Marijuana For Anxiety

Person holding marijuana joint in front of tree and body of water

Can Marijuana Help With Anxiety?

Marijuana is an interesting drug due to its intoxicating effect on the human mind. Many people swear by the fact that marijuana alleviates their anxiety by relaxing and calming them down. But others would argue otherwise, claiming that marijuana exacerbates their anxiety to the point of inducing panic-like symptoms.

But without randomized-controlled trials, we cannot assume that marijuana is efficacious for anxiety disorders. But that does not mean that we should discount the many user reports circulating around about marijuana’s positive effect on anxiety. If marijuana does alleviate anxiety, how does it do that?

We know that THC, the intoxicating chemical found in marijuana, binds to CB1 receptors in the brain and CB2 receptors in the periphery. We also know that there are two strains of marijuana: indica which produces more of a body high and sativa which produces more of a head high.

Which strain alleviates anxiety more depends on the user. Many would attest that indica highs do a better job at alleviating anxiety, because the high is more directed towards the body. This results in a lesser head high and potentially less anxious symptoms. On the other hand, sativa may exacerbate anxiety in users because it mainly provides a head high.

What is a typical user experience on marijuana that leads to less anxiety? If you’re feeling on edge, worried and anxious, within the first 5 minutes of inhaling marijuana, the user will feel their state of consciousness slowly being altered. The feeling is a sense of mental relaxation with the perception of slowed time.

The user also becomes more aware of their bodily sensations and their surroundings; everything becomes more alive and interesting to the senses. Because of this, it may take away the user’s focus on their anxiety symptoms; their attention becomes redirected to other activities which become more interesting, such as music and movies.

But what about a user’s experience with marijuana exacerbating anxiety? The anxious symptoms can escalate within a few minutes of inhaling or later on in the journey. The anxious symptoms can be quite severe, to the point of inducing a panic state or the thought of “losing one’s mind.”

An example of anxiety while on marijuana may include something of this sort: you’re standing in your kitchen high and eating a delicious delicacy. Your taste buds are on fire while you slowly allow your masticatory muscles to chew away your small piece of heaven. But all of a sudden, out of no where, your perception of you standing in place and eating becomes magnified and blown out of proportion!

There is way too much unnecessary focus by your mind on your current situation: your posture, your chewing, your bodily sensations such as your heart rate and breathing, and your thoughts. The next thing you know, you’re starting to experience anxious thoughts: “oh my god, I’m freaking out! I feel uncomfortable. Something bad is going to happen! I wish I could end this high!”

And that’s how one potentially experiences a panic attack while under the influence of marijuana. Therefore, we do not yet know if marijuana is a good medicine for anxiety. For some people it works wonders, while for others, it wreaks havoc! Until we have conclusive RCT results, we can only go by user reports.

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Worrying Can Kill You

Worried man sitting outside with hand on face

Worrying: A Catalyst To Mental Illness

The act of allowing your mind to dwell on difficulties, troubles or unnecessary thoughts promotes stress, fatigue and even the development of a mental illness. This act is called worrying and we do it all the time; day and night. If you are worrying a lot during the day, then you can bet that you are unconsciously worrying throughout the night.

Worrying is your mind becoming stuck in a repetitive loop that is focused on a certain set of thoughts; it’s very much tied in to anxiety. But it doesn’t mean that you have anxiety if you are constantly worrying. It can just be a bad habit which you have developed secondary to your life circumstances.

People who live in urban environments are especially prone to worry about many different things. This has to do with living a fast-paced life, environmental stress, over-population, traffic and feeling rushed a lot of times. Whenever you are feeling rushed, you start to experience pressure regarding certain thoughts and behaviors.

For instance, you might feel rushed to leave your home in the morning and make it to work on time. In the process, you forget if you turned off the stove or closed the fridge from 5 minutes ago. So you go back and check them, but because you are in a rush, you end up worrying about your kitchen later on that day.

And this pattern of worrying may continue to get worse. Your worrying can even start encompassing new thoughts and behaviors; the more you feed into it, the more powerful your worries become. Worrying is also very much tied in to OCD. Once these thoughts become too negative to handle, they’re often followed by compulsions in order to alleviate them.

Excessive worrying, stress, anxiety and other symptoms can lead you to feeling suicidal. Your brain becomes overloaded with negative clutter, which distracts you from thinking clearly about your life. When you are distracted, other things in your life start to crumble; as those things go down, they also pull onto you to sink you down with them.

Keep your worries at a minimum. Often times, they’re actually never really needed.

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Controlling Your Nerves

Anxious and nervous woman holding her face with hands

How To Calm Nerves And Anxiety

Nobody wants to be around a hothead. Controlling your nerves is crucial to avoid losing your cool and turning an innocent situation into an awkward and disappointing one. Life is unexpected and can present you with situations that can easily irritate you. You have to learn how to handle uncomfortable situations.

First things first: there is always an alternative way of dealing with anger and nerves. When you feel it slowly building up, you must find a way to extinguish it before it blows up. Remind yourself that it’s not worth getting angry: it ruins friendships, relationships and situations.

The way to calm your nerves and anxiety is to change your thoughts in that moment. Distract yourself from what is making you angry or anxious and look at the positive side; there’s always something positive to look at. The reason many people lose their cool is because their negativity overpowers them faster than their positivity can take effect.

The key is controlling your nerves and anxiety within the first few minutes of onset. The more that you practice controlling negative situations, the easier it will become to deal with them in the future. Practice makes perfect. But if you give in and allow your nerves and anxiety to take over, you will become more prone to re-experiencing them in the near future.

Life is not meant for you to be irritable, nervous and anxious. It’s normal to be presented with upsetting situations and it’s normal to be disappointed at times! But there’s a difference from being upset and losing your cool versus being upset and remaining composed. The former is looked down upon; the latter is favored and appreciated.

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What Is Anxiety?

A scared man with his mouth open keeping his hands over his eyes

Anxiety: Entering Another Dimension

There are many forms of anxiety: panic attacks, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, substance-induced anxiety, agoraphobia, etc. Anxiety is prevalent in all cultures and nobody is immune to it. The Existential School of Thought actually believes that the source of anxiety is existence itself.

Not all anxiety is bad however; it is normal to have anxiety if you are being threatened. That means that your sympathetic system is warning you that potential danger lies ahead. On the other hand, other forms of anxiety can be very debilitating and paralyze people.

What are panic attacks? A panic attack is a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety: a fear of the world coming to an end, sweating, palpitations (heart beating fast), a fear of being “doomed”, a fear of loss of control of oneself, trembling and shaking, shortness of breath or chest tightness, chills or even hot flashes.

Multiple recurrent panic attacks over a month with a future fear of having more panic attacks results in a diagnosis of Panic Disorder; this can be caused by genetics or substances such as excessive alcohol use.

If anyone has even experienced a panic attack, they know that it is extremely unpleasant. I have experienced panic attacks and I can attest that the feeling of “derealization” is very real: an alteration of the experience of your surroundings. For example, you may lose track of time or you may feel a sense of disconnection with your surroundings. On a positive note, panic attacks can be treated with medication and CBT.

What is generalized anxiety disorder? This is 6 months or more of excessive and exaggerated worrying and tension about everyday things, that other people would normally not worry about. For instance, a mother may excessively worry about: going to work, paying the bills, picking her son up from soccer practice, putting food on the table, doing the laundry, not making enough money, not exercising enough, not having enough friends, etc.

These are all normal things to worry about, but patients with GAD take it to the extreme where the worrying becomes debilitating: it interferes with their sleep and relationships and they may even experience feeling lightheaded or shortness of breath. Thankfully, GAD can be treated with medication and therapy.

What is social anxiety? This is the intense fear of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected in a social situation. For instance, you go out with your friend to a bar on a Friday night and he suddenly storms out within 20 minutes of being there. When you find him outside on a bench down the street from the bar, his reasoning may be “I thought everyone was staring at me and judging me” when in fact, nobody was.

This disorder can be very debilitating because it prevents people from having a normal social life; some may not even go to work or school anymore due to a fear of being humiliated. The solution is medication, therapy and encouraging the person to socialize despite having the irrational fear.

What is substance-induced anxiety? As you can guess, it involves anxiety that has been brought upon by a drug, such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, K2, methamphetamine, etc. The anxiety usually occurs while the person is under the influence of the drug. They may feel panic, worried, have shortness of breath and sweating and feel like they are going to die.

The anxiety usually subsides after they come out of their high. Some drugs such as alcohol can cause panic disorder, which persists after the intoxication from alcohol goes away. This is treated with medication, therapy and sobriety.

And lastly, what is agoraphobia? This is an extreme fear of being in open places, such as a mall or college classroom, and results in the person not wanting to leave their home, in order to avoid the anxiety that comes upon them when they are in the open place. They interpret these open places as “being difficult to escape from.”

A lot of times, agoraphobia is associated with panic disorder, because the person may have had a panic attack in an open place (a mall, a college classroom, a gym, etc.) and therefore, has developed a fear of being in that open place; they try to avoid having a future panic attack by not going to that open place again.

Agoraphobia can be very serious as it can paralyze people and prevent them from leaving their home. It is a very depressing condition to have. This is treated with medication, therapy and encouraging the person to go into open places and live a normal life, despite their fear.

There are more anxiety disorders that haven’t been covered here, but I hope you are able to understand the serious nature of these disorders and their impact on humanity. The DSM movement encourages everyone to come together and share their experiences, so we can unify and tackle these problems together.

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