that are targeted by pharmaceutical medications.
Regulating the ECS using CBD may provide a way for those with treatment resistant bipolar disorder to alleviate their manic episodes, as well as their depressive phases. Further clinical trials are needed but, based on research to date, the future looks promising.
Using CBD for mood disorders safely
There is no current evidence to suggest that CBD based products are harmful to humans. They contain plant based cannabinoids, and cannabinoids are found naturally in our own bodies. Hence, if you decide to try CBD oil to find relief from your particular mental health concern, even if you don’t find the positive results you were hoping for, you’re unlikely to find any negative ones.
This being said, it’s still vital that you consult with a doctor before taking CBD oil if you are currently taking prescription drugs. Also, make sure you check the ingredients carefully, and ask vendors for lab reports, to ensure that your product of choice contains the advertised dose of CBD.
Furthermore, it’s really important that you purchase your CBD products from reputable sources. The popularity of CBD is such that some shady manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. To be sure of the purity of the CBD, as well as any other ingredients used, do your research and only buy certified products.
The research into CBD continues
As more studies are undertaken, and more research published, we will continue to update you with all the latest findings regarding CBD.
If you still have more questions, we are always happy to help. Just get in touch with any queries you have about CBD or vaping in general.
The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a particular medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
- Nicola Webster