Diagnosis and cultural understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is continuously undergoing a transformation. In the not-so-distant past, a PTSD diagnosis was designated solely for combat troops returning from the front lines. However, in many cases, the disorder was rarely treated adequately, if at all, and usually with pharmaceuticals having unpleasant side effects. In response, many people, including veterans, have turned and are increasingly turning to CBD oil for PTSD. This is also because legitimate research is showing CBD to be an effective treatment for a great number of symptoms associated with the disorder. Read on for details.
Over the past decade or two, as science advanced, PTSD has become a household word. It is applied much more broadly and to a much wider sector of society. Yes, it’s still very much applicable for post-combat soldiers, but war zones are no longer considered the sole trigger.
As explained by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, “Not every traumatized person develops ongoing (chronic) or even short-term (acute) PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD.” 
So, it is clear that trauma, in many different forms, can trigger the eventual onset of PTSD. The disorder doesn’t discriminate against men, women, adults, or children.
Proper treatment of PTSD has historically relied on a combination of psychotherapy and mood-altering medicines such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). While anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants can often provide short-term relief for these individuals in the grip of PTSD, patients often find it difficult to keep taking the medicine for an extended amount of time. Unfortunately, the pharmaceuticals have multiple challenging side effects. Plus, they are often prohibitively difficult for use in therapy for children.
However, as we develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding of this disruptive disorder and its treatment, it’s becoming increasingly clear that traditional treatments aren’t cutting it.
Now, we will explore the most recent research on CBD and PTSD, which has a surprisingly long history—although it is still somewhat preliminary. However, it does demonstrate that significant, positive results with CBD oil for PTSD are possible.
Before exploring the use of CBD to treat PTSD, let’s first understand the basics of the psychological disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is essentially characterized by reliving trauma and the associated emotions and feelings—years or even decades after the traumatizing event. Symptoms often include personal avoidance of similar circumstances or stimulations.
The disorder is associated with adverse changes in mood and patterns of thought, also related to outbursts of anger, depression, and sleep problems. Furthermore, sufferers experience a general feeling of emotional numbness and increased isolation.
As mentioned, PTSD can be triggered by any traumatic event, fearful experience, or compromise of emotional or physical well-being. Modern-day examples include witnessing or experiencing a car accident, experiencing sexual assault or violence, and any many other possible traumatic events. Even historically “mundane” experiences, such as a divorce or a bad breakup, can potentially cause PTSD.
Research on CBD and PTSD
Research on CBD oil for the treatment of PTSD is mostly in the preliminary stages of clinical trials. Medical marijuana is also of interest as a potential mediator for PTSD, and sometimes its legal status compromises the study of CBD. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis plant. It is derived legally from hemp plants.
Research allows us to study CBD in action, and while the study cohort is sometimes small, these studies do present valuable information for further analysis. Also, anecdotal evidence, while not scientifically significant, also points to CBD being a viable alternative to mainstream medicine that warrants more rigorous scientific inquiry.
Here are a few stories about people using CBD to treat the symptoms of PTSD.
1. Using CBD to Feel “Normal”
In a blog post, Barbara Harris, RT, CMT reported on one of her patients who started using CBD for PTSD. According to Harris’s notes, her patient experienced trauma as a child; decades later, as a 61-year-old, she decided to seek treatment. She was undergoing therapy, practicing meditation, exercising, and receiving weekly massages. Despite all of this, she still reported never feeling “normal.” She explained that she felt like she was walking on eggshells all the time. 
Once she started taking CBD, she reported feeling normal again. In fact, she called CBD the missing link between her and a continued recovery.
2. CBD for PTSD in Children
Often, the SSRIs typically prescribed to treat disorders such as PTSD are problematic for use in child therapy. However, CBD may prove to be a safe alternative, as it has so far shown impressively safe results for children with PTSD-related anxiety and sleep disorders.
A 2016 case study presented by Scott Shannon, a doctor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, involved a young girl who was provided with CBD. In particular, the researchers sought to reduce reported sleep disturbances, decrease anxiety, and mitigate emotional outbursts at school. Before starting CBD oil therapy, the ten-year-old child underwent a Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children and the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders to provide a baseline of measurement.
She took CBD oil sublingually before bed for five months. After this period, the researchers reported that the girl was sleeping much better throughout the night, and usually in her own room. She also had decreased anxiety, and her emotional outbursts at school had disappeared. The researchers did not discover any significantly measurable side effects associated with CBD use. 
How Does CBD Help PTSD?
Both of these case studies are compelling. But what does the more scientific research show with regard to CBD’s action against PTSD symptoms?
Regulating Fear Memory
One incapacitating effect of PTSD is the prevalence of so-called fear memory, also known as fear conditioning. This occurs when one stimulus is associated with another apparently different stimuli. For example, some soldiers return home with an overwhelming fear of loud noises. Their fear reaction got conditioned through repeated exposure to bombs, artillery, and other noises on the battlefield. Therefore, even a benign, loud sound like fireworks may trigger an unmanageable emotional or physical outburst in the veteran.
Targeting this particular symptom, one 2016 study conducted in Canada explored how CBD treatment might regulate this learned fear response in mice. Researchers conditioned mice using a typical PTSD-inducing model. After seven days of CBD treatment, the mice demonstrated remarkably reduced fear memory symptoms during testing. Basically, after presenting a predator (cat) to the mice, the mice did not show the usual conditioned fear response (freezing). The study concluded that “CBD may regulate mesolimbic [reward pathway] activity and modulate the formation of associative emotional memories.” 
Another similar 2012 study based in Germany concluded that “evidence is increasingly accumulating that cannabinoids might play a role in fear extinction and antidepressive effects. It is concluded that further studies are warranted in order to evaluate the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in PTSD.” 
Treatment of Insomnia
As demonstrated in the case of the ten-year-old girl, CBD seems to be useful for the treatment of insomnia. Bedtime appears to be one of the more difficult times of day for people with PTSD, as they often experience difficulty sleeping and traumatic nightmares.
Unlike other sleep aids, CBD has no sedative qualities in lower doses. In fact, some research links it to increased alertness during daylight hours.
Finally, CBD is well known for its anti-anxiety characteristics. Through the continued study of CBD and the consequently expanded understanding of the endocannabinoid system, researchers believe it could be an exciting new area for anxiety symptom research.
Cannabidiol demonstrates anti-anxiety effects both in small human trials on people with social anxiety disorders as well as throughout many animal trials. It has proven—time and time again—to reduce daily underlying stressors for PTSD patients. 
These people have found relief when conventional medicine has failed, but more research is obviously needed to discover why. Thankfully, medical research centers around the world are currently looking more seriously at CBD for PTSD, and legislative prohibition is slowly changing. In 2017, the state of Georgia signed a bill that legalizes the use of medical marijuana for intractable pain and PTSD. The science is continuing to prove that CBD reduces anxiety, inhibits traumatic nightmares, and increases the quality of life—excellent news for all people suffering from PTSD.