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CBD oil for OCD: Does it Help? 2020 Guide

We’ve all experienced obsessive thoughts before. Maybe it’s that nagging feeling you might not have turned off the oven, or that moment when you have to turn your car around to make sure you closed the garage.

What is OCD?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic mental health disorder that involves uncontrollable and recurring thoughts and behaviors 1 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . This might manifest as a fear of germs that becomes obsessive thoughts about how to avoid those germs. Or it may be compulsive cleaning and handwashing. Obsessive thoughts could include those of self-harm or constantly focusing on things that are out of order, and compulsions could be needing to count everything in a room or perform certain rituals before leaving that room.

A little over 2 percent of adults will experience OCD at some point in their lives 2 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd.shtml National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . Symptoms can be debilitating and result in severe impairment, including not being able to function at a job or even leave home to buy groceries or visit with friends.

While the precise causes of OCD are unknown, genetics, environment, and brain structure are all believed to play a role. Treatment typically involves medication such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), therapy, or a combination of both. While most patients respond well to treatment, some have persistent symptoms despite following recommended treatment protocols, and others stop taking their medications because of unbearable side effects 1 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services .

CBD For OCD—How Does it Work?

At its core, OCD is an anxiety disorder. In fact, anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphic disorder are all common co-morbidities of OCD 1 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . So it’s not a stretch to think CBD for OCD may work in similar ways as CBD for anxiety—by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, and specifically, cannabinoid receptors known to help regulate behaviors associated with fear and anxiety 3 Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1 Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. .

That’s the theory, anyway. But we don’t have to rely just on theory when it comes to questioning the role of CBD for OCD. We actually have some research to refer back to as well.

What Does the Research Say?

In 2010 and 2014, researchers linked CBD to a reduction in marble-burying behavior in mice 4, 5 Cannabidiol inhibitory effect on marble-burying behaviour: involvement of CB1 receptors Cannabidiol inhibitory effect on marble-burying behaviour: involvement of CB1 receptors Casarotto PC, Gomes FV, Resstel LB, Guimarães FS . This research is considered promising to those interested in the potential benefits of CBD oil for OCD because marble-burying behavior has been suggested as an anxiety-induced trait in mice (though other researchers have argued it is more likely a genetic behavior) 6 Marble burying reflects a repetitive and perseverative behavior more than novelty-induced anxiety. Thomas, A., Burant, A., Bui, N., Graham, D., Yuva-Paylor, L. A., & Paylor, R. (2009). Marble burying reflects a repetitive and perseverative behavior more than novelty-induced anxiety. Psychopharmacology, 204(2), 361–373. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-009-1466-y Thomas, A., Burant, A., Bui, N., Graham, D., Yuva-Paylor, L. A., & Paylor, R. .

Beyond animal trials, a 2015 report examined existing preclinical, human experimental, clinical, and epidemiological studies and determined there is strong evidence in support of using CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders—including OCD 3 Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1 Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. .

Citing the fact that currently available medications remain ineffective for some patients with OCD, a 2019 report looked at the most current data and concluded the endocannabinoid system is directly involved in OCD 7 Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Reilly R. Kayser, Ivar Snorrason, Margaret Haney, Francis S. Lee, and H. Blair Simpson.Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.Jun 2019.77-87.http://doi.org/10.1089/can.2018.0049 Reilly R. Kayser, Ivar Snorrason, Margaret Haney, Francis S. Lee, and H. Blair Simpson . The study authors further argued that CBD has a potential role in treatment for OCD as a result and warrants additional research.

Is CBD worth trying?

It’s important to remember that while there is a lot of promising research to suggest benefits of CBD for OCD, there haven’t yet been human trials to test those benefits. This means that incorporating CBD into your OCD treatment plan will require a consultation with a physician and a bit of experimentation.

If you are working with a doctor or therapist, it’s a good idea to talk to them about your desire to try CBD so that they can help you monitor any potential benefits or drawbacks. You’ll also want to consider how you want to incorporate CBD into your treatment plan. There are a variety of options available for consuming CBD, from vaping to coffee and everything in between.

For dosing purposes, CBD oil for OCD may be the best way to ensure you are maintaining a consistent amount of CBD from one day to the next. Even still, finding a dose that helps ease your OCD symptoms might require a bit of experimentation, as correct dosing can vary based on a variety of factors. If you do notice benefits, you’ll also want to pay attention to how long those benefits last so that you can determine how frequently you should be consuming OCD.

Because there is no research specifically into CBD oil for OCD treatment, there will inevitably be some trial and error on your part as you attempt to figure out if this is the right option for you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about what is and isn’t working. You deserve to feel healthy and whole—and to find the treatment that best helps you get there.

FAQs

Does CBD help with OCD?

While there have been no human trials examining the efficacy of CBD in the treatment of OCD, there is a lot of promising research to suggest CBD could be a beneficial treatment option for those struggling with OCD.

Can CBD make OCD worse?

There is no research to suggest CBD might make OCD symptoms worse. But as we’ve already mentioned, there have yet to be human trials into the potential benefits or pitfalls of using CBD for OCD. For that reason, it’s important to pay attention to your body and symptoms if you decide to experiment with using CBD for OCD. If you feel your symptoms are getting worse, discontinue the use of CBD and see if that alone improves your OCD symptoms. Remember: individual bodies are different and not all treatments work for everyone in the same way.

What medication is best for OCD?

SRIs are the most commonly prescribed treatment for OCD 1 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . But the best medication for you may vary and should be determined between you and the doctor treating you for OCD.

How do you calm OCD intrusive thoughts?

If you are suffering from OCD intrusive thoughts, especially if those thoughts have to do with self-harm, it is essential to talk to your doctor about medications that may help. Psychotherapy can also equip you with coping mechanisms for combatting those intrusive thoughts. And it’s possible CBD could help as well. A qualified physician or psychotherapist can help find the right answer for you. You do not have to spend the rest of your life feeling tortured by your own mind. There is help available, and you are not alone.

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