At some points in our lives, we all experience traumas. However, how our body deals with them is what determines if we develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or not. Research has shown that 25% of people that experience a traumatic event come up with PTSD with various symptoms including anxiety, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, etc.
This means that if four friends happen to have a horrific experience, one of them is bound to keep having flashbacks of the event and having sleep troubles, and this does not mean they are a weakling or weak at heart or mind. This assumption would be wrong as PTSD is usually associated with the armed forces that have their bodies and minds trained for situations such as that.
Another study has shown that one out of every ten persons is bound to have PTSD at some point in their lifetime. As we can see, PTSD is a rampant condition affecting people and due to its nature, there is no cure for it. Therapy and Pharmacological treatments have been helping but PTSD patients have been claiming the positive effects of cannabis, Cannabidiol (CBD), and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in reducing PTSD symptoms.
What is PTSD?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a product of more than a decade, mental experts explain PTSD as a debilitating stressor induced mental illness resulting from changes in the brain that developed from exposure to a traumatic or life-threatening event.
Now, let us break this down. A traumatic event is followed by a variety of emotions but commonly fear, and anxiety which is due to the surge of adrenaline. Adrenaline levels drop after a while but it doesn’t in PTSD and this one of the reasons it is a condition that makes you keep reliving the traumatic experience accompanied with the altered emotions. Just for example let us use a common event, say you lost a job or failed an examination. You become sad and anxious about what you will have to go through to pass the examination or get another job. Now, imagine having all of these feelings popping repeatedly and unexpectedly after the loss. That is PTSD.
How do we diagnose PTSD?
We do not want to go ahead and assume that every anxiety, fear, or sadness we feel after an unpleasant event is PTSD, and this why we should know how to diagnose the condition. A mental health expert is best suited for this, by using the DSM-5 to conduct a psychological assessment, and a physical examination.
Since PTSD is birthed by a traumatic event, let us see the common events involved: war or terrorist attacks; natural disasters e.g. flooding and hurricanes other traumatic incidents may include kidnapping, stalking, assault; Survivor of a pandemic, terrible medical diagnosis, ghastly accident, domestic violence, etc.
Moving on from the event, the signs of symptoms experienced are in three groups:
- Reminders (group 1): Nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive memories
- Activation (group 2): Sleep disturbances, Anger, Impulsiveness, Hyperarousal
- Deactivation (group 3): Anxiety, Withdrawal, confusion, depression
When these three groups of signs or symptoms persist for a month to three months, then we can infer the person is suffering from PTSD.
How does CBD help with PTSD?
There have been many hypotheses as to how CBD helps reduce the symptoms of PTSD but none of them have been clinically proven as yet. However, one of those which comes close with a great explanation is in a 2018 review. In the review, the effect of CBD on our Endocannabinoid system reducing PTSD symptoms is explained. CBD can react with both the Endocannabinoid’s CB1 and CB2 receptors however it only needs to indirectly react with the CB1 receptor. Our body produces a Cannabinoid called Anandamide.
This Endocannabinoid helps with positive emotions and nick named as the Bliss molecule, however, it is deactivated by Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH), and this is where CBD comes in. CBD inhibits FAAH which means Anandamide is not deactivated and we have enough to attach to CB1 receptors and stimulate positive emotions in us.
Another 2018 review posits that it is possible that CBD may affect the amygdala which is usually hyperactive in PTSD patients. To reduce this, CBD may stimulate the growth of the hippocampus which may reduce the hyperactivity.
The two 2018 reviews alongside other studies have human trials which have shown that CBD helps with the following PTSD symptoms:
- It has been shown to help increase the hours of sleep and the quality of sleep, including Rapid Eye Movement sleep which aids soothing vivid dreams. It also helps to reduce nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts and memories.
- Inhibits long-term fear memories from forming
- It helps in calming the nerves and reducing anxiety, withdrawal, altered moods, depression, panic attacks, and other anti-anxiolytic symptoms
What are the lifestyle activities that help reduce PTSD?
Asides from the use of CBD, undergoing therapies, and pharmacological treatments, we can imbibe some of these activities into our lifestyle and they have good chances at reducing PTSD symptoms by enhancing the treatments.
- Food is essential. We should maintain a well-balanced diet and refrain from foods that might increase our adrenaline and sugar levels unnecessarily such as caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks
- Exercise at least thrice a week. It improves sleep and levels of hormones such as serotonin, the ‘feel good’ chemical.
- Maintain good hygiene. A clean environment is calming to the eye and, in turn, the mind. Also, a pleasant-smelling environment have a way of calming the mind.
Research has shown that meditation and yoga help us regulate our emotions, heart rate, and anxiety, and stress.
PTSD has become common and people are struggling between treatments as there is no cure. It has disrupted their daily lives. They have altered moods at work; cannot sleep well, some have lost their jobs, and others are even depressed. Nevertheless, there is hope. CBD with its effect on the Endocannabinoid System has shown how it can help reduce symptoms of PTSD.