Cannabis Can Provide Relief From Social Anxiety Disorder

bypeterg5 minutes

You said you’d go to the party. But now you picture yourself tongue-tied, unable to make conversation with someone who wonders what the heck is the matter with you. Cliques form with backs turned to you. Disdainful stares confirm that your fashion choices are off. Nobody you’re attracted to gives you the time of day.

You picture humiliating scenario after humiliating scenario and break into a sweat, your heart racing.

You’ll just plan on an early exit. So why go to the party at all?

So, you turn off your phone, turn on Netflix and open a bottle of wine.

Problem avoided—at least in the short term. But you have yet to deal with the long-term consequences of social anxiety disorder. Traditional ways of coping with social anxiety include therapy and even some pharmaceutical options. But the right cannabis strains could be an important part of a holistic approach to treating social anxiety, too.

Social Anxiety Can Take a Huge Toll

We’ve all felt social anxiety in some form, such as when you’re worried about giving a presentation to a large group at work. This is a normal, passing condition.

But social anxiety disorder is deeper, chronic and often seems impossible to deal with. WebMD gives a great explanation about how social anxiety impacts people’s lives:

“If you have social anxiety disorder, the stress of these situations is too much to handle. You might avoid all social contact because things that other people consider normal—like making small talk and eye contact—make you so uncomfortable. All aspects of your life, not just the social, could start to fall apart.”

Other kinds of social occasions that can spark this irrational fear include:

  • Dating
  • Talking to strangers
  • Going to school or work
  • Using public washrooms
  • Eating in front of other people

And the results can manifest in:

  • Low self esteem
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Poor social skills
  • Inability to take criticism
  • Dependence on alcohol or caffeine for mood control

Traditional Treatments for Social Anxiety Disorder

It’s an open question about whether social anxiety disorder is a result of nurture or nature, or a combination of both. In either case, a visit to the doctor is recommended.

Traditional treatments include psychotherapy and often cognitive behavior therapy, where you rationally assess specific triggers and situations. Ideally, this leads to a deeper understanding of the problem and learning to lessen the severity of your emotional reaction.

Of course, there are the drug options, too. To deal with the symptoms of anxiety doctors may prescribe a variety of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and beta blockers.

Often doctors first prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for social anxiety, including drugs such as Paxil and Zoloft. Another option may be the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) venlafaxine (Effexor XR).

But people worry about the side effects of these powerful drugs, their links to opioids and the addiction dangers associated with them.

Another option that people have been exploring for centuries is cannabis.

Taking Cannabis to Help Alleviate Social Anxiety

As far back as 1563, a Portuguese doctor prescribed marijuana for anxiety, claiming that it could relieve patients of all worries.

More detailed studies need to be conducted on how well medical marijuana treats social anxiety disorder and other forms of anxiety. But the research completed so far is encouraging.

For example, a 2011 study of 24 patients suffering from social anxiety disorder shows that cannabidiol (CBD) decreased their anxiety levels.

In a 2014 study by Vanderbilt University, researchers reveal that cannabis can have a direct effect on the part of the brain dealing with feelings of anxiety. They “found cannabinoid receptors, through which marijuana exerts its effects, in a key emotional hub in the brain involved in regulating anxiety and the flight-or-fight response.”

And a 2017 Canadian study “connects doctor-supervised medical cannabis treatments to a sharp drop in benzodiazepine reliance among Canadian patients.” This suggests that medical marijuana could be a viable option to take the place of traditional anxiety medication.


Which High-CBD Cannabis Strains Work Best to Help Ease Social Anxiety?

Of the various cannabis cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive component that marijuana consumers turn to for feelings of euphoria and pain relief. But high THC levels may also cause anxiety, as opposed to relieving it.

CBD, on the other hand, generally relaxes the mind and body, and so medical marijuana authorities usually suggest cannabis strains rich in CBD to help treat social anxiety.

Here are three high-CBD marijuana strains you may want to try if you’re looking for some relief from social anxiety:

  • Harlequin is a recommended cannabis strain for people with anxiety. Consumers report that it calms them and helps them to stay clear headed and alert at the same time. Harlequin is a 75% sativa-dominant hybrid with a 5:2 CBD to THC ratio.
  • One of the most CBD-rich marijuana strains is ACDC. It boasts a 20:1 CBD to THC ratio and CBD levels as high as 19%. ACDC generally makes people feel relaxed and happy, without the THC high.
  • Sour Tsunami is a cannabis strain that’s specifically bred for its high CBD content. The sativa-dominant hybrid has about 10–11% CBD and is effective in dealing with anxiety, inflammation and pain.


Other Complementary Social Anxiety Treatments

Besides therapy and medication, there are other holistic methods for treating social anxiety disorder.

For example, you can make lifestyle changes like:

  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol, caffeine and sugar
  • Getting more sleep
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Doing more exercise
  • Participating in social situations where you feel comfortable

Meditation, other mindfulness practices and yoga are also good ways to deal with the effects of anxiety. For example, Zen meditation teaches participants to sit and accept their most difficult feelings, not flee from them, in the hopes of lessening their power.

However you treat your social anxiety, you should first go to your doctor to consider the variety of options. If your physician isn’t up to date on medical marijuana, you can talk to a knowledgeable medical professional online though HelloMD’s Talk to a Health Practitioner service.

Photo credit: Joshua Rawson-Harris