Cannabis and Social Anxiety
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) afflicts millions of Americans. People suffering from SAD have a social phobia that makes them acutely aware and afraid of being judged and criticized in public situations. Imagine feeling as if everywhere you go people are talking about or silently judging every aspect of your being, from your appearance to every word you speak. It’s easy to see why people with SAD tend to isolate and have higher rates of depression.
Extreme self-consciousness is the hallmark of this condition and if you ask around, you’ll find plenty of people who use cannabis to self-treat anxiety. Although paranoia can arise from cannabis use, especially with THC-rich strains which are naturally low in CBD, this is highly dependent on the strain and personal body and brain chemistry of the user.
CBD and THC occur naturally in cannabis, along with more than a hundred other cannabinoids. It’s thought that cannabis works best for medical conditions when the whole plant medicine is used as opposed to extracting one or the other and using it alone. CBD has been shown to be particularly effective for the treatment of anxiety disorders. By working with the body’s endocannabinoid system, it encourages natural production of cannabinoids as well making significant physiological changes in the body resulting in pain reduction and relaxation.
Many of the studies linking social anxiety to marijuana have ignored the fact that many people suffering from anxiety are naturally drawn to substances that alleviate their discomfort. Both cannabis and alcohol are popular with people with anxiety and can reduce social phobia, eliminating the ever-present fear of judgement. Only one of those has zero reported fatalities and offers myriad other health benefits – cannabis.
Anxiety stimulates the areas of the brain responsible for fear and stress. When the brain senses danger, it releases chemicals into to body like adrenaline. For highly anxious people, their bodies are constantly being flooded by fear and stress chemicals – those that we need for our “fight-or-flight” response. When social situations evoke this response, they experience the same physical sensations – nausea, sweating, tense muscles, rapid heartbeat, etc… in addition to mental anguish.
Cannabis counteracts this in two ways. First, it creates a physical response in the body that signals relaxation. Cannabis affects the pain receptors in the brain and is anti-inflammatory. Muscle relaxation and physical wellbeing signal the brain that things are safe. Secondarily, the psychoactive properties of THC can allow the mind to release obsessive, negative thoughts associated with social phobia. The result is a mental and physical balm for the sufferer that allows them to experience and enjoy social interactions.
Some popular strains for treating social anxiety include Jack Herer, Granddaddy Purple (GPD) and Strawberry Cough. For those sensitive to THC, look for 1:1 strains like Greenshock’s Dr. Green Shock or CBD-rich strains are ideal.