Will CBD Ease My OCD Symptoms?
OCD is one of the most common mental health conditions in the US. Approximately 2% of American adults will develop OCD at some point in their lives. This condition is more common in females than males.
However, before delving into why you should or should not use CBD for OCD, it is important to understand what OCD is and is not. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by “obsessions,” which can, and often do, lead to “compulsions” or ritualistic behaviors. Obsessions are unwanted upsetting, disturbing, annoying, or violent thoughts that can involve “fixations” on germs, bacteria, blood, bodily fluids, dirt, sexual or religious beliefs, being harmed or killed, superstitions, phobias, etc.
Compulsions, on the other hand, are rituals or routines that often accompany intrusive thoughts (obsessions). These behaviors or actions must be performed over and over again to receive relief from the stress and anxiety fueling unwanted and/or upsetting thoughts. For example, compulsions may involve organizing, re-arranging, checking, repeating mantras or phrases, counting, and/or washing or cleaning things many times.
Obsessions can trigger compulsions. And, if the ritual or routine is not performed or acted upon, it can cause your stress and anxiety levels to rise. The result? Social isolation, unrelenting fears, phobias, emotional detachment from friends, a partner or spouse, and/or other loved ones, and an inability to carry out essential household, parenting, marital, relationship, personal (taking a shower or bath, getting dressed, brushing teeth, combing hair, etc.), family, school, and/or work tasks and responsibilities.
The exact cause of OCD varies from person to person, yet, chronic or a high level of stress, along with anxiety, excessive worrying, and extreme fears appear to contribute to or worsen it. Thus, the only way to ensure that you have properly addressed your OCD symptoms is to seek OCD treatment. Keep in mind, however, that treating OCD can be challenging. Therefore, a multi-treatment approach (i.e., medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and/or self-help tools) is usually the best way to treat OCD.
Recently, however, people have begun to turn to “alternative treatments,” like CBD, to help treat their OCD symptoms. CBD is a popular choice for people suffering from anxiety conditions, like OCD, because it is natural and devoid of serious side effects like the ones often seen with anti-anxiety meds. CBD has been praised for its stress-relieving and anti-anxiety properties – ingredients needed to reduce or eliminate OCD symptoms.
If you are wondering if CBD will help your OCD symptoms, look no more because this article will explore the pros and cons of using CBD for OCD.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of 100 naturally-occurring chemicals found in the Cannabis Sativa plant (hemp plant). Although similar to marijuana (THC), CBD is taken from the inside of the plant instead of from the surface of it. CBD is the second most common chemical found in the Cannabis Sativa plant – following THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is not bound to the plant’s CB1 receptors, which means that it does not boost your dopamine production or produce a psychoactive sensation in your body.
This natural chemical also does not cause tolerance or withdrawal symptoms, or increase your risk of drug addiction. CBD has only received FDA approval for one purpose – to treat epilepsy (a seizure disorder). However, if also used for a variety of ailments and conditions, such as anxiety, dystonia (a muscle condition), lupus, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), wound-healing, depression, stress, headaches, muscle aches and joint pain, OCD, etc.
However, studies have produced inconclusive results as to the CBD’s effectiveness when treating these ailments and conditions. In 2018, Congress passed a law that makes it legal to sell hemp and hemp products in the US. Although CBD is legal, some states have imposed a limit to how much THC can be in a CBD product and still be considered legal. For instance, to be legal in Tennessee, CBD products must not contain more than .03% THC.
Because CBD has been FDA-approved for a condition, it cannot be legally labeled as a “food product” or “dietary supplement.” As a result, CBD is considered a “cosmetic product.” Keep in mind that many CBD products are illegally distributed and sold as “dietary supplements.” Also, many CBD products are inadequately tested making it impossible to know exactly how much THC is in them and how safe and effective they are.
How Much CBD Should I Take for My OCD Symptoms?
Everyone reacts to CBD differently, so the recommended dosage varies from person to person.
Remember, CBD is only FDA-approved for seizure disorders (i.e., epilepsy), so there is no “standard” or “universal” dosage for OCD symptoms. In fact, to date, CBD is largely unregulated in regards to purity, testing, safety, dosage, and labeling.
Thus, most CBD companies provide dosage recommendations, based on one’s familiarity with THC or CBD products, metabolism, age, gender, the severity of the symptoms, body weight, purpose, and/or goals or desired effects. However, many CBD experts and “users” suggest that you start with the smallest amount of CBD and gradually increase this amount until you get the desired results.
According to CBD experts, the beginning dose should be around 5mg of CBD spread out throughout the day. You can take this dose at one time or split it up into equal doses (i.e., 2.5mg of CBD 2x a day). Try this dose for about 7 days, and then slightly bump up the milligrams (i.e., 10mg of CBD, 1x a day, 5mg of CBD, 2x a day, or 2.5mg of CBD, 4x a day), if that does not reduce or alleviate your OCD symptoms. Once you find a dosage that works for you, stay with that dose until you start to notice a negative change in your OCD symptoms (tolerance). Then, you may have to increase your dosage again.
A good way to keep track of your CBD dosage is to document on a monthly calendar the amount of CBD you are taking for your OCD symptoms, when you are taking the CBD (day or night, once or multiple times a day), how CBD makes you feel, and the “type” of CBD you are taking. If you are still unsure how much CBD to take for your OCD, consult a CBD specialist or a “holistic” doctor for guidance.
How Does CBD Help OCD?
CBD prevents anandamides, also known as the “bliss or supreme happiness neurotransmitters,” from metabolizing or “breaking down” in the body. Anandamides are also naturally occurring, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, responsible for mood stability, stress relief, calmness, and relaxation. Anandamides behave like antidepressants in the body, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Anandamides also play a significant role in the endocannabinoid system. Your endocannabinoid system helps your body maintain homeostasis (an internal balance – i.e., blood pressure, metabolism, oxygen level, blood sugar, etc.). CBD interacts with your endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate your organs and other systems, so your body can maintain homeostasis (internal balance).
This interaction triggers an increase in anandamide production while impeding its breakdown. Extra anandamides moving through your bloodstream, help your endocannabinoid system restore your body’s homeostasis – without experiencing a cannabinoid deficiency.
Anandamides are also ligands. Ligands are ions/molecules that bind to certain brain receptors (CB1 and CB2), triggering specific bodily responses. CB1 receptors are located in your brain and central nervous system (CNS), while CB2 receptors are located in other areas, such as in your immune system.
Anandamides pass quickly through the blood/brain barrier while functioning as “messengers” and transmitting signals between nerve cells and throughout your body. Anandamides also regulate your dopamine production, thereby, helping your body successfully transport calcium molecules to your nerves. This is crucial for effective nerve conductivity.
Anandamides can also influence your motor function, your perception of pain and distress, and your memory. Studies suggest that anandamides may help improve or resolve cognitive issues, like memory impairment. However, researchers also suggest that too many anandamides can lead to absentmindedness, forgetfulness, or even amnesia. Moreover, if anandamides are metabolized or broken down too quickly, it can cause an endocannabinoid deficiency, which can trigger or exacerbate stress, anxiety, and OCD symptoms.
Anandamides are linked to prostaglandins, fatty, hormone-like lipids, responsible for controlling the amount of inflammation and pain in your body. High levels of prostaglandins can trigger or worsen inflammation and pain. And, inflammation and pain can make OCD symptoms worse. CBD, on the other hand, prevents, controls, or inhibits the production of excess prostaglandins.
CBD can boost the amount of anandamide in your body, triggering a “quiet” mind and body. It is for these reasons that researchers surmise that low doses of THC, like the kind found in full-spectrum CBD (a “type” of CBD that contains .03% or less of THC), may help with anxiety conditions, like OCD.
Note: Researchers have found that CBD is more effective than anti-anxiety meds when used to treat OCD symptoms.
What Are the Various Forms of CBD For OCD?
CBD is available in a variety of forms, such as tinctures, pills, edibles, vapes, topicals, and pet foods and medicines. However, the most common form is CBD tinctures or oils. CBD tinctures contain a hemp extract mixed with a carrier oil. Tinctures are taken orally by placing a couple of drops of the oil under your tongue and holding it there for at least 30 seconds before swallowing.
Taking CBD sublingually (orally) helps it enter your bloodstream more quickly. Because CBD is a fast-acting product, you can receive relief or results quicker than most anti-anxiety medications. You should notice some improvement in your OCD symptoms within 30 minutes of ingesting the oil – an improvement that may last for 6 hours or more.
However, if you do not like the “woodsy” or “earthy” taste of full-spectrum CBD oil, try gummies, other edibles (i.e., popcorn, chocolate, candy, beverages, etc.), or pills. Keep in mind that to reap the benefits of CBD tinctures, pills, or edibles, you will need to take them by mouth. Understand that CBD must be metabolized or digested by your gastrointestinal system before you will “see” noticeable results.
CBD is beneficial for anxiety conditions, like OCD, because it lasts longer than conventional anxiety medications. CBD gummies, pills, and edibles are great for traveling since you can discretely consume them in public spaces.
Vaping is another way to use CBD for OCD. CBD vape pens typically come in a variety of flavors and contain CBD E-liquid (a mixture of CBD oil and a carrier oil or a thinning agent, such as vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, or MCT oil).
Vaporized CBD oil not only absorbs into your bloodstream the fastest but is also the most effective form of CBD. It is important to note that vaporized CBD is also the unhealthiest form of CBD. If you decide to take this route, you should expect to “see” improvement in your OCD symptoms 10 minutes after inhaling the CBD. These results should last at least 3 hours.
So, the form of CBD you should use for your OCD symptoms largely depends on your body chemistry, body weight, preferences, the severity of your symptoms, and your lifestyle. So, if you are looking for a fast-acting way to reduce your stress, anxiety, and OCD symptoms, a CBD tincture (oil) is your best bet.
But if you are a relatively busy person, who needs a daily dose of CBD to take on-the-go, and keep your OCD symptoms in check, OCD gummies, edibles, or pills should suffice. Vapes are ideal if you want to maximize the effects (the reduction or elimination of OCD symptoms) of the CBD with a single dose.
Which One is Best for OCD – Medical Marijuana or CBD?
Although many people report receiving OCD-relief from both medical marijuana and hemp-based, full-spectrum CBD (with THC). While medical marijuana and full-spectrum CBD are similar there are some notable differences. Medical marijuana can make you “high” because it contains a large amount of THC. CBD, on the other hand, only contains a small amount of THC (0.03% or less), which means it is unlikely to make you “high.” You also will not fail a drug test with CBD, but with medical marijuana, it is possible.
Another form of CBD, referred to as “CBD isolate,” does not contain THC. The good news is that even though CBD will not make you “high,” it can still make you feel relaxed, balanced, and happier – all without mind-altering THC properties. THC, which is found abundantly in marijuana, can trigger euphoria, hunger, deep relaxation, and heightened awareness.
Researchers have found that low doses of THC can reduce stress, anxiety, and OCD symptoms. However, large amounts of THC have been linked to increased stress, anxiety, OCD symptoms, and paranoid thinking. Therefore, experts suggest that CBD is more effective for people with OCD.
How Effective is CBD for OCD Relief? What Does the Research Say?
According to a 2015 study, CBD can help control, reduce, or eliminate OCD symptoms (especially compulsions). When mice were given “ecstasy” their anxiety and OCD symptoms increased, but when the mice were given CBD their OCD symptoms decreased. Another study found that people, who were given antidepressants, like Prozac, for their OCD, experienced a reduction in their symptoms, similar to the one experienced after ingesting CBD. Prozac and other antidepressants have been used for decades to treat OCD.
Based on both studies, researchers concluded the following:
- People with OCD, who are given CBD, may experience a reduction in their stress, anxiety, and symptoms.
- According to brain scans, CBD may reduce cerebral blood flow to the limbic region – the left side of the amygdala-hippocampal complex and the left side of the posterior cingulate gyrus. The limbic system is the emotional epicenter of your brain. These areas of the brain are vital for the formation of new memories and the retainment of past memories.
Prior studies have also suggested that people with anxiety or anxiety conditions, like OCD and PTSD, have an “overactive” limbic system, causing an increase in stress, anxiety, and OCD symptoms. CBD, on the other hand, is believed to “calm” and “balance” the limbic system, leading to a reduction in OCD symptoms.
Personal experiences, independent studies, and limited clinical trials have provided evidence that CBD may be a therapeutic and beneficial OCD treatment option:
- Anxiety – Researchers have found that CBD may be beneficial for anxiety conditions, like OCD, panic attacks, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobias, and depression and insomnia.
- Convulsions: Studies suggest that full-spectrum CBD may reduce convulsions, seizures, and muscle spasms – all of which can contribute to OCD behaviors in adults, children, and pets.
- Psychosis: Researchers suggest that CBD may reduce psychosis in chronic mental health conditions like anxiety, bipolar disorder, manic depression, schizophrenia, and OCD. However, research shows that CBD should not be used as a “replacement” for conventional OCD treatments.
Understand that severe cases of OCD may be so disturbing and incapacitating that it is viewed as a “type” of psychosis. Some people with severe OCD may feel as if they are going “crazy” when psychosis is involved. The truth is that it is possible to have OCD and psychosis. When both conditions (OCD and psychosis) are present at the same time, the diagnosis is “OCD with psychotic features.”
Note: Because CBD contains a combination of anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and anti-epileptic properties, it is considered a suitable treatment choice for OCD.
Can I Take Vitamins & Herbal Supplements with CBD?
Yes, you can take most vitamins and herbal supplements with CBD for your OCD.
CBD is a natural compound which means side effects tend to be mild or non-existent. And, because CBD is natural, you should be able to take most vitamins and herbal supplements with it.
Listed below are some vitamins and herbal supplements with CBD:
- N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) – N-acetylcysteine, an amino acid, may reduce glutamate activity in the brain. Glutamate, a neurotransmitter, is believed to trigger some cases of OCD. NAC is also linked to glutathione, a strong antioxidant, produced in the liver and nervous system and known for preventing and repairing cellular damage. Cellular damage and oxidative stress can trigger or worsen OCD symptoms.
- Inositol – Inositol is not only a nutrient but also a member of the vitamin B family. Inositol can be found in phytic acid – the main ingredient in fiber. Inositol can also be found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, and citrus fruits. According to researchers, inositol may ease OCD symptoms – in some people.
- St John’s Wort – St. John’s Wort, a Chinese herb, has calming properties that may reduce your OCD symptoms. According to a study, some people with OCD, who take 450mg of St John’s Wort, may experience a reduction in their obsessions and compulsions.
- 5 HTP – 5 HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), an amino acid, is needed to regulate serotonin production. Because serotonin-based tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs are typically used to treat OCD, it makes sense that 5 HTP could also be an effective OCD treatment option. However, more research is needed to endorse its effectiveness for OCD.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids, are “healthy fats” that may be beneficial for people suffering from anxiety conditions, such as OCD, and mood conditions, like depression. Researchers suggest that omega-3 may improve cognitive functioning, mood, focus, and concentration. It may also lower your stress and ease your anxiety.