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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder & CBD

Updated on April 7, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Medicine made with cannabidiol (CBD) can help you manage your OCD symptoms and live a more fulfilling life. Learn how CBD works with your system to improve your mood.

What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that causes you to have reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) that drive repetitive habits (compulsions). These unwanted obsessions and compulsions get in the way of everyday function. The patient feels distress when they have obsessions unless they complete their compulsions.

Common behavior patterns in OCD include:

  • Constant checking and double-checking of possessions and home
  • The inability to get rid of unneeded or worn-out belongings
  • Excess fear of germs that causes compulsive washing and cleaning
  • Intrusive thoughts about aggression, sex, religion and other subjects

These symptoms take a toll on your emotional health and everyday life. Compulsions and obsessions can take up a large part of your day, leaving less time to focus on other parts of your life. The stress of dealing with OCD symptoms can result in depression, fatigue and anxiety.

CBD can help you manage your obsessions and compulsions while improving your emotional symptoms. It helps your body regulate your mood and thinking patterns.

OCD and the Endocannabinoid System

Everyone has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that creates and uses compounds that resemble the ones in marijuana. When you take cannabis medicine, the ECS uses its cannabinoids in similar ways to the cannabinoid compounds it produces. The ECS includes cannabinoids and the receptors that attach to them, CB1 and CB2.

Research suggests that our ability to switch between habit-based behaviors and new behaviors has a connection to the ECS. Scientists think that difficulties with the transition between behavior types influences conditions like OCD. Previous studies show that a lack of activity in the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) affects the switch. A study looked at the ECS’ impact on OFC activity. When they disabled the CB1 receptor in mice, the mice preferred goal-driven behavior over habitual actions. These results mean that cannabinoids could affect our OFC’s function.

While the authors of this study concluded that cannabinoids exacerbate OCD behaviors, other research suggests a more positive connection. Another study shows that instead of inhibiting brain activity, the CB1 receptor regulates it. The study on the OFC also received funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, suggesting a bias in its interpretation of the data.

In other words, we believe the information we have shows that we can tap into the CB1 receptor’s ability to manage OCD. We can use cannabinoids like CBD to regulate the ECS and relieve OCD symptoms.

Using CBD to Balance Your Brain Functions

CBD has a special interaction with your ECS. Most cannabinoids attach to the CB1 or CB2 receptors, while CBD increases the level of anandamide in your body. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that binds to the CB1 receptors in your brain, spinal cord and nerves. By blocking the fatty acid that breaks down anandamide, CBD lets your body use more of this compound.

When anandamide binds to your CB1 receptors, it helps your brain regulate essential functions. As we learned from research, CB1 has a vital role to play in controlling habits and behaviors. The data we have so far looks promising for CBD’s potential as an OCD treatment.

We also know that CBD regulates your mood. When you have OCD, you can experience comorbid disorders like depression and anxiety. Anandamide, known as the “bliss molecule,” enhances your mood and calms you down. It also helps you sleep when your symptoms get in the way of going to bed.

Buying the Right CBD Product

You have two primary options for buying CBD medicine: over the counter or through your state’s medical marijuana program. Over-the-counter CBD products come from online stores or natural health shops. Patients can get relief from these items, but check the ingredients and seller before buying. If you qualify for your state’s medical marijuana program, you can get CBD at a dispensary. Recreational dispensaries also have CBD items for customers.

The right type of CBD medication for your symptoms depends on a variety of factors. If medicine with THC is legal for you, you can increase CBD’s benefits with a small amount of it. We recommend consulting a marijuana-trained doctor about your choices. They can help even if you don’t plan on joining a medical cannabis program. You can find one in your area using our doctor database.

Learn More About Cannabis Medicine at MarijuanaDoctors.com

At MarijuanaDoctors.com, we strive to give you the latest information on everything related to cannabis medicine. Check out our our full list of conditions.

Learn More About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Learn more about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and what makes medical marijuana an effective treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’s symptoms.

If you are suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, medicine made with cannabidiol, CBD can help you manage your OCD symptoms and live a more fulfilling life.

Can You Use CBD for OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is the fourth most common mental health condition affecting people in the United States. It most commonly affects women. Although the exact causes of OCD have not been identified, symptoms of fear, worry, and anxiety underpin this condition.

Addressing this condition is not always easy, as it often requires both therapy and prescription medication. More and more, however, people are looking to natural approaches to help alleviate their symptoms—and many of them are asking if they can use CBD for OCD.

Can You Use CBD for OCD? Just the Facts

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, more commonly known as OCD, involves intrusive obsessive thoughts followed by compulsive behaviors. Unfortunately, there have not been many studies on using CBD for OCD, or many mental health and mood disorders at all. But there is some promising research that shows CBD oil may help some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental condition in which a person experiences obsessive thoughts which cause anxiety, as well as compulsions to perform a certain behavior.

Here is an example: After a person leaves the house, they begin having a persistent, intrusive thought that the door is not locked, even knowing they double- or triple-checked it. This is the obsessive thought. Next, that person returns home to check that the door is locked. This is the compulsion. In some cases, this cycle of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors repeats several times.

OCD used to be classified as an anxiety disorder, but the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which is the main reference for all mental health disorders, no longer views it in the anxiety category. However, one of the main components of OCD is anxiety, so most people still see OCD as an anxiety-related disorder.

Common Obsessive Thoughts

Each person has different types of obsessive thoughts. However, most of the time, they fall into one of several categories. Examples include:

  • Fear of germs, viruses, or contamination
  • Harmful thoughts toward yourself
  • Harmful thoughts toward others or animals
  • Having things organized in a particular order
  • Fear of harming someone because of something you did or did not do (i.e. worrying the shoes you left out could cause a person to trip and fall)
  • Unwanted thoughts that are sexual in nature
  • Fear of forgetting about an important date
  • Obsession with certain colors or numbers being good or bad
  • Inability to make decisions

Compulsive Behaviors

A person uses compulsive behaviors in an attempt to reduce the anxiety they feel from their obsessive thoughts. Often, a person will repeat these behaviors over and over—which may reduce their anxiety level, but only temporarily. Common compulsive behaviors include:

  • Excessive hand washing or bathing
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Continually checking that things are done (i.e. the door is locked)
  • Compulsive counting
  • Repeating certain words or phrases
  • Repeating actives (i,e. going up and down stairs or turning light switches on and off)

The Impact of Having OCD

As previously mentioned, obsessive thoughts cause great anxiety to people affected by OCD. The severity of OCD ranges from mild to severe. However, in all cases, OCD causes distress to a person, affects their quality of life, and can even overtake their life.

In some instances, people don’t realize that what they’re doing is out of the ordinary—but friends, family, or teachers (in the case of children) notice. In other cases, a person knows that their thoughts or behaviors are not rational, but they cannot control them.

Risk Factors of OCD

We do not yet completely understand what causes OCD or all of its risk factors. We do know that there may be a genetic link, as OCD is more common in people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder.

Also, a history of sexual trauma or abuse in childhood increases the likelihood of developing OCD.

Conventional Treatment of OCD

Before looking at whether CBD for OCD is effective, let’s look at some of the conventional treatments available to those with OCD. People with OCD may try to avoid situations where they know their thoughts or actions may be be triggered. In addition, unfortunately, some may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-treat.

The most common treatment for OCD is cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people uncover their underlying thoughts and fears as well as address them.

Anti-depressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are also prescribed for OCD. However, about 50% of people do not response to SSRIs. The next line of medications (for those who do not respond to SSRIs) is anti-psychotics. Research shows mixed results for both SSRIs and anti-psychotic medications in OCD treatment. In addition, both have numerous adverse side effects.

Can You Use Medical Cannabis and CBD Oil for OCD?

Many people do not find relief from their OCD symptoms with the current medication treatments that are available. Because of this, OCD patients are experimenting with alternative approaches, including using medical cannabis and CBD for their OCD symptoms.

People report using medical cannabis as well as CBD products to help with anxiety and depression. Many report that these products have helped with their depression, anxiety, and stress-related symptoms.

Medical Marijuana vs CBD Products

People report using both medical marijuana and CBD to manage their anxiety. There are, however, significant differences to consider. CBD products are derived from the hemp plant and contain cannabinoids such as cannabidiol. Medical marijuana also contains cannabinoids, but it also contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has psychoactive properties. In addition, research shows that THC may worsen anxiety.

What the Research Says

Unfortunately, there have not been any human studies to determine whether CBD oil can help with obsessive compulsive disorder directly. However, there has been research conducted on CBD for other anxiety-related mental health issues such as generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A large component of OCD is constant anxiety. Therefore, if CBD is effective in managing anxiety symptoms, it could be useful as an adjunct treatment for those suffering with OCD.

The Endocannabinoid System and Anxiety

CB1 Receptors

CB1 receptors are found throughout the brain in the areas involved in emotional and behavioral reactions, learning, memory, and decision making.

CB2 Receptors

CB2 receptors are heavily involved with pain and inflammation of the body. However, research is beginning to discover their role in emotions and mood regulation as well. In addition, inflammation itself is a factor in mood disorders such as depression.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

CBD contains cannabinoids—anandamide, in particular—which stimulate CB1 and CB2 receptors within the endocannabinoid system.

Studies have found a relationship between lower levels of anandamide in people with PTSD. PTSD, is another mental health condition that’s characterized by panic attacks and, much like OCD, high anxiety levels. This means it is possible that there is less stimulation of their endocannabinoid systems, which could be contributing to their high anxiety levels.

Studies have also found that activation of CB1 receptors has resulted in lower levels of fear, anxiety, and compulsion.

5-HT Receptors and Anxiety

Another component involved in anxiety is 5-HT receptors. These are affected by the drug Buspirone, which is one of the most common anxiety medications. Cannabinoids are also shown to stimulate these receptors. Therefore, CBD products may help to alleviate anxiety symptoms through this mechanism. And, as such, CBD oil may be able to help people with obsessive compulsive disorder.

CBD and the Brain

Very preliminary evidence has found that CBD oil affects certain structures of the brain that are involved in mood and emotions, such as the amygdala. This study found that CBD works to reduce amygdala activation—which, in turn, lowers the fear, compulsion, and anxiety response.

Animal Studies

A recent animal study assessing the use of CBD oil for OCD in mice found that was effective at reducing obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Although this is a step in the right direction, it’s important to keep in mind that animal studies do not necessarily represent the effect that a substance will have in humans.

A Summary of What the Research Says

Currently, there are no human studies regarding the use of CBD oil for OCD directly. However, there are positive human studies on CBD products and anxiety, which is a large aspect of OCD.

Reasearch shows that CBD affects several mechanisms of the brain involved in anxiety, including the endocannabinoid system, 5-HT receptors, and brain structures.

In general, research studies have found that at low doses, CBD is an anxiolytic, and at high doses, it does not improve anxiety or can worsen it.

Animal studies have found that CBD improves OCD symptoms in mice.

Final Thoughts

OCD is a distressing mental health condition that can be difficult to successfully treat. Cognitive behavioral therapy is generally useful for this condition, but 50% of people do not respond to the standard current medications. Overall, preliminary research strongly supports the use of CBD oil as a treatment for anxiety disorders.

CBD has shown to influence several aspects of OCD, including anxiety, fear, panic, and compulsion. Given that anxiety is one of the central symptoms in OCD, anxiety-reducing therapies are of great use for symptoms of this condition. Therefore, it is likely that using CBD for OCD may be able to help.

If you suffer from OCD and are interested in using CBD products to help with your obsessive compulsive disorder, speak with your doctor first. Keep in mind that CBD products are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, make sure any CBD products you purchase are from a reputable source who uses third-party testing. This helps to ensure both the quality and safety of the products.

Can you use CBD for OCD? We take a look at whether or not CBD may be helpful for people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.