“Out of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most.” — Mark Twain
Remember the time before exam results when you punched in your roll number and eagerly waited to see your score. The heart pumped a little faster, and there was a considerable amount of tension about what is going to come. That is anxiety. Anxiety is our body’s response to stress. The various stressful situations can be a job interview, a breakup from a romantic relationship, a public speaking event, moments before an important exam, the examples are endless. Everyone has experienced anxiety at some point in their life. However, some people get more anxious than others, and it is quite frequent for them.
Anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder in which a person lives with a feeling of worry, anxiety, or fear. The impact of stress is so strong that it interferes with one’s daily activities. The two most prevalent types of anxiety disorders are social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
A person with social anxiety feels anxious in social situations like meeting new people, going on a date, talking to someone in a class, entering a job interview, and other similar scenarios.
Some people don’t experience this disorder in a public situation, and instead, they have performance anxiety. They feel anxious while delivering a speech, performing on stage, or playing some sports. Social anxiety disorder usually starts in youth and is quite common with extremely shy people. A person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), ends up being obsessed over worrying too much about the things related to his or her daily life. The constant worrisome thoughts end up making the person restless. GAD’s impact is both physical and psychological like sleepiness, body aches, feeling tired quickly, difficulty in swallowing, and many more hindrances in daily life. If not addressed, an anxiety disorder can persist for life, which is alarming.
In 2017, a study published in Lancet Psychiatry showed that 197 million people suffer from mental health issues in India. Out of the total, 45 million have an anxiety disorder. In the United States of America (USA), 40 million adults are affected by an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is a common mental illness in the USA and impacts 18% of the total population every year. Women are two times more susceptible to anxiety disorder than men. The challenging times of COVID19 have severely increased the risk of anxiety disorders. The worldwide spread of diseases, job loss, and death of a loved or known person has significantly increased stress. The growing stress is fueling mental wellness challenges.
The good news is, anxiety disorders are curable.
There are pharmacological and psychological treatments available, but they come with caveats. For example, Benzodiazepines, which reduces anxiety, is a habit-forming drug. Affording good psychologists and accessibility to them is yet another challenge. India has only 898 psychologists against 20,250 required, as per a government report.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) present in human beings plays a role in individuals’ emotional wellness. The evidence suggests that targeting the ECS can be an approach to treat anxiety-related disorders. The naturally occurring chemical compounds like Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the cannabis plant, bind with the ECS’s neural receptors, and promote wellness. Studies, conducted to assess THC’s impact, have revealed that low doses of THC act as anti-anxiety and antidepressant medicine for some patients. However, a high dose of THC and its chronic use can have a negative impact on anxiety. CBD also has anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties without the negative impact posed by THC. Studies have indicated that CBD may treat anxiety disorders. In 2011, researchers conducted a study to understand the impact of CBD on people with a social anxiety disorder. Few participants consumed 400 mg of CBD orally and few participants consumed a placebo pill. The conclusion was that people with CBD experienced reduced anxiety as compared to those who took a placebo pill.