Edit: this post was originally shared as a review for a certain brand of CBD oil drops, however I have updated it because I am no longer comfortable advertising their product.
CBD oil (and other CBD products) are increasingly being explored as a potential treatment for a variety of ailments, mental health issues being one of them. To be clear, robust and conclusive evidence does not yet exist.
I have made no secret of the fact that I have struggled with anxiety for the past seven to eight years, as well as experiencing panic attacks, OCD symptoms, stress and burnout at various other points over the course of the same time. Much of this I can attribute to being postpartum and the range of challenges that arrive alongside a new baby, but I am also genetically anxiously-inclined and I’ve been socially anxious for most of my life. I could pretty easily get derailed into conversations about cause and effect, the benefits of having a diagnosis and what makes someone more susceptible to (maternal) mental illness than another, but I won’t. I will save this conversation for another post.
As I have said, my issues with anxiety aren’t particularly new. The first time I tried CBD oil, however, was in the summer of 2019 – about six months after my third, and youngest, daughter was born. Context can sometimes be helpful and so, even though I had previously successfully self-managed poor postnatal mental health, in this subsequent period I felt overwhelmed and like I needed external help of some sort in order to be okay. (If you’d like to read more about my experience with postpartum anxiety, panic and OCD symptoms, including how I managed it, click here).
Like many women, asking for help doesn’t come naturally or easily to me. The recognition that something wasn’t quite right didn’t come quickly either; it took me a long time to figure out that I needed help. When I finally arrived in that mind space I booked an appointment to see my GP (General Practitioner, for all of you non-Brits), namely to talk about medication. Psychiatric medication is a complicated subject and people seem to have a lot of strong feelings and/or beliefs about it. There is also still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness and, consequentially, psychiatric medication. At the time of writing this I am a student mental health nurse, and so perhaps better informed than many – a perk of the job. Medication can play a vital role in someone’s recovery, but all medication carries side effects. For this reason, it is generally best to consider any and all options and weigh things up carefully when making treatment plans. It is also not a cure, and medication should be used in partnership with other holistic (whole person – mind, body, spirit, community) therapies.
Before I veer too far off-course into the world of psychiatric medication, let me try and reign things back in. I’m giving you my very abbreviated perspective (above) on medication, mostly because this is a subject that I’m really interested in.
Here is the part that I think you’re really here for – and I want to make sure that I’m crystal-clear: CBD oil was the treatment pathway that I chose in partnership with my doctor. I absolutely do not advocate making decisions about psychiatric treatment without the support of a trained and experienced professional. My intention in sharing this is to offer you information about what worked for me, so that you can explore this as a potential option alongside your own doctor. Please do not misunderstand my meaning and be encouraged to make these important decisions on your own.
My doctor and I decided, after a lengthy and emotional conversation, that I would try CBD oil for two weeks and if I didn’t see some sort of improvement then I would move on to an antidepressant. I have family members who use CBD oil to treat their own mental health issues and so I arrived at my GP appointment with this option in my head along with a list of relevant questions. The treatment plan that we agreed upon (to go down the CBD oil route first) was a decision that we were both comfortable with, in no small part because of my unique presentation. It wouldn’t be an appropriate choice in all circumstances, namely in cases where someone was acutely or severely unwell.
CBD oil doesn’t work for everyone, but it worked for me. I started on 5% concentrated drops and progressed to 10%, and then 20% concentrate as I became more in tune with how the oil worked and what my body needed. I know that CBD oil doesn’t work for everyone but I found considerable benefit from it, as it subtly took the edge off of my overwhelm and anxious feelings. I used it religiously (as directed) for more than a year and still use it, as needed. *Edit: I now use 10% drops with a specific, preferred brand.
I want to mention that I was never given a diagnosis of postnatal depression. My doctor believed that I was likely experiencing stress and burnout, and we are both aware that a diagnosis sometimes isn’t beneficial. In my case, our treatment plan would have been the same either way. He didn’t see the need to quickly whack a label on me – he was already giving me the energy, time and attention that I needed and deserved – and, as a result, I didn’t feel the need to push for it.
Have you ever used CBD oil (or gummies, etc) to help you manage your mental health? I’d love to know what your experience was. Also, let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything that I didn’t cover which you’d like to know more about!