Is Anxious Eating Putting on the Pounds?


Researchers have linked overeating to stress.  Studies have demonstrated that some people eat more when affected by depression, anxiety, or other emotional disorders. [1] Overeating also may be a physiological response. When you are persistently stressed, your adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat.  Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall. However, if the stress doesn't go away, or if a person's stress response continues to stay on, cortisol may stay elevated.[2]


Consumers turn to CBD for stress relief

When the source of overeating is stress and anxiety, CBD may be able to help. A recent survey on the use of CBD found that among those that use CBD, about 55% of those who have tried it say they used it to relax, and another 50% said they were looking for stress and anxiety relief.[3]

 CBD is one of the over 60 cannabinoids or naturally-occurring chemicals found in industrial hemp and marijuana. Cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is made up of endocannabinoids or neurotransmitters that send chemical messages between neurons, the cells that transmit nerve impulses to affect pain response, lower inflammation and aid injury recovery as well as control other functions of the body such as sleep, appetite and immune response.  

 Research suggests that in addition to impacting the endocannabinoid system, CBD may control the release of serotonin, a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the body and contributes to wellbeing and happiness.


Studies on CBD and stress

While more research is needed on CBD and anxiety, a 2011 study found that CBD was able to reduce Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This preliminary study aimed to compare the effects of a simulation public speaking test (SPST) on healthy control patients and treatment-naïve SAD patients who received a single dose of CBD or placebo. Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in the speech performance of control patients, and significantly decreased alert levels in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group.[4]

 Furthermore, animal studies have found that CBD can reduce the effects of depression and anxiety. A 2014 review of animal studies found CBD exhibited anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.[5]

 While there is a need for more controlled clinical trials to conclude the use of CBD as a potential treatment for anxiety and depression,[6] such studies are encouraging.




[1] “Why people become overweight,” Harvard Health Publishing, June 24, 2019.
[2] “Why Stress Causes People to Overeat,” Harvard Medical School, October 13, 2020.
[3] Kopf, Dan and Avins, Jenni. “New data show Americans are turning to CBD as a cure-all for the modern condition,” Quartz, April 15, 2019.
[4] Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219‐1226. doi:10.1038/npp.2011.6.
[5] de Mello Schier AR, de Oliveira Ribeiro NP, Coutinho DS, Machado S, Arias-Carrión O, Crippa JA, Zuardi AW, Nardi AE, Silva AC. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2014;13(6):953-60. doi: 10.2174/1871527313666140612114838. PMID: 24923339.
[6] “Can CBD Help with My Anxiety and Depression,” Anxiety & Depression Association of America, June 2019.