Here’s What We Know About CBD for Mood Disorders

Here’s What We Know About CBD for Mood Disorders

There is no doubt that we live in some of the most exciting times in human history. But, with all of life’s stresses, pressures and changes, we can all have periods in which we can experience feelings of ecstatic happiness, devastating sadness and everything in between. 

These feelings, which are often referred to as “mood swings” are common. But these swings become unmanageable when they interfere with our daily lives, debilitate our daily routines, and evolve into clinically diagnosable mood disorders.

Mood disorders refer to a spectrum of emotional and psychological symptoms of which anxiety and depression are probably the most well-known. But mood disorders can also include other psychological conditions, such as bipolar disorders, premenstrual and premenstrual dysphoric disorders (PMS & PMDD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.

Symptoms of a mood disorder are usually indicated by a serious change in mood, and though not an exhaustive list usually, typically involves one or more of the following: 

  • Feeling sad most of the time
  • Feelings of hopelessness or anxiety
  • Losing interest in daily activities and/or important life events
  • Fluctuating between extreme sadness and happiness
  • Suicidal thinking 
  • Relationship problems 

Mood disorders can affect anyone at any time—regardless of age, gender or lifestyle—and can last as little as a few weeks and as long as the rest of your life. 

Cannabidiol for Mood Disorders

Medical professionals aren’t exactly sure what the underlying causes of mood disorders are. Currently the most accepted theory is that mood disorders arise due to:

  1. Neurochemical imbalances in the limbic system, which include important structures such as the hippocampus, amygdala and hypothalamus of the brain.
  2. An endocannabinoid system (ECS) imbalance, with not enough certain endocannabinoids and/or cannabinoid receptors being present in the body.

Traditionally, people who have been diagnosed with a mood disorder will be prescribed a treatment plan that consists of a pick-and-mix of different psychological techniques and medications. Usually it includes a combination of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy combined with a prescription drug such as an antipsychotic or antidepressant. 

With advances in research, cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is now being included as part of such a treatment plan. 

The Role of the Endocannabinoid System with Mood

Researchers found that in people who have been diagnosed with a mood disorder, three things are going on.

1. Serotonin levels decrease.

One of the most important neurotransmitters influencing mental health is serotonin. When there isn’t enough serotonin available in the brain, the brain is unable to regulate mood and emotions properly. If this situation continues over an extended period of time, it can cause one of a variety of mental and mood disorders to develop.

2. The amount of mood-regulating endocannabinoids fluctuates.

Just like serotonin, there are two endocannabinoids that also play a vital role in helping the brain regulate moods and emotions: anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Anadamide is referred to as the bliss molecule because of the role it plays in elevating mood. 2-AG is responsible in memory activation. Researchers found that people who have been diagnosed with a mood disorder have lower levels of anandamide in their system while having higher levels of 2-AG.

3. The number of CB1 receptors decrease.

With this decrease in serotonin and anandamide coupled with the raised levels of 2-AG, the CB1 receptors in the brain ends up being overstimulated. The brain starts adapting to this situation by reducing the number of these receptors in the brain. The end result is that the brain has difficulty in maintaining a sense of emotional balance, increasing the severity of the mood disorder.

How CBD Can Treat Mood Disorders

The anti-anxiety, antidepressant and antipsychotic properties of CBD are now increasingly accepted within the research and medical communities. Scientists believe that the reason why CBD works so well is because of its ability to activate those parts of the body’s endocannabinoids system (ECS) which selectively supports the limbic system. 

The end result of this is a state of neurochemical homeostasis coupled with the regeneration of the key receptor-sites responsible for emotional regulation and mood. 

CBD for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also previously known as manic-depressive disorder, refers to a group of disorders characterized by severe mood swings and changes in energy levels, activity levels and the ability to function effectively on a day-to-day basis. For someone who’s been diagnosed with one of the four common types of bipolar disorder, moods range from extreme highs—periods of elation and energized behavior (known as manic episodes)—to extreme lows or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes).

Research suggests that it’s CBD’s ability to inhibit anandamide reuptake and hydrolysis, as well as its sedative properties, which can explain its effectiveness for helping reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

CBD for Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a very serious mental disorder that requires lifelong treatment. It is incredibly disabling and is characterized by a combination of symptoms including hallucinations, delusions and extremely disordered thinking that impairs a person’s ability to function day-to-day.

Similar to bipolar disorder, scientists think that it is because CBD inhibits anandamide deactivation, raising serotonin serum levels, which accounts for its antipsychotic effects, but with one major benefit. When compared to a potent antipsychotic called amisulpride, researchers found that though both treatments lead to a significant clinical improvement, CBD’s side-effect profile is much more favorable.

CBD for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a more serious form of Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and is characterized by severe irritability, depression or anxiety, which can lead to thoughts of hopelessness, despair or even suicide.

A recent study shows that CBD in particular significantly reduced self-reported feelings of stress, anxiety and depression due to the way it interacts with the limbic and paralimbic brain areas. Although further study into the relationship between PMDD and CBD is necessary, researchers see its potential as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

The data surrounding CBD for a variety of mood disorders is showing that it has great potential for helping to improve symptoms and quality of life for many people with a clinically diagnosed mood disorder.

Not only does CBD seem to be effective, but for a lot of patients there is one thing in particular which makes it such an attractive treatment option: CBD’s side-effect profile. For many people, the side effects of the medications they need to take prove to be just as challenging as dealing with the disease itself. CBD, on the other hand, has relatively few if any negative side-effects when compared to other types of pharmaceutical interventions, as well as a good safety profile.

However, if you are considering using CBD for treating a mood disorder, always speak to your treating physician or doctor first. CBD can interact with certain medications or physical conditions and works best as part of an integrative and supervised medical treatment protocol.

Lieze Boshoff

Lieze Boshoff (B.Psych, M.Sc (HCN)), is the founder of LBC3 Marketing, a leading content marketing and copywriting consultancy. Lieze has been working exclusively in the cannabis industry for three years, helping her clients get strategic about their content, marketing and copywriting goals. Lieze’s interest in medical cannabis and CBD got sparked when her mother sought a wholistic approach to treating her cancer. Seeing how effective this strategy was, but also the stigma surrounding it, Lieze set out to educate people about medical cannabis and CBD through her marketing and consulting work.

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