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Updated on February 1, 2024


Fact Checked

Key takeaways

  • About 1% of the world are experience OCD in their lifetime.
  • Statistics show that about 70 million people have been identified with OCD in the world.
  • OCD begins in adolescence or early adulthood.
  • Researchers discovered that CBD may assist with OCD related anxiety.
  • A research paper in 2015 reported that using 300-600mg of CBD may reduce anxiety in OCD patients however, adequate care must be taken since our response to CBD may differ.
  • All forms of CBD may work well for OCD related anxiety.

Many individuals share personal stories about how using CBD products has helped ease their OCD symptoms. Scientists are currently exploring whether CBD could be a potential treatment for OCD. While research is in its early phases, some studies show promising results. This paper will explain the possible research findings and what it means for OCD patients.

Overview of OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by persistent, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) that an individual feels compelled to perform. OCD can significantly interfere with daily life, causing distress and impairing overall functioning.

Statistics show that OCD affects approximately 1% of the global population, equating to around 70 million individuals worldwide. In the United States alone, it is estimated that over 3 million adults have been diagnosed with OCD at some point in their lives.

Individuals with OCD experience unwanted, distressing thoughts, images, or urges that repeatedly enter their minds, and they engage in repetitive behaviors or mental acts to alleviate the resulting anxiety. These obsessions and compulsions can range widely, including fears of contamination, concerns about harming oneself or others, and a strong need for symmetry or exactness.

OCD typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and is considered a chronic condition. Effective treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), particularly exposure and response prevention (ERP), as well as medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

What are the common key aspects of OCD?

Obsessions: Individuals with OCD experience unwanted, distressing thoughts, images, or urges that repeatedly enter their minds. These thoughts are intrusive and difficult to control.The obsessions often provoke intense anxiety, discomfort, or distress.

Compulsions: To alleviate the anxiety caused by obsessions, individuals engage in repetitive behaviors or mental acts known as compulsions.Compulsions provide temporary relief from the anxiety, but the relief is short-lived, leading to a cycle of repeated behaviors.

How may CBD help with OCD?

While there are research papers pointing to the possible therapeutic roles of CBD in OCD the mode of action or mechanism is still unknown. Here is what some of the available research papers have to say about CBD for OCD.

A 2020 lab study published in Wiley Online Library reported how CBD may have positive impacts on OCD symptoms. Based on their findings, CBD could potentially reduce anxiety and OCD symptoms. Twelve people participated in the study. THC made the heart rate, blood pressure, and feeling of being drunk go up more than CBD and the fake treatment. People reported feeling less anxious and having fewer OCD symptoms as time passed in all three situations. Even though the type of cannabis didn't affect OCD symptoms, right after taking the fake treatment, people felt less anxious compared to both THC and CBD.

Another review in ScienceDirect also indicated CBD's effectiveness in animal models of compulsive behavior. Their research discovered that CBD could potentially reduce anxiety in psychiatric patients.

One of the research papers that tried to unravel how CBD may work for OCD reported that CBD provided potential actions in OCD by focusing on the WNT/β-catenin pathway.

Asides human studies scientists have also evaluated the role of CBD in OCD. According to a study in Psychopharmacology observed CBD's ability to reduce obsessive-compulsive behavior in rats over time.

How does CBD reduce anxiety?

Most papers around CBD for OCD centers around its anxiolytic or anxiety-reducing effect. Let’s dive into how CBD may reduce anxiety.

  1. Interaction with Endocannabinoid System (ECS): CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters in the body that plays a role in regulating various physiological processes, including mood and stress. By modulating the activity of the ECS, CBD may influence anxiety levels.
  2. Serotonin Receptor Activation: CBD may impact serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, and medications that target serotonin receptors are commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. CBD's influence on these receptors could contribute to its anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects.
  3. Neurogenesis: Some research suggests that CBD may promote the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with the regulation of emotions and the response to stress. This process, known as neurogenesis, could potentially contribute to the anti-anxiety effects of CBD.
  4. GABA Receptor Modulation: CBD may interact with GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors, which are neurotransmitters that have inhibitory effects in the brain. Modulating GABA receptor activity can have a calming effect, potentially reducing anxiety.
  5. Stress Response Reduction: CBD may influence the body's response to stress by attenuating the release of stress hormones like cortisol. This modulation of the stress response could contribute to CBD's anxiety-reducing effects.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best form of CBD for OCD?

CBD is available in various forms like oils, tinctures, patches, and gummies, with no clear evidence of one form being more effective than others. The dosage of CBD per serving likely matters more than the form. Some studies propose that combining CBD with THC and cannabis terpenes may enhance its benefits, known as the "entourage effect."

Are there recommended CBD products for OCD?

When choosing a CBD product for OCD, prioritize those subjected to rigorous testing to avoid mislabeling or contamination. Ensure third-party testing by an ISO/IEC 17025-compliant lab, organic U.S.-grown hemp, with less than 0.3% THC, and testing for pesticides, heavy metals, and mold, indicating product reliability and safety.

What is the recommended dosage of CBD for OCD?

A research paper published in 2015 suggested 300-600 mg of orally taken CBD effectively reduces anxiety. While this dosage might be beneficial for OCD, further research is required to validate its effectiveness in treating the disorder. For safety purposes, we however suggest that you start with low dose and increase it gradually.

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Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015 Oct;12(4):825-36. doi: 10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1. PMID: 26341731; PMCID: PMC4604171.

Kayser, R. R., Haney, M., Raskin, M., Arout, C., & Simpson, H. B. (2020). Acute effects of cannabinoids on symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder: A human laboratory study. Depression and Anxiety, 37(8), 801-811.

Bonaccorso, S., Ricciardi, A., Zangani, C., Chiappini, S., & Schifano, F. (2019). Cannabidiol (CBD) use in psychiatric disorders: A systematic review. NeuroToxicology, 74, 282-298.

Valeri, A., & Mazzon, E. (2021). Cannabinoids and Neurogenesis: The Promised Solution for Neurodegeneration? Molecules, 26(20).

Fliegel, D. K., & Lichenstein, S. D. (2022). Systematic literature review of human studies assessing the efficacy of cannabidiol for social anxiety. Psychiatry Research Communications, 2(4), 100074.

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