As a generally quiet, reserved person who’s comfortable spending time alone, I don’t thrive on social interaction the way many extroverts do. That being said, I do enjoy others’ company. Current pandemic aside, part of my inclination to stay on the sidelines at parties, avoid public speaking at all costs, and generally not talk to strangers is indeed a product of my introverted nature. But another significant part of it is anxiety.
Although some introverts are also anxious, social anxiety is not the same as introversion or shyness. One of the most common mental illnesses worldwide, it affects about 6.8% of the U.S. adult population or 15 million people.
Most people with social anxiety genuinely desire to be more social. But they are inhibited by irrational thoughts, extreme self-consciousness, intense dread, excessive worrying, and other roadblocks. In anxiety-inducing situations, many people experience physiological symptoms as well as psychological ones. These can include blushing, stuttering, nausea, increased heart rate, and even panic attacks. The symptoms of social anxiety, or social phobia, are similar to generalized anxiety, except they occur specifically in social situations.
Everyone’s experience is a little different. Some have trouble in all social situations, whether talking to a cashier or giving a class presentation. Others have difficulty in specific settings, like crowded places or speaking to a group, and not others.
Social anxiety disorder, like generalized anxiety disorder, is more than just feeling nervous on occasion. It’s a persistent, chronic issue that lasts for several months or years. Fortunately, it is highly treatable. Here’s the scoop on how to combat social anxiety disorder (SAD) and how CBD may help you maintain a sense of calm.
SAD Treatment Options
The most widely used and effective treatment for SAD is exposure-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). As the Mayo Clinic explains, CBT involves gradually working up to facing your fears under the guidance of a licensed counselor. The therapist will help you develop coping skills and confidence to face anxiety-inducing situations. They’ll also help you recognize irrational thoughts and how to replace them with more logical ones.
While techniques like CBT are the most effective way to retrain the brain and beat social anxiety, CBD may help people maintain a sense of relaxation, equilibrium, and overall wellbeing.
It does this by influencing the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a biological system responsible for several processes, including mood, memory, sleep, pain sensation, reproduction, and immune functions.
What the Research Says
Thus far, most clinical studies have been conducted on animal subjects, and we still have much to learn about how exactly CBD affects humans. However, there is overwhelming preliminary and anecdotal evidence to suggest CBD may help us keep our cool in social settings and other anxiety-inducing situations.
For instance, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology showed CBD can reduce social anxiety symptoms. As part of the study, researchers scanned participants’ brains and noticed CBD appeared to change blood flow to the brain’s areas linked to stress. They also observed noticeable improvements in the participants’ anxiety levels.
The following year, a study was published in Neuropsychopharmacology that reported CBD usage reduced public speaking fear. In this study, researchers observed 24 people with social anxiety and gave them either a placebo or 600 mg of CBD oil. A half-hour later, participants were asked to make a speech. Those who had taken the CBD were calmer in the spotlight than those who had not taken CBD.
In 2014, yet another study showed similar results. Although this study examined animal subjects, its findings are significant. Researchers found CBD not only curbed anxiety but also provided antidepressant benefits.
How Much CBD Should You Take?
There’s not one uniformly ideal dose for every person. What works for you will depend on factors such as your weight and metabolism, how you ingest your CBD, and what kind you’re taking.
That being said, most studies suggest people with anxiety may require more CBD to maintain a sense of calm compared to people without anxiety. It’s best to start small, notice how your body and mind react, and gradually increase your dosage as needed.
Always talk to your doctor before incorporating a new health supplement, including CBD. While rare, there is a small risk of side effects with CBD and a slight chance it may interact with certain medications. Your doctor can help you determine the best course of action based on your particular situation and health history.