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Social Anxiety Treatments With Cannabis

A growing number of the people who reach out to NORML Athletics to tell their story report forms of anxiety, especially in social situations. If everyone who wrote understood how common their condition is many would gain the confidence to be vulnerable. Some of you find success in treating the anxiety with cannabis. Some are curious if the plant’s psychologically affective properties could be helpful. Here’s our stance…

Your issue is a common one. And there are at least thousands of others in the same boat.

Cannabis can have physically relaxing effects. Choose what’s described as an indica dominant strain if your body is feeling tense.

Cannabis can also have strongly psychoactive effects on your thinking. Strains that are sativas and have high concentrations of THC will create the possibility of more of a cerebral shift in consciousness. Creativity, insights and sometimes heightened anxiety or intellectual acceptance are more likely with sativas.

NORML Athletics would not recommend using cannabis if doing so ever amplifies your anxiety. Start small if you’re trying cannabis for the first time. You can always vaporize more later. You cannot un-inhale. Keep your initial doses small.

But if you DO use cannabis to treat social anxiety, start with a physically relaxing Indica instead. Enjoy the physical calm. If you are eager to delve into some not-always-pleasant self-awareness, go the sativa route. The higher dose of THC can offer personal insight and acceptance to the willing participant. Lessons can be tough to face and learn sometimes. Be easy on yourself and watch out for super-ego attacks.

A bit about self-criticism…

Those of us who suffer from social anxiety have numerous triggers. We have to accept that we never see them coming. When we first become self-conscious, it’s difficult to pull out of the loop. Then we notice our behavior isn’t smooth and effortless anymore. Instead of relaxing, we’re in our heads and realize we’re performing worse as a result. Which only makes us that much more self conscious. And the cycle can spiral out of control… sometimes to the point of panic attacks and acute anxiety. This is an awful feeling.

Adding THC to the mix can amplify the anxiety and make matters even worse sometimes. If you do not know the source of your angst or have much experience handling extremes, psychedelics can have a temporary amplifying effect. Sometimes you’re shown what you most need to see and that’s not always pleasant. Many people use the euphoric properties of cannabis to reduce social anxiety, but others find that the psychoactive properties get their already self-critical minds going on overdrive. Cannabis and its various strains work differently for everyone.

Cannabis alone will not solve this problem. You will need to actually work on self-acceptance as a practice separate from your cannabis use to begin alleviating this issue. The goal is to be mindful of how you treat others, but not absorbed with the idea that you have to act a certain way to be accepted by them.

If you have the money, we recommend that you (and EVERYONE for that matter) conduct sessions with a respected, and well-established psychotherapist to help work through the automatic negative thinking we all suffer from to varying degrees.

If you don’t have money to do that, NORML Athletics recommends that you start reading books about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Dr. Aaron Beck is the psychologist who started the concept.

Also, we’ve found many people like the straight forward guidance of Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.

Ultimately, if you find that cannabis makes your self-consciousness, self-criticism, negative thinking, etc worse…. STOP smoking. If you find situations where you are comfortable in your own skin and operate without worrying about what others are thinking about you, notice what you did in the hours and days leading up to that state. Try to reproduce the actions that make you feel most comfortable in the future.

The effects of a cannabis high vary in each moment. Your experience will be influenced by your mindset, the setting (are you comfortable physically? Do you trust the people you’re with?), dose (how much you’ve ingested), and your intention for ingesting the cannabis in the first place (what do you expect it to do? Andrew Weil has called it an Active Placebo).

There are some basic principles each of us must learn to ensure safety and sanity with any of our ventures into the psychedelic waters, no matter how shallowly we dip.

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