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In recent years, scientific research has been able to confirm that the anxiety disorder known as Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) is more common than originally thought. According to recent reports by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1.2% of all US adults have been diagnosed with OCD – with over 80% of the affected suffering moderate to serious impairment.
As cannabis and hemp are legalized in a growing number of states, many OCD-diagnosed individuals are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) in a bid to self-medicate. Where exactly do primary cannabis compounds come in on the topic of anxiety disorders?
To understand this increasingly popular practice, we’ll need to do a little bit more than a “CBD oil for OCD” Reddit search. In this post, we explain how obsessive-compulsive disorder works, how CBD works and whether or not CBD is a viable method for improving symptoms associated with OCD.
A Brief Look at OCD’s Root Causes and Effects
In a nutshell, OCD is a self-perpetuating cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted or intrusive thoughts, memories and images that trigger feelings of distress. The resulting compulsions are various behaviours an OCD individual engages in to control the obsessions and/or cope with feelings of distress.
Because OCD often occurs simultaneously with other disorders, it has been challenging for the scientific community to study and diagnose. As of now, there are two main theories regarding its origins:
Neurological medical journals show that OCD patients respond to Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (or SSRIs) with some consistency, leading researchers to postulate that OCD is largely a neurological disorder. However, it’s widely accepted that there are likely other contributing factors.
Genetic OCD has an increased rate of occurrence among first-degree relatives, supporting the assertion that there are genetic and hereditary aspects to the disorder. According to the NIMH, individuals with a diagnosed sibling or parent are at significantly higher risk of developing OCD.
The degree of impairment caused by obsessive-compulsive disorder varies by personality type. Obsessions can be sporadic to unrelenting, with the potential to seriously harm one’s productivity and disposition in the workplace, university or neighborhood. In either case, it isn’t hard to imagine how excessive compulsive behavior can disrupt daily routines and social interactions.
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What We Know About CBD for OCD Research
- Anxiolytic CBD oil has already been used to treat depression in animal testing, even treating insomnia and stress in children with PTSD. The use of CBD is also shown to significantly reduce symptoms of other anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, general anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.
- Anti-Epileptic strains of medical cannabis high in CBD have successfully been used in treating conditions that cause convulsions, seizures and muscle spasms. Because of its neuroleptic effects, CBD is able to reduce the severity of obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors in children, adults and even pets.
- Antipsychotic CBD is also shown to effectively reduce the symptoms of more chronic conditions such as schizophrenia, manic depression and bipolar disorder. Studies show that CBD medication is not a suitable replacement, but a viable adjunctive to existing antipsychotic treatment.
In combination, CBD’s anxiolytic, anti-epileptic and antipsychotic qualities make it a good choice for treating a broad spectrum of anxiety disorders. More importantly, supplementing with CBD may reduce risks associated with the neurological and genetic/hereditary aspects (discussed above) of OCD.
CBD for OCD Thoughts: Does It Really Help?
The viability of cannabidiol in treating symptoms of OCD is more than speculation in the medical community. A 2015 neurotherapeutics study by Esther Blessing and Maria Steenkamp provides plenty of evidence that CBD for OCD is effective. Other supporting studies include Boshuisen et al (2002), Bystritsky et al (2001), Osuch et al (2001) and Schneider et al (1999).
Because they affect the limbic region of the brain, the symptoms from disorders like OCD, epilepsy, dementia and ADHD can all be ameliorated with cannabidiol supplementation. CBD also increases production signalling while inhibiting the breakdown of anandamide. Anandamide is a natural antidepressant named after the Sanskrit for Divine Joy and is commonly known as the “happiness hormone” because of its ability to regulate mood as well as sensations of fear, stress and happiness.
Natural Medicine is The Best Medicine
More specialized research will be needed to highlight CBD’s viability in tackling OCD specifically. However, there’s an abundance of mainstream and independent material (as well as anecdotal evidence from OCD patients themselves) showing CBD to be effective in treating a wide range of symptoms brought about by anxiety. Fortunately, obsessive-compulsive disorder is no exception, as it falls well within the spectrum of genetic and neurological anxiety disorders.