Can CBD Help With Public Speaking Anxiety?
While researching how CBD works with social anxiety, we came across a fascinating study on CBD for public speaking fear and panic attacks.
You can't get a better proxy for social anxiety than public speaking.
It's called Glossophobia officially.
What percentage of the population has this?
Oh, just 73%!
It's the most common fear ahead of death.
It makes sense since rejection by our tribe a few 1000 years ago was probably akin to death (eventually).
We've looked at many facets of general anxiety and CBD across multiple articles but let's dive deeper into public speaking since it shares many aspects with social anxiety.
- Fear of rejection by others
- Fear of making a mistake
- Fear of being judged
I'm getting a little panicky just listing it off.
Interestingly, these different "fears" require a very distinct brain area to exhibit their peculiar effects.
We'll look at how CBD affects that.
Throw in the general anxiety circuit and voila...acute anxiety from public speaking!
Let's get into it.
- What causes public speaking panic attacks
- What is the best way to overcome fear of public speaking
- The endocannabinoid system and public speaking
- The study on CBD and public speaking
- Will CBD affect my ability to speak publicly
- Best dosage for public speaking
- What type of CBD to take for public speaking
Let's get started.
What causes public speaking panic attacks?
There's a thorough investigation of what's happening during public speaking at our CBD and social anxiety article.
A quick recap.
Of course, the familiar anxiety and panic attack circuit is at play.
This the Amygdala - Prefrontal Cortex
The Amygdala is an almond-shaped organ which is part of our old "reptilian" brain.
It's the seat of emotional response including fear.
It operates very quickly upon any perceived threat and our fight or flight response to danger depends on this.
If you're about to be hit by a car, there's no time to analyze the situation and jump out of the way.
That's the Amygdala's role!
There's a host of physical changes that it initiates:
Heartbeat spikes, breathing quickens, muscles tense up.
These are all important for jumping out of a car's way!
Not so much on stage in front of a group of people.
Worse yet, the other part of this circuit called the prefrontal cortex which then provides the voice of reason to the Amygdala is partially shut down or quieted during a panic response.
The signal gets there and ideally, it responds back to say whether the perceived threat is real or if the body should stand down and relax.
The prefrontal cortex is the newest member of the block evolutionary speaking and sits right behind the forehead.
It's really the part of the brain that makes us human (separate from other animals).
Planning, rational thought, organization, and a host of higher thinking skills happen there.
To make things worse, during acute anxiety or panic attacks, the brain gives more power to the Amygdala (make the important life-saving decisions for now) and gives less sway to the pre-frontal cortex.
By the way, guess what brain area is heavily relied on for all the planning, remembering, thinking, and verbal expression that a good speech requires.
The prefrontal cortex!
That's why it's not uncommon to go completely blank when faced with public speaking.
This cross-talk between the Amygdala and Prefrontal cortex is the general circuit for anxiety in all forms.
Anxiety's not all bad.
You need it to keep you from doing dangerous or destructive things.
There's a reason that evolution conserved this basic circuit in all of us.
The question is why so many of us have public speaking anxiety?
Two theories and an interesting new brain area.
The first rational theory (obviously a result of the prefrontal cortex) is evolutionary.
Remember that fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death!
There may be a good reason there.
Back in the day when we operated in smaller bands of people, rejection by the group probably meant eventual death.
This fear of rejection or judgment is a very powerful motivator and cause of anxiety in general.
The intense focus of public speaking intensifies this very basic fear.
That effect may be magnified by the so-called "illusion of transparency" which states that people tend to overestimate other people's ability to understand their mental state.
That speaks to feeling emotionally naked or laid bare when in front of people publicly.
Once the circuit is triggered, you feel that the audience can know how you feel internally which just furthers that circuit along.
The second theory is one of happenstance.
Why public speaking?
Yes, this is a form of performance anxiety but it's very distinct.
We are not going to get physically hurt from public speaking. There's no risk to life...physically anyway.
There's a unique area of the brain called Pregenual Anterior Cortex
That's a mouthful but stick with us...it's very interesting for social anxiety issues such as public speaking.
Think of the anterior cortex as a translator between our old primitive brains (amygdala, hippocampus, etc) and the shiny, modern, thinking brain (prefrontal cortex).
A lot of the peculiar thinking abilities that make us human are the result of these "middlemen" or circuits.
The pregenual anterior cortex is really interesting.
Among other things, it's the seat of:
- Social evaluation
- Social rejection
Combine this with an active amygdala and you have fear of being rejected, judged, and more.
It's really the seat of self-conscious feelings!
Ding ding ding. Fear of public speaking and performance in general.
Yes, there may be an evolutionary aspect (fear of rejection from the small tribe was genuinely dangerous) but the nonsensical reaction to public speaking that 3/4rds of us have may just be a glitch in the system.
Again, it wasn't going to kill our ancestors...just embarrass them.
So...what does CBD have to do with any of this?
The study on CBD and public speaking anxiety
Let's walk through the specific study on CBD and public speaking.
There were three main groups of people in a double-blind experiment:
Placebo was given 1 hour prior to public speaking test
600 mg of CBD given 1 hour prior to public speaking test
The group was given nothing prior to public speaking test
The people were also separated further into people without anxiety issues and those with known anxiety issues.
Results were given in three different categories:
- Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS) - how the person appears to the researchers
- Negative Self Statement Scale (SSPS-N) - the test subject's view of their state
- Physiological criteria - blood pressure, heart rate, skin conductance
The results were impressive.
Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech.
The SSPS-N scores evidenced significant increases during the testing of the placebo group that was almost abolished in the CBD group.
This means that the stress people experienced with the placebo virtually disappeared with CBD.
The SSPS-N is a self-stated analysis of a person's own internal state.
Remember...this is at the heart of social anxiety or fear of public speaking...an internal exaggeration of how we feel others are viewing us.
Subjective at its core.
The increase in anxiety induced by the SPST on subjects with SAD was reduced with the use of CBD, resulting in a similar response as the HC.
To translate, the use of CBD basically brought the stress response and fear of public speaking in people with anxiety down to the "health control" group.
You know...those people out there who are able to speak publicly without losing it!
Some other interesting notes came out of the study.
First, roughly 30% of people with anxiety experience control through current medications.
See our CBD versus anxiety medications for more detail on this.
Secondly, many people use cannabis for anxiety relief but anxiety is also a side effect of cannabis (with THC).
We're not surprised by this.
THC has been shown to cause anxiety not to mention the whole histamine and anxiety effect here.
The original meaning of the "entourage effect" was how CBD would offset the negatives of THC such as anxiety.
You can read all about CBD's effects here:
Did CBD affect the speaker's abilities beyond removing the anxiety?
Will CBD affect my ability to speak publicly?
CBD does not appear to impair cognitive function across different studies as well as the public speaking one above.
This is obviously important for such a verbal task.
CBD is not:
- Psychoactive - does not distort the sense of reality
- Sedative - slows mental processing
- Stimulative - speeds up mental functions and behavior
This makes it very different from benzodiazepines (generally sedative), SSRI's (can be psychoactive), or other meds.
The beta-blockers operate more on the physiological effects of public speaking anxiety but that's a big hammer to swing for these effects.
We're talking about pretty intrusive heart medication.
In the public speaking and CBD research above, cognitive impairment was listed as comparable to "healthy controls"....way below those with placebo.
Best CBD dosage for public speaking
In the study, 600 mg of CBD was given before the public speaking test.
That's a high amount
The researchers noted that they had studied levels at 400 mg which give anti-anxiety effects.
They chose to go higher since public speaking is one of the most anxiety-causing tests to give a person.
The safety profile for the group was fine even at those high levels.
In other studies, anxiety-reducing effects were found at 1.45 x pounds in body weight.
For example, a 100-pound weight person might look at 145 mg of CBD.
It's important to test CBD first on your system at about 20-30 mg and work your way up.
Check out our quick start guide for helpful hints on how to get the most out of what you take.
What type of CBD to take for public speaking
Have you ever experienced an allergic reaction where you literally feel like you're coming out of your skin?
That's the result of histamine release which can be tied to anxiety.
Check out our article on CBD for histamines and anxiety here.
For this reason, we want clean CBD isolate to avoid the very excitatory histamine release.
Stress itself can increase histamine release and public speaking is definitely in the "stressful" category.
We specifically crafted IndigoNaturals for anxiety and histamine response.
Keep in mind that the same calculus applies to performance anxiety in general.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.