CBD for OCD: What the Research Says


As the government reduces regulations around marijuana, people are beginning to find more uses for this substance in the medical field. One relatively new development is the use of cannabidiol (CBD) to treat the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Here, we give an overview of the potential and effectiveness of using CBD for OCD.

What Is CBD?

According to research, CBD is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis after THC. CBD is a crucial component of marijuana. However, it derives from the hemp plant, which is a relative of cannabis.

Many researchers have begun to turn to CBD for treating various medical treatments. According to the World Health Organization, the substance does not lead to dependence or addiction.

Currently, CBD is more accessible than marijuana. However, its legal status differs across states. CBD is usually sold as a supplement rather than a medication, meaning that the FDA does not regulate it. However, the consensus is that CBD is safe. The most significant side effects are mild and include irritability, fatigue, and nausea.


OCD – A Brief Overview

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, OCD is a mental illness that consists of two components: recurring thoughts and compulsions.

The recurring thoughts are obsessions. For a person with OCD, these thoughts are uncontrollable. Certain behaviors or compulsions may exist in conjunction with these thoughts. What distinguishes a person with OCD is that the sufferer feels compelled to complete these obsessive behaviors.

Common obsessions often revolve around specific themes:

  • Germs and cleanliness
  • Orderliness
  • Taboo ideas around sex, religion, or harm

Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive hand washing
  • Placing things in a particular order
  • Repeatedly checking things (e.g. whether the door was locked)

Many people like things to be orderly and feel compelled to double-check things. However, OCD is more than that. This disorder gets in the way of people’s daily lives. People who suffer from this disorder tend to spend more than an hour a day on these thoughts and behaviors.

Another component of obsessive-compulsive disorder is a tic. Not all people with OCD display tics. For those who do, people may experience motor or vocal tics that accompany their obsessions and compulsions. Common tics include:

  • Excessive blinking
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Facial grimacing
  • Voice clearing
  • Grunting
  • Sniffing

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that an estimated 2.2 million, or 1.0% of the US population suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. People, especially children, who have the disorder may not initially realize that their behaviors are out of the ordinary. Parents and teachers are commonly the first people to take notice of the symptoms in children.

What Causes OCD?

The exact causes of OCD are currently unknown, but there are some identifiable risk factors and correlations. Studies have shown genetics in conjunction with environmental factors play a role in the development of OCD. People with a parent, child, or sibling with OCD are much more likely to develop the disorder than people who have no close family members who have the disorder.

People who have experienced a significant traumatic event are also at a higher risk of developing the disorder. There also is a link between children who have suffered a streptococcal infection and the development of OCD. This condition is known as PANDAS.

Benefits of Using CBD to Manage OCD

OCD written on a white piece of paper on a white desk

Treating Anxiety

Recent research has shown promising signs of CBD, reducing the effects of OCD. The substance has already proven to combat the effects of other similar disorders like anxiety and depression. Many times, people who suffer from OCD also suffer from anxiety disorders, making CBD an even stronger option as a treatment option.

CBD has also been used to treat epileptic and muscle disorders. The research suggests it is a likely candidate to assist with motor tics that affect some OCD sufferers.

Treating Depression

CBD works in the limbic region of the brain, which is where OCD manifests. As noted in the 2018 study published in the journal Medicines (Basel), CBD inhibits the breakdown of anandamide. The compound is a natural antidepressant that helps to regulate mood, including feelings of fear and anxiety.

Non-Pharmaceutical Option

More research is necessary for the realm of using CBD for OCD. However, many anecdotal reviews are quite positive. One suggested bonus of CBD is that it is non-habit forming and less invasive than other procedures.

Many people support that CBD is a natural substance rather than a lab-created pharmaceutical drug. In a consumer survey conducted by Brightfield Group, a data research firm, they found that 41% of survey participants preferred to use CBD over pharmaceuticals.


More research is ongoing on the promises of CBD for OCD. Likely, a more definitive answer regarding CBD’s usefulness in the treatment of OCD will come to light in the next few years.

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