I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember — I was that kid who was too afraid to go on the monkey bars and conveniently had to go to the bathroom as soon as it was my turn to ride a roller coaster. It wasn’t until I was officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was 14 that I started taking medication for it. Fast forward to my mid-20s when I was diagnosed with bipolar II and started taking a different cocktail of medication, which helped many of my bipolar symptoms (including anxiety) but isn’t a cure-all.
To manage my anxiety, I still take my medication in addition to other lifestyle factors, including getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating minimal processed foods. Although I don’t take any benzodiazepines for anxiety (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin) — no judgment to those who need it, my psychiatrist just doesn’t prescribe them — I was interested in trying CBD after I had heard all the benefits it could do for anxiety. CBD has been getting lots of buzz lately, but it won’t get you buzzed; CBD stands for cannabidiol, the nonpsychoactive component of cannabis. Unlike THC, the component in marijuana that gets you “high,” CBD has no THC and doesn’t deliver the sensation of getting high or stoned. Instead, CBD is used for its calming and pain-relieving effects. Plus, it’s (mostly) legal and won’t show up in a drug test. CBD is found in dozens of products including tinctures, creams, beauty products, candy, sparkling water, and more.
When I first started taking CBD for anxiety, I would only take it as I needed it. As in, when my symptoms were bad; I’m talking horrible intrusive thoughts, increased heart rate, inability to concentrate, and catastrophizing everything. Although I noticed a little bit of a difference, it wasn’t nearly enough to really help. My mind would still be racing, and I would still have butterflies in my stomach. It wasn’t until I attended a CBD-themed dinner that I started talking to others who take CBD for anxiety.
“How often do you take it?” someone asked. I told her just as I needed it, which ended up being a few times a week. She suggested I take it every day to allow it to build up in my system. Although I wasn’t exactly sure of the science behind this — a Google search didn’t yield any well-vetted reliable info — I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try. When my anxiety gets to borderline debilitating, I’m willing to try anything. And since I hadn’t had any side effects from CBD thus far, I was willing to experiment on myself and take CBD every day.
My preferred method of taking CBD is via a tincture administered sublingually (absorbed in the veins under the tongue). According to a post on Medium, this takes about 15-25 minutes to take effect, depending on your height, your weight, and the quality of CBD. But to really reap the benefits of it, I started administering 20-40 milligrams of CBD like this every day. It took some trial and error to figure out the best dosage for me, but right now that’s around 30-40 milligrams once or twice a day: once in the morning and, if I need it, another time in the afternoon.
After a few days, I already noticed a major difference. I was more mellowed out overall and didn’t have as many of my typical symptoms of anxiety. A couple weeks in, my intrusive thoughts virtually disappeared. My stomach was more calm, my heart rate got to a normal pace, and I didn’t struggle with worrying about the worst-case scenario in every single situation. I would still have the occasional flare-up of my anxiety symptoms, but it wasn’t nearly as consistent or severe as it was before.
I’m not implying that CBD is a cure for anxiety; anxiety is a serious mental illness that should be treated under the supervision of a medical professional, especially if you are experiencing severe symptoms and it’s disrupting your everyday life. Since I already take a cocktail of medication to address my mental illness, which includes anxiety, I was seeking something else that could supplement my treatment. Fortunately, I realized CBD works for me. If you’ve been curious to try CBD for mild to moderate anxiety, start with a low dose (around 10 milligrams) and take it every day. Eventually, you can play around with the dosage and work your way up to a regimen that works for you.