Anxiety and the Endocannabinoid System

This article first appeared on MadebyHemp. One of their representatives sent me an email a couple weeks ago suggesting we could promote some of each other’s articles. I’d never heard of the topic for today’s article before, so I looked it up. There’s a system in our bodies that was discovered about 20 years ago which produces lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids that help the body maintain a balanced state. The endocannabinoid system’s primary purpose is to interact with compounds naturally produced by our body, and these compounds are similar to some certain compounds found in the cannabis plant. I haven’t tried CBD oil myself, but I do find the research on it very interesting, especially as it relates to anxiety.

 

Anxiety is a normal coping mechanism; however, in excess, it can be detrimental. More than just a situational response, anxiety disorders are characterized by a persistent and oftentimes irrational dread of everyday situations which can interfere with daily activities.

Forty million U.S. adults are affected by an anxiety-related disorder; however, the prevalence of these disorders should not diminish their impact.

Excessive anxiety is a central symptom of several neuropsychiatric disorders including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Anxiety is a complex disorder that can develop through various factors including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

Anxiety and Emotional Response

Anxiety is our body’s response to an emotional situation. Biologically, anxiety activates our “fight or flight” response to warn us of potential threats.

During such time, norepinephrine and cortisol flood our system to boost to perception, reflexes, and speed. These chemicals increase the heart rate, blood flow to the muscles, and air flow. With chronic anxiety, the response is never deactivated, and the physical and emotional effects of anxiety remain.

Anxiety and the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an integral role in regulating emotional response. Specifically, the ECS supports nerve activity that determines our response to emotional or aversive events.

An Introduction to the ECS

As discussed in a previous blog, the endocannabinoid system is a biological system responsible for maintaining homeostasis. The ECS is composed of endocannabinoids, degradative enzymes, and cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids such as anandamide (“the bliss molecule”) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2AG) are synthesized, or created, by our body on demand in response to an imbalance. They interact with the cannabinoid receptors to direct the body back to proper functioning.

CB1 Receptors and Anxiety

CB1 receptors, which are primarily located on nerve endings, are one of the two major cannabinoid receptors. Studies have found the activation of the CB1 receptor produces anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects.

When discussing conditioned fear, the effect of CB1 receptor activation is complex; however, CB1 receptor activation can reduce fear and prevent the activation of existing memories from the past. Additionally, CB1 receptor activation protects against the adverse effects of chronic stress, which can lead to anxiety. For this reason, CB1 receptor activation has been studied for anxiolytic drug development.

Endocannabinoids activate the CB1 receptor; therefore, a higher level of endocannabinoids can be beneficial for those with anxiety-related disorders. Additionally, chemicals that inhibit the FAAH enzyme from breaking down anandamide increase endocannabinoid availability and are also being studied for their anxiolytic effects.

Living with Anxiety

There are many ways to manage anxiety; however, less than 40% of those with an anxiety disorder seek treatment. Still today, there is a stigma surrounding mental illness that discourages those struggling from seeking help. We can help end the stigma of mental illness by having open conversations about mental health, encouraging mental health education, and showing compassion to those with a mental illness.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an anxiety disorder, we encourage you to learn more about the disorder and the options for treatment.

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10 Mental Health Habits to Try This 2019

This article first appeared on MadebyHemp. One of their representatives sent me an email last week suggesting we could promote some of each other’s articles. I haven’t tried CBD oil myself, but I did some research on it when writing for a client and it sounds like something that really could help a lot of people. I also thought this post had some very good content about habits that can help support our mental health. I hope you enjoy reading it!

 

2018 was the year we saw a strong surge of mental health awareness. The public’s focus on health broadened to also include taking care of one’s mental and emotional health. People have finally realized that one of the keys to maintaining a healthy body is to have a healthy mind.

This coming 2019, mental health awareness will continue to be one of the bigger focuses on overall well being. Learning a few habits that will promote and improve your mental health will be a great start to your new year.

1. Exercise

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The secret to a sound body is a sound mind. But it could also work both ways. The secret to a sound mind is a sound body. It might not work for everybody, but for a majority of able-bodied people, a great way to boost endorphins is to go out and move. Find an exercise that you love. You don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. Some people prefer lifting weights, some like yoga, some even run marathons. Find that one exercise you want to stick with and run with it.

2. Gratefulness

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Being thankful for the things you have instead of focusing on the things you don’t is a good way of bringing positive energy into your life. It will, more importantly, make you realize you are lucky to have the things you do. Practicing the habit of being grateful will help you become a more positive person.

3. Be kind

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Be the person you wish other people would be to you. Make someone’s day by smiling at them, or helping them carry a heavy load, or even just opening the door for someone who has their hands full. A bit of kindness paid forward will cultivate a world of kindness. It doesn’t take much to make others smile.

4. Sleep

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Get enough sleep. Sleep can do wonders for a tired mind and body. Don’t overdo it though. Get the right amount of sleep in order to feel rested and ready to tackle your day, every day. Put your screen away close to bedtime and concentrate on relaxing. Give your body and mind the time to recover and recuperate.

5. Hang out with friends

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Socialize. Even the most introverted person has someone they prefer to hang around with. It does wonderful things to your soul to share your time with the people that matter.

6. Chocolate

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Better yet, try Therapeutic Chocolate with Cannabidiol (CBD) oil.  Cannabinoids are non-psychoactive and can reduce anxiety. If you are looking to incorporate CBD into your diet, but is not very much of a fan of its earthy taste, chocolate is the way to go. Cannabinoids are found to keep the body in neutral state, and support the functions of the brain, as well as the central and peripheral nervous system. Get your chocolate fix for the day, and get CBD’s benefits while you’re at it.

7.  Laugh

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When they said laughter is the best medicine, they were not kidding. Laughter helps ease stress and anxiety. Hang out with a funny friend, or watch a comedy show. Or maybe learn a few jokes and share them with your friends. Laughter is one of those things that multiply when shared.

8. Eat well

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A few desserts won’t hurt you any but for the most part, feed your body the things it should be fed. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. This will ensure your body will feel healthy and will give you less things to stress or worry about. Avoid things that will harm your body like smoking or excessive drinking.

9. Love yourself

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Tell yourself something nice every day. Most people are generous with giving away compliments to others but are stingy when it comes to themselves. Start your day by giving yourself a sincere compliment. It could be something simple like “oh my skin looks very nice today”. Or “I do make an amazing omelet.” And develop this into a daily habit. Because loving yourself will allow you to love others more freely.

10. Meditate

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Give your mind a chance to empty itself out of the negative energy that is pervasive in the world. Give your mind the space to breathe and relax. And as you relax your mind, you relax your body. Meditation is a great way to connect your mind and your body into one plane. It is a good way to relax and to relieve yourself of any stress that you may have. Meditation also complements therapy.

Take Care of Yourself and Feel Everything

How much time do you spend taking care of yourself? I’m starting to realize self-care really is important. In fact, one might argue it’s vital if you want to keep functioning. Of course you don’t want to develop a self-centered attitude, but meeting your own needs isn’t selfish. In fact, it’s kind of a prerequisite for being unselfish because you can’t be there for other people if you’re worn so thin there’s nothing left to give.

I backed a Kickstarter last week called “Own Your Stigma – A Pin Series.” The creator lives with anxiety, depression, and ADHD and wanted to make a series of enamel pins for other people with an invisible illness. The Kickstarter is closed now, but they’ll be opening up for other pre-orders within a few days if you’re interested. I’m not quite sure which ones I’m going to order yet, but I’m strongly leaning toward this one after the week I’ve had:

Snarky Co. pins

I talk about my anxiety pretty openly now. But I have a much harder time talking about my depression. For some reason, admitting I struggle with that washes me in a sense of shame that I don’t really feel anymore in connection with anxiety. So it’s not all that easy for me to write that for the past six days I’ve been barely functioning because even though nothing happened that would explain me feeling depressed I just emotionally “crashed.”

I probably won’t be ordering this particular pin style, but this past week climbing out of bed or talking with people did feel like something I might deserve a ribbon for.

Snarky Co. pins

It’s amazing how “little things” that seem so easy when you’re not walking around in an apathetic fog or feeling like you could fall asleep any moment suddenly become well-nigh impossible Writing, cooking, eating, driving, interacting with people — they’ve all felt incredibly difficult. But there are some things I’ve just had to keep doing, like meeting certain work deadlines, eating food, and going to church. I know that if I miss those things I’ll feel worse and/or it will have long-term negative effects on things that are important to me when I do care. So I made myself get them done.

Still, even though there are some things you just have to keep doing when you’re down, I don’t think it’s good to push yourself to do all things you’d be doing if you felt fine. It’s okay to crawl back in bed for a while when you feel like you can’t sit upright a moment longer. It’s okay to feel sad, guilty, confused, anxious, etc. even if it’s for no reason that you can identify. Which brings us to one pin I definitely want to get from this series:

Snarky Co. pins

The text on this pin reads “feel everything.” I’m becoming a firm believer in this. I certainly don’t mean you should let your emotions control you or that your feelings are always going to tell you something that’s good for you. But I do think it’s vital that we let ourselves feel what we’re feeling and learn to process those emotions in a healthy way. Bottling things up and refusing to address them doesn’t usually make them go away. It just lets them build up until you’re forced to deal with a whole messy jumble of emotions farther down the road.

So let’s all make the time to take care of ourselves and give ourselves permission to feel everything. And maybe we can all learn together how to process the tough things and help each other when we’re struggling.


If you like the pins I’ve talked about in this post, then make sure you check out Snarky Co. Here’s a link to their Instagram.

Featured image credit: Foundry Co via Pixabay

Mental Illness and Musicals

The theater where my sister and I hold season tickets is getting the touring Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen for its 2019/2020 season. Pretty exciting, right? Actually, I’m excited about the entire upcoming season. It’s packed full of musicals, and they’re all such good titles that I can’t say there’s one that I’m least exited to see.

I can, however, tell you that Dear Evan Hansen is one I’m most excited about. Two years ago, this musical was nominated for nine Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt. And it more than earned those accolades with brilliant scrip, music, characters, and acting all coming together to tell a story that contributes to an important conversation about mental illness. Read more

The Difference Between Having Anxiety and Feeling Anxious

Every human being knows what it’s like to feel anxious about something, but that’s not the same thing as having anxiety. There’s a difference between normal anxiety (which is appropriate to the situation) and dealing with an anxiety disorder (which is a mental health condition).

In day-to-day life it’s actually really hard to define the line between normal worry and too much worry (as Dr. Ramani Durvasula says in “Why It’s So Crucial to Understand Anxiety Disorders“). What pushes you into problematic anxiety can vary depending on the individual. It will also vary for an individual depending on other factors in their lives. In addition, anxiety looks different for everyone who struggles with it. That means my personal examples in this article are an accurate reflection of my anxiety, but won’t be equally relatable for everyone with anxiety.

There are plenty of situations where it’s normal to feel anxious. But when anxiety starts to define your life, or keeps you from functioning normally, or generalizes to everyday situations, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with something different than normal human nervousness. Anxiety can also be a clue that something else is going on. If you think your worry might have crossed a line into too much worry, it’s a good idea to talk with a mental health professional.

Disclaimer: I’m not a counselor or therapist and this article can’t be used to diagnose anxiety or as a treatment guide. If you’re struggling with something talk with a mental health professional. They will be much more helpful than me. I also want to say that there’s nothing shameful about seeking answers or asking for help. And if you do get a diagnosis, remember it’s a starting point for treatment, not a sentence or judgement on who you are. You wouldn’t feel ashamed about finding out you have lyme disease or a heart condition, and there shouldn’t be a stigma against mental health problems either. Read more