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  • by Nicola Boulton August 30, 2022 5 min read

    Stress, Anxiousness, and the Endocannabinoid System

    The article shows the relationship between stress, anxiety, and the endocannabinoid system. It provides adequate answers to the following statements and queries: What is stress from a health perspective? What is anxiousness? What is the endocannabinoid system? What is the difference between stress and anxiety? Causes of anxiety and stress. The relationship between the two latter and the endocannabinoid system. Finally, prevention and treatment of the two disorders.

    People are facing stress and anxiety disorder. Under the influence of stress, people experience physical and mental signs such as anger, fatigue, muscle pain, appetite loss, sleeping disorders, and even brain damage. Anxiety leads to irritability, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. However, the body's endocannabinoid system tends to help by trying to make the body cope with these disorders by allowing the body system to adapt to its changing environment. Many people who are under the influence of illicit drugs such as cannabis (marijuana), if you ask them why they largely use it, the answer is the same "for relaxing." It tells you that the cannabinoid system in the brain and body has the same role in controlling stress, fear, and anxiety.

    What is Stress?

    Robinson & Linda (1990) stated that stress is a feeling of physical or even emotional tension that occurs when one thinks or encounters angry, frustrating nervous scenes. There are two types of this feeling;

    • Acute stress-it is short-term stress; it comes and goes away. It helps manage dangerous situations.
    • Chronic stress lasts long and, if not managed, can lead to health issues. It can be caused by marriage issues, loneliness, money problems, and other long-term scenarios. The health problems include; high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, menstrual problems, and anxiety.

    Stress can cause physical and emotional symptoms. The signs of stress include forgetfulness, headaches, lack of energy, sexual problems, fatigue, stomachache, weight loss or gain, sleeping problems, and alcohol or cannabis drugs to relax.

    What is Anxiousness?

    The above study also noted that it is a feeling of anxiety. The feeling of tension and worries characterize anxiety and stress that continues after the stressor is gone. It is characterized by restlessness, wearisomeness, irritability, concentration difficulty, and difficulty staying or falling asleep. There are several types of anxiety disorder;

    • Panic disorder is a sudden attack that causes shaking, confusion, nausea, and difficulty breathing. It may be because of sudden bad news.
    • Chronic anxiety is a common disorder involving excessive or long-term anxiety.
    • Social phobia-it is the fear of embarrassment from others in social situations such as stage flight, rejection, or humiliation.
    • Separation anxiety- is common in dating or married couples.
    • Agoraphobia occurs in trapped individuals who need to escape and have no way out.
    • Selective mutism- is very common in children. It is a form of anxiety that children experience, and it becomes difficult for them to speak in certain areas like school or around familiar people.

    What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

    Cabral et al. (2015) described the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as a cell complex that helps regulate various functions like sleep, mood, memory, appetite, reproduction, and fertility. ECS is comprised of three components;

    1. Endocannabinoids- molecules manufactured by the body glands familiar with the cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. There are two key endocannabinoids; anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoyiglyerol(2-AG)
    2. Receptors- Endocannabinoid receptors are found all over the human body. They are made of CB1 receptors, found in the central nervous system, and CB2, located in the peripheral nervous system. The endocannabinoid can bind with any receptor to take action to any occurring problem.
    3. Enzymes -are responsible for degrading endocannabinoids after they have done their functions. The enzymes responsible for these tasks include fatty acid amide hydrolase and monoacylglycerol acid lipase.

    Comparison between Stress and Anxiousness

    There is a fine line between stress and anxiousness—both emotional responses. However, stress is due to external triggers, while anxiety can result from the stress that doesn't go away.

    Both disorders have the same coping mechanisms, such as physical exercise, a good diet, and good sleeping hygiene. In addition, they are similarly reduced in the body by the endocannabinoid system.

    What is the Roles of the Endocannabinoid System in Stress and Anxiety?

    Hill et al. (2010) said that the human body moderates chronic stress and anxiety disorder. It is believed that if the body inhabits ECB signaling of receptors increases stress and anxiety while increasing the signaling of receptors by the system, there is a decrease in the conditions. The receptor responsible for this function is the CB1, located in the central nervous system.

    When a patient faces serious issues, anxiety and stress increase, and the body's nervous system senses the change in the environment. It causes various body glands to produce endocannabinoid compounds that bind with the CB1 receptors. The combination is then transmitted to the limbic system. A Limbic is a team of interconnected structures located deep within the brain responsible for behavioral and emotional responses. The receptor and the cannabinoid take action on the emotional instability and try to soothe thought. It may reduce stress or anxiety in the patient. The enzymes break down the combination after the task is completed. If the stress is perceived, additional medication and psychotherapy are required to aid the endocannabinoid system in encountering the disorder. People seek other means to make them relax if the body system fails; some start using cannabis compounds like:

    • Cannabidiol (CBD)
    • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

    THC is the main cannabinoid found in the cannabis sativa plant. It is the chemical compound associated with highness. It is mostly found in misused marijuana. When THC reaches the body, it binds with both receptors (CB1 and CB2), thus effectively reducing anxiety and stress. However, it might cause paranoia if used excessively.

    CBD is the most desired cannabinoid compound to treat anxiety and stress disorders. Unlike THC, it has no negative impact, and neither does it cause highness. It prevents endocannabinoids from being broken down by enzymes in the body, thus giving extra time for action to be completed fully.

    What Are the Ways To Treat Mild Stress and Anxiety?

    Bandelow et al. (2022) argued that mild stress and anxiety could be treated with therapy sessions plus medication or both combined. There are two therapies known to work.

    • Behavioral therapy focuses on changing adaptive thought that is causing anxiety or stress.
    • Exposure therapy involves safely confronting the stress or anxiety triggers to break down the cycle of fear around the problem causing the disorder.


    Stress and anxiety are not medical conditions, but they're vital for the survival of human beings. The human body is built to handle these emotions. The endocannabinoid system within the body regulates moods, helping cater to human happiness. However, someone may experience a bad mood under inappropriate conditions by overestimating the likelihood of the threat leading to unhealthy thoughts leading to anxiety disorder. In this case, ECS is insufficient to cater to body moods; further assistance is required. They include physical activities, CBD products, psychotherapy, and medications that help to boost the system. One must avoid these disorders because they may lead to permanent mental issues.


    Bandelow, B., Michaelis, S., & Wedekind, D. (2022). Treatment Of Anxiety Disorders. Dialogues In Clinical Neuroscience.

    Cabral, G. A., Ferreira, G. A., & Jamerson, M. J. (2015). Endocannabinoids And The Immune System In Health And Disease. Endocannabinoids, 185-211.

    Hill, M. N., & Mcewen, B. S. (2010). Involvement Of The Endocannabinoid System In The Neurobehavioural Effects Of Stress And Glucocorticoids. Progress In Neuro-Psychopharmacology And Biological Psychiatry, 34(5), 791-797.

    Robinson, L. (1990). Stress And Anxiety. The Nursing Clinics Of North America, 25(4), 935-943.

    Nicola Boulton
    Nicola Boulton

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