People who have post-traumatic stress disorder describe as “being here but not here”—their bodies are no longer experiencing the trauma, but their minds are stuck in that moment. PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced an event that is emotionally or physically harmful, and while there is no “cure” for PTSD—treatment includes psychotherapy and antidepressants—recent studies have shown that CBD might have promising potential to help people heal.
In one 2019 study published in the National Library of Medicine, 91% of the patients suffering from PTSD who took 25 mg of CBD once or twice daily alongside traditional therapy for four weeks experienced a decrease in symptom severity (measured by a scaled called PCL-5). CBD showed to have other benefits, too—50% of the participants reported improvement with nightmares, 38% reported improvement in sleep, and other reported improved mood and decreased anxiety.
Though more research needs to be done, scientists believe that CBD might be a useful tool in helping people suffering from PTSD because it activates the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is like the body’s motherboard and controls functions like stress, sleep, and mood. Previous studies have shown that CBD may help reduce autonomic and emotional responses to stress, help eliminate fearful memories, and help alleviate anxiety—all of which are symptoms of PTSD.
Another study done on mice in 2021 analyzed how CBD interacts with the brain to alter behavior in order to discover why, exactly, the compound has shown to be so beneficial to people suffering from PTSD. They found that CBD caused a dose-dependent reduction in brain activity and functional coupling in the neural circuitry associated with fear and defense. In other words, they found CBD calms the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for acute anxiety, rumination, and fear—thus potentially being an effective treatment for PTSD.
An estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed, and Latinos, Blacks, and Native Americans have higher rates of PTSD as well. Traumatic events happen to all of us at one point or another—and witnessing or experiencing events such as a car crash, abuse, bullying, natural disaster, pandemic, childbirth, loss, or violence can lead to this disorder.
People who have PTSD typically have intense negative thoughts and feelings that last long after the traumatic event has ended, and can suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, sadness, fear, or anger. They may feel alone or estranged, may have distorted thoughts about blame or shame, and may be prone to angry outbursts and self-destructive behavior.
PTSD is notoriously difficult to diagnose; studies estimate clinicians misdiagnose it 90% of the time. One of the symptoms of PTSD is avoidance of any reminder of the traumatic event, therefore making it difficult to discuss for both the patient and the clinician. Also, because a PTSD diagnosis depends upon a memory of the traumatic event, the diagnosis can become complicated due to the fallible nature of memory itself. Patients also may also be suffering from depression, substance abuse, or anxiety—all of which can stem from PTSD—which can obscure the root symptoms of the disorder.
If you or anyone you love may be suffering from PTSD, seek medical help and reach out to your community for support.