“When you have depression, nothing is enjoyable. Nothing can make you smile.”
“Depression is the inability to construct or envision a future.”
“The belief that you just don’t matter.”
“A total loss of who you are.”
These are just some of the responses from real people with depression when prompted to describe their illness.
Chances are you or someone close to you has felt this way. In fact, “one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life,” warns the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
We all dream of a world without mental illness, where ourselves and those close to us are happy and healthy.
And with proper treatment and early intervention, it can be possible.
Learn the signs, symptoms and risk factors of depression so that you can spot it early on, and how to easily and effectively use CBD products to combat depression and depressive symptoms.
What Is Depression?
Depression, also referred to as clinical depression or major depressive disorder (MDD), is more than just “feeling sad.”
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines depression as a “mood disorder that causes distressing symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.”
To receive a diagnosis for major depression, symptoms must persist daily for a minimum of two weeks. If a person continues to have symptoms over a period of two years and experiences frequent major depressive episodes, they may be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder (also known as dysthymia).
APA also notes that while “depression can occur at any time,” it typically “first appears during the late teens to mid-20s.”
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Those experiencing depression may show changes in their behavior, attitude, physical appearance, and mannerisms.
If you suspect that you or someone close to you may be dealing with depression, look for the following signs that the NIMH describes as indications of depression:
●Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
●Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
●Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
●Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
●Decreased energy, fatigue, or being “slowed down”
●Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
●Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
●Appetite and/or weight changes
●Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
●Restlessness or irritability
●Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
It is important to note that depression varies in its presentation across different demographics.
For example, women are more likely to develop depression than men due to “biological, lifecycle, and hormonal factors,” cites the NIMH. Women with depression often report feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
Additionally, men with depression are “more likely to be very tired, irritable, and sometimes angry” in addition to reckless behavior, a loss of interest in activities, and a higher potential for substance abuse, claims the NIMH.
Age is also a factor in symptom visibility. Older adults with depression are more likely to hide their symptoms of depression, which may be compounded by other health issues. Young children with depression may feign illness to avoid going to school.
Causes of Depression
The exact cause of depression is unknown, but can be attributed to a combination of many factors, including other illnesses, psychological disorders, biological factors, and more.
Depression may be enhanced by other illnesses, or as a side effect of certain medications. The NIMH reports depression may occur alongside, and even exacerbate, the following illnesses:
Furthermore, “depression rarely occurs independent of other psychological disorders,” reveals the National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) .
The federally funded research program details how depression often co-occurs with the following psychological disorders:
● Anxiety: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), etc.
● Substance abuse: alcohol, prescription medicine, heroin, cocaine, tobacco, etc.
● Behavioral disorders: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder (BP), etc.
● Personality disorders: obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), etc.
● Biological factors: genetics (40% heritability in first-degree relatives), hormones, biochemistry—specifically differences in certain chemicals in the brain
● Environmental stressors: acute life events, chronic stress, childhood experiences, and exposure to “violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty”
● Personal vulnerabilities: cognitive, interpersonal, and personality factors such as low self-esteem or pessimism
Due to the wide variety of potential contributors to depression, it is no surprise that depression is one of the most common mental illnesses. According to the APA, depression affects an “estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year.”
Knowing the risk factors of depression may help you to identify symptoms in yourself or others early on.
Depression and the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a signaling system discovered in the 90’s responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body. The ECS regulates many functions, including appetite, pain sensation, and mood.
In a review of studies designed to determine the role of the ECS signaling in anxiety and depression, researchers observed “there are strong indications that ECS dysregulation could contribute to depression in some humans.” Depression may even alter the endocannabinoid system, resulting in consequences for the cardiovascular system and metabolism.
Part of the ECS are cannabinoid receptors , mainly CB1 and CB2, distributed throughout the body. These receptors, which exist on the surface of cells, interact with cannabinoids like CBD and endocannabinoids that are naturally produced by the body.
CB1 receptors, which are highly concentrated in the brain, are of particular interest to researchers, who note “available human data supports the general hypothesis that the CB1 receptor activity is involved in the regulation of mood.”
Promising research also suggests that “activation of CB1 receptors serves as a buffer against depression.”
How CBD Fights Depression
CBD works in collaboration with 5-HT1A receptors to produce its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and antidepressant effects. 5-HT1A receptors are a subtype of serotonin receptors present in the brain, spleen, and other parts of the body. The chemical serotonin, sometimes referred to as “the happy hormone,” is key to stabilizing moods and creating feelings of happiness and well-being. Serotonin also plays a role in digestion and sleep. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression and depressive symptoms.
Animal studies support the use of CBD for treating depression. In one study, researchersgave male Swiss mice either CBD, the antidepressant imipramine, or vehicle (active drug minus the active component) and administered a forced swimming test (FST). The mice given CBD and imipramine were better able to navigate the test.
The study concluded “CBD induces antidepressant-like effects comparable to those of [the antidepressant] imipramine.” Additionally, researchers synthesized “these effects of CBD were probably mediated by activation of 5-HT 1A receptors.”
A 2018 reviewfocusing on the therapeutic potential of CBD concluded CBD has potential for treating many health conditions, specifically:
●Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
As depression is often co-occurring with several of the health conditions listed above, CBD may provide relief on multiple fronts.
How to Use CBD for Depression and Depressive Symptoms
Incorporating CBD into your wellness routine is easier than you think.
CBD products come in a variety of forms, including tinctures, topicals (lotions, ointments), bath products, and powerful CBD isolate.
Try dropping CBD oil from a tincture into your morning coffee or tea to start your day with relief. Dosing is easy with the convenient dropper head of the bottle. Simply squeeze to fill it up and you have a 1mL dose at your fingertips.
For sore and aching joints, a physical manifestation of depression, topical CBD products provide targeted relief. As an added benefit, using topical CBD products has also been proven to clear skin and fight breakouts by controlling acne and inflammation.
To encourage more absorption of the oil, gently massage your muscles to dilate the blood vessels. Better yet, enhance the feel-good effects by soaking in a steamy bath with a CBD bath bombor bath dust. A hot bath calms the central nervous system, which is affected heavily by depression.
For more experienced CBD users, CBD isolateboasts a purity of over 99% CBD. The tasteless and odorless crystal can be added to any food, drink, or topical product, taken as an edible, or even smoked or vaped. A diet rich in healthy fats, such as avocados and full-fat yogurt, increases the extent CBD is absorbed as well as your maximum levels of CBD.
As with medications, be sure to be consistent in when you take CBD, and at what dosage. If you are looking to increase your dosage, do so gradually. Consult a medical professional to determine if CBD is compatible with your medications.
Depression is a common mental illness faced by millions worldwide. While symptoms may present differently in individuals, there are many documented signs and symptoms that indicate a person may be suffering from depression.
There is no one cause for depression, instead there is a long list of contributing factors, such as other illnesses, genetics, and environmental stressors.
Depression interacts with, and can even alter, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is responsible for regulating mood, appetite, and more. The ECS contains cannabinoid receptors that respond to cannabinoids like CBD.
CBD fights depression by interacting with a specific serotonin receptor to produce anti-anxiety and antidepressant-like effects.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 24/7 free confidential national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find local treatment facilities, support groups, and more information. Visit SAMHSA.gov for more details and resources.
American Psychiatric Association. (2020). What Is Depression? Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
Baker, D. (2014, July 5). 50 Sufferers Describe Depression for People Who've Never Been Depressed. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/danny-baker/depression_b_5267263.html?guccounter=1
Crippa, J. A., Guimarães, F. S., Campos, A. C., & Zuardi, A. W. (2018). Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Frontiers in Immunology, 9. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6161644/
National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Depression Basics. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml
National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Depression, Parenting Practices, and the Healthy Development of Children; England MJ, Sim LJ, editors. Depression in Parents, Parenting, and Children: Opportunities to Improve Identification, Treatment, and Prevention. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009. 3, The Etiology of Depression. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK215119/
Patel, S., & Hillard, C. J. (2009). Role of Endocannabinoid Signaling in Anxiety and Depression. Behavioral Neurobiology of the Endocannabinoid System Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, 347-371. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-88955-7_14, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3808114/
Zanelati, T., Biojone, C., Moreira, F., Guimarães, F., & Joca, S. (2009). Antidepressant-like effects of cannabidiol in mice: Possible involvement of 5-HT1A receptors. British Journal of Pharmacology, 159(1), 122-128. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2009.00521.x, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20002102/
About the Author
Lily Kiepke is a freelance writer and blogger based in the Denver metropolitan area. She enjoys using CBD to relieve anxiety and improve sleep. When she is not writing about cannabis, she can be found hiking in the Rocky Mountains or curled up with a good true crime book.