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  • Drew Herb Lesser

CBD as a treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder.

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Social anxiety disorder is defined as an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. This fear can affect work, school, and other daily activities. It can even make it hard to maintain friendships and relationships (2). Social anxiety disorder has a number of effective treatments including the use of plant based medicines such as CBD and or medical cannabis (5, 6).

Social anxiety disorder is triggered when a person is in a situation where they feel that they may be scrutinised, analysed, or judged by others. Speaking in public, meeting new people, dating, going on a job interview, answering a question in class, talking to someone at the gym, or having to chat to a person in a store, a person with social anxiety disorder may experience trauma or even terror. Common place activities, such as eating or drinking in front of people or using a public toilet, might generate anxiety or a fear of being embarrassed, judged, or even rejected (1).

People with social anxiety are often concerned about visible signs of anxiety, such as blushing or trembling. They include a racing heart, upset stomach, shaking, choking sensations, sweating, blushing, dry mouth, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision or even the urge to urinate (2).

This worry may become overwhelming for some people, and it may prevent them from going to work, school, or accomplishing simple tasks. Other people may be able to complete these tasks, but they do so with significant stress or anxiety. People who suffer from social anxiety disorder may find themselves avoiding locations or circumstances that might bring them grief or humiliation (2).

Social anxiety disorder typically begins in late childhood and manifests as severe shyness or avoidance of social situations or interactions. It is gender skewed towards women and the gender divide is even more prominent in teenagers and young adults. Social anxiety disorder can endure for years, if not a lifetime, if not treated (3).

The anxiolytic effects of CBD have been demonstrated in studies exploring the simulation of public speaking (4). A study exploring treatments on SAD patients showed that CBD reduces anticipatory anxiety (5). CBD was found to produce increased brain activity in the right posterior cingulate cortex that is thought to be involved in the processing of emotional information. A subsequent study demonstrated a reduction in the anxiety provoked by simulated public speaking by a single dose of CBD in patients with SAD (6).

Psychotropic medication and CBT are the most common therapeutic options for SAD. However, socially anxious teenagers often fail to seek help due to the potential stigma associated with mental illness (6). The follow-up conducted in the current study demonstrated that many of the participants treated with CBD became positive in their attitude toward seeking treatment, and the results of the current study provide evidence for anxiolytic effects of repeated CBD administration in teenagers with SAD (7).

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol which is present in the cannabis sativa plant, a species that includes hemp and marijuana. Many, but not all, CBD products are extracted from hemp plants (11).

How does CBD help anxiety?

Research identifies that CBD alters the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin plays a role in Mood, Sleep, Digestion and Behaviour and increasing serotonin levels has an Anxiolytic effect, meaning it reduces anxiety and some studies suggest that CBD may work similarly to antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications (8).

What does research say about CBD and anxiety?

A 2015 review of 49 studies found evidence to support the benefit of CBD for the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (4). A 2019 study found that out of 11 patients with PTSD, 91% experienced reduced symptoms after taking CBD (9).

A study in 2019 used CBD to treat people who were struggling with anxiety and sleep. Almost 80% of people’s anxiety improved, and almost 70% reported improved sleep in the first month (10). Results from a study investigating the neurological basis for the anti-anxiety effects of CBD demonstrated that CBD reduces anxiety in SAD and that this is directly related to its effects on activity in limbic and paralimbic brain areas (5).

Overall the results of Medical Cannabis as a treatment for Social Anxiety disorder show extreme promise, in addition to multiple anecdotal accounts of the benefits of CBD for SAD.

If you are suffering the effects of Social Anxiety disorder and you would like to see if CBD might be an effective treatment plan for you, contact your doctor or an experienced cannabis doctor to find out more.

While CBD does not pose significant risks for patients, there are some side effects of medical cannabis. They include: fatigue, diarrhoea, changes in appetite, and changes in weight. CBD may interact with certain medications both over the counter or prescription medication and various dietary supplements. In addition, there may be uncertainty about the potency or purity of CBD products (if they are not regulated as prescription medications).


  • Research has identified that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in the brain resulting the promotion of serotonin and anxiolytic responses.

  • CBD products might be able to offer relief for many people who suffer from social anxiety and or related disorders, all without causing drug intoxication and dependence and unpleasant side effects. There is a significant amount of anecdotal evidence to support the many benefits of CBD and Medical Cannabis, for not just the treatment of social anxiety disorder. Its early days yet on the studies being undertaken in Australia, but it's also very exciting times too.


1. Stein, M. B., & Stein, D. J. (2008). Social anxiety disorder. The lancet, 371(9618), 1115-1125.

2. Morrison, A. S., & Heimberg, R. G. (2013). Social anxiety and social anxiety disorder. Annual review of clinical psychology, 9, 249-274.

3. Aune, T., Nordahl, H., & Beidel, D. (2022). Social anxiety disorder in adolescents: Prevalence and subtypes in the Young-HUNT3 study. Journal Of Anxiety Disorders, 87, 102546. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2022.10254

4. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836.

5. Crippa, J. A., Derenusson, G. N., Ferrari, T. B., Wichert-Ana, L., Duran, F. L., Martin-Santos, R., Simões, M. V., Bhattacharyya, S., Fusar-Poli, P., Atakan, Z., Santos Filho, A., Freitas-Ferrari, M. C., McGuire, P. K., Zuardi, A. W., Busatto, G. F., & Hallak, J. E. (2011). Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 25(1), 121–130.

6. Masataka, N. (2019). Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders. Frontiers In Psychology, 10. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466

7. Whiting, P. F., Wolff, R. F., Deshepande, S., Di Nisio, M., Duffy, S., Hemandez, A. V., et al. (2015). Cannabinoids for medical use: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA 313, 2456–2473. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.6358

8. De Gregorio, D., McLaughlin, R. J., Posa, L., Ochoa-Sanchez, R., Enns, J., Lopez-Canul, M., Aboud, M., Maione, S., Comai, S., & Gobbi, G. (2019). Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behaviour in a model of neuropathic pain. Pain, 160(1), 136–150.

9. Elms, L., Shannon, S., Hughes, S., & Lewis, N. (2019). Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. The Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine, 25(4), 392-397. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0437

10 . Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041.

11. Atakan Z. (2012). Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology, 2(6), 241–254.


This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and is provided for educational purposes only. It should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The author is NOT a Doctor. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

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