Evidence based

CBD and Mood Disorders: Current Research & Understanding

Mood disorders describe a number of conditions affecting our ability to regulate mood. CBD has been shown to play an important role in the neurotransmitters and regions of the brain associated with controlling our mood. Here’s how it works.

Article By
Justin Cooke , posted 2 months ago

It’s natural for our moods to fluctuate throughout the day — in some cases, these fluctuations become so extreme that they disrupt our ability to function normally. In other cases, our mood can spike too high or dip too low.

The umbrella term describing this inability to control our moods is referred to as a mood disorder.

Many different mood disorders can affect us — from depression and anxiety, all the way to mania and psychosis.

Depending on the cause, CBD has potential as a powerful supporting agent to help us retake control of our moods.

We’ll explore the role CBD and some of its cannabinoid relatives play in regulating our moods and treating some of the underlying causes for mood disorders.

Let’s get started.

  • Table of Contents

Summary: Using CBD for Mood Disorders

CBD and other cannabinoids can support various mood disorders. What makes CBD so useful and for these conditions is that it exerts its effect through multiple pathways in the brain tasked with regulating nerve health and mood.

For depression, CBD can boost serotonin levels through a similar mechanism to common antidepressant medications (SSRIs), and through a reduction in neuroinflammation — which is considered to be a primary cause for depression [24].

CBD has also been shown to improve the health of the hippocampus — which controls emotions in the brain [14]. Studies have shown that patients with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders often have damage in the hippocampus of the brain — potentially interfering with their ability to regulate emotions effectively. The result is bouts of depression, apathy, and anxiety.

The Benefits of CBD on Mood Disorders

  • Improves blood flow to the brain [6]
  • Boosts serotonin levels in the brain [2]
  • Lowers neuroinflammation [12]
  • Supports brain recovery
  • Protects the brain from oxidative damage [11]
  • Increases GABA activity in the brain [13]
  • Reduces stress response [4]

Tips for Maximizing the Effects of CBD for Mood Disorders

  1. Aim for the higher end of the dosage spectrum for most mood disorders, but build up the dose gradually over time if you’re just starting with CBD
  2. Search for high-quality CBD products only — poor manufacturing processes often result in contaminants in the oils which can make mood conditions worse
  3. Avoid CBD products that contain more than 0.3% THC — this may worsen symptoms of anxiety
  4. Use CBD in combination with other therapies as well as diet and lifestyle changes for best results
  5. Speak with your doctor before using CBD alongside other antidepressant or antipsychotic medications to avoid possible adverse drug interactions

Mood Disorders 101

Mood disorders are a collection of different neurological conditions affecting our ability to regulate and maintain certain emotions.

Mood disorders — also called affective disorders — come in all different forms. Mood can be inappropriately high (mania and hypomania) or too low (depression). Other conditions involve fluctuations between both (bipolar disorder).

In all cases, an inability to regulate our mood can lead to reduced quality of life and challenges with daily activities.

Here are the most common types of mood disorders:

1. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a neurological disorder involving extreme shifts in mood — going from periods of deep depression to euphoric mania and everything in between.

There’s no cure for bipolar disorder, and medications for the condition are often hit or miss in their effectiveness.

A large clinical trial is currently investigating the potential benefits of CBD as part of a treatment plan for bipolar individuals. Although the study isn’t scheduled to finish until 2020, the results are looking promising for CBD.

CBD may be effective for bipolar disorder — however, bipolar disorder affects everyone differently. What might work on one person could make symptoms worse for another. So it’s important to discuss the use of CBD with your doctor or psychologist before giving it a try.

If you decide to use CBD, always start with the smallest dose possible and build up gradually from there to see how it affects your symptoms.

2. Depression

Depression is the most common mood disorder — affecting as many as 300 million people around the world each year, according to The World Health Organization.

There are a few different types of depression — characterized by the presence of other symptoms and the length of time the condition was present. All forms of depression involve chronically low-mood and motivation. Other symptoms may include fatigue, chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, or low libido.

There are a few ways CBD can be used to alleviate depression. The most important is through CBD’s anti-inflammatory benefits — especially on neuroinflammation (inflammation in the brain). Inflammation is considered to be one of the most common causes of depression [24].

CBD also protects the hippocampus from damage — which is tasked with regulating our mood and is one of the first regions of the brain to show signs of damage in the minds of depressed individuals.

Low anandamide (one of the primary endocannabinoids) is associated with symptoms of depression [22]. CBD boosts anandamide levels in the brain by inhibiting the enzymes responsible for breaking anandamide down.

3. Mania

Mania (also referred to as manic syndrome) is a serious condition involving abnormally high energy levels, feelings of euphoria, and frequent anxiety attacks. It’s the opposite of depression, but it can be just as debilitating.

Manic syndrome can lead to increased tendencies for violence, aggression, irritability, and delusions. This condition can be dangerous, causing people to become reckless and at a higher risk of injuries.

Use CBD with extreme caution for mania due to concerns of worsening the condition. Mania is a severe condition that requires the care of trained medical professionals.

The cause of mania is different from one person to the next, and although there are reports of people using CBD to treat this symptom effectively — there are plenty of reports about cannabis products making symptoms worse as well.

4. Hypomania

Hypomania is similar to mania but involves more mild symptoms. It’s somewhere between depression and mania.

Symptoms of hypomania involve extended periods of euphoria and disinhibition but aren’t as severe as mania.

CBD can be used to support some of the side-effects of hypomania, such as insomnia and anxiety. Similarly to mania, CBD should be used cautiously with this condition. Always start with a small dose and increase gradually.

Once you know how it affects you individually and you’ve confirmed it doesn’t make symptoms worse, try increasing the dose.

5. Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder brought on by lack of sun exposure. It’s referred to as a seasonal disorder because it’s especially prevalent in northern climates during the winter months when daylight hours are at their lowest. At the same time, the cold weather in these places means the people living there tend to cover up most of their exposed skin — further limiting the exposure of UV light with the skin.

When light from the sun hits the skin, it drives an enzymatic reaction that produces vitamin D — a key regulator in our mood.

The best treatment for seasonal affective disorder is regular exposure to sunlight, or another source of UV light, and vitamin D supplementation.

Both CBD and THC may be useful for this condition by alleviating many of the associated side-effects of the disorder such as insomnia or anxiety. Vitamin D supplementation and UV light exposure are still required for maximum effect, however.

Causes for Mood Disorders

  • Substance abuse
  • Chronic stress
  • Bereavement
  • Medication side-effects
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Past traumatic event

The Endocannabinoid System & Mood

All mammals have an endocannabinoid system — a system of specialized receptors found in virtually every organ in the human body. The endocannabinoid system is involved with maintaining homeostasis (balance) throughout the body.

There are two main types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system; the CB1 receptors found in the brain and spinal cord, and the CB2 receptors abundant in the skin, internal organs, and immune cells.

The endocannabinoid system — in particular, the CB1 receptors — plays a significant role in the regulation of emotional homeostasis. Studies involving the removal of endocannabinoid receptors in mice often result in the development of mood disorders. Many researchers suggest that a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system is one of the leading causes of mood disorders.

CBD, THC, & The Endocannabinoid System

One of the most important effects of CBD is its ability to inhibit the enzymes responsible for breaking down naturally occurring endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG). By limiting the breakdown of these compounds, we may be able to alleviate deficiencies in the endocannabinoid system causing mood disorders.

THC is also beneficial for treating mood disorders involving depression through its euphoric effects. The euphoric effects may be responsible for causing problems with manic or hypomanic episodes, but more research is needed to understand this in detail.

Generally, low doses of THC appear to offer beneficial effects on mood, while larger doses are most often involved with negative effects [24].

Guide to Using CBD for Mood Disorders

CBD may be used in the treatment of a variety of different mood disorders — but not all of them. This is a rapidly growing area of cannabis research, with a lot of complexity that can make it very hard to study.

Here we’ll go over some of the research currently available on this topic, and dive into some of the tips and tricks experts often recommend when using CBD for various mood disorders.

What Does the Research Say?

There are a few studies — primarily on animals — investigating the effects of CBD on various mood disorders. There is a small collection of human clinical trials exploring the safety of using CBD and cannabis extracts with depression, bipolar disorder, and other common mood disorders.

A) In Animals

Animal studies involving models of depression have shown that daily CBD supplementation in mice had a significant reduction in depression scores when compared to placebos [3].

Another study investigated the details of how CBD exerts its antidepressant effects and found that CBD inhibited the reuptake of serotonin in mice brains [2]. This is the same mechanism that the common antidepressants — SSRIs — use to treat depression.

Animal studies have also investigated the role CBD plays in obsessive-compulsive disorder — measured through a test involving marble-burying habits in mice [10].

B) In Humans

The most significant human study involving cannabis and depression investigated the use of the plant to see if it was a potential cause for depression. With over 45,000 participants, the study concluded that cannabis was not likely to cause depression [1].

Human studies have also shown that CBD supplementation reduced anxiety during simulated public speaking events (400 mg dose) [5], and exposure to fearful facial expressions (600 mg dose) [7, 8]. It was also shown to improve mood in patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder [9].

Tips for Using CBD For Mood Disorders Effectively

Step 1: Find the Best CBD Oil for Mood Disorders

CBD comes in many different forms — so there’s a product to suit most people’s needs.

When it comes to treating mood disorders, any product that gets the cannabinoids into your system is beneficial. The only thing you want to pay attention to is the potency of these products.

The effective dose for treating mood disorders is generally very high — so a low-dose 10 mg CBD gummy isn’t going to do the trick in most cases.

For more information on finding the best CBD products, check out some of our guides:

Step 2: Assess Optimal Starting Dosage

Most of the scientific research involving CBD for mood disorders that showed improvement involved high doses of the compound (400 mg to 600 mg per day for several weeks).

This is well above the high-end of the typical dosage range for CBD.

Of course, everybody is different, and you may not need a dose quite so high to see improvements.

Even though we recommend high doses for mood disorders, it’s important to start with a minimal dose when using CBD for the first time. This is to make sure you don’t react negatively to the CBD oil or other compounds in the mix. The goal is to start very low (10 mg per day or less), and build up gradually over the course of a week or two.

Recommended Strength For Mood Disorders: High Strength

Daily Doses of CBD by Weight and Strength (in mg)

Weight (lbs)Low StrengthMedium StrengthHigh Strength

100 lbs

10 mg

30 mg

60 mg

125 lbs

13 mg

38 mg

75 mg

150 lbs

15 mg

45 mg

90 mg

175 lbs

17 mg

52 mg

105 mg

200 lbs

20 mg

60 mg

120 mg

225 lbs

22 mg

67 mg

135 mg

250 lbs

25 mg

75 mg

150 mg

Step 3: Monitor the Effects of CBD

This step shouldn’t be overlooked.

Mood disorders are incredibly complex, and there are a ton of different factors involved. CBD and other cannabinoids may have unintended side-effects on your condition.

This is why it’s valuable to keep detailed notes on your symptoms throughout your CBD supplementation. Report any changes, both good and bad, to your doctor or psychiatrist.

Using a journal, Word document, or another form of note-taking, write down a list of the symptoms you’re experiencing and give them a rating between 1 and 10 (10 being the most severe).

After a week, answer the same questions again without reading the first set. Now compare them. Are there any improvements? Is anything worse?

You could do this every day if you wanted greater detail in your progress tracking.

Repeat this process every week for the first few weeks to track how the CBD is affecting your mood.

Answer the Following Questions in Your Notes:

  • How are your energy levels? (scale of 1–10)
  • How is your mood on a scale of 1–10?
  • Does your mood fluctuate or stay roughly the same?
  • Do you experience any physical pain? If so how intense is the pain on a scale of 1–10?
  • What other side-effects are you experiencing?

CBD will likely take around a month of regular use before any noticeable changes are noted — sometimes longer. Be patient and persistent with your CBD supplementation.


References

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Conditions that May Respond to Cannabidiol