Some call it life’s blood and others refer to it as the nectar of the gods. No matter what name you give it, caffeine is a psychoactive drug that can induce stress-related symptoms and anxiety. Drinking coffee, caffeinated tea, or any other form of caffeine can be a ritual in the morning or a natural thing to reach for during that midafternoon slump at the office. Whatever caffeine is to you, it can cause a variety of problems when consumed excessively.
When people visit a doctor and explain symptoms like irritability, sleep irregularity, fatigue, restlessness, overwhelming worry, or muscle tension, doctors tend to ask if they drink caffeine and how much they consume if the answer is yes. Some medical professionals will tell people to lay off caffeine for a while to see if symptoms go away, while others say to continue drinking caffeinated beverages and pay attention to how the body reacts after consumption. When you begin to recognize the jitters, irregular heartbeat, or a mild buzz, you begin to notice the connection between caffeine consumption and anxiety symptoms.
The Caffeine Insomnia Connection
This is a vicious cycle of drinking caffeine, sleeping poorly, being tired all day, drinking more caffeine to wake yourself up, and then sleeping poorly again. Let’s say that you only drink one cup of coffee in the morning before work. Well, friends, caffeine has a half-life of five to seven hours. In case your high school chemistry is failing you, that means that your body needs about six hours to metabolize half the caffeine, and another six to metabolize half of that. The caffeine from a cup of coffee at nine in the morning can still be in your system by the time you go to bed. The caffeine from a latte with two shots of espresso after lunch, then, is in your system while you are trying to fall asleep. Not only does this inhibit sleep quality, but it also creates anxiety about sleeping in general.
If you have anxiety, consuming caffeine on a daily basis can influence how you feel. After consuming caffeine, cortisol (the stress hormone) is released. Coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks all raise cortisol levels and amplify your stress response, putting your body in a fight or flight mode all the time. This means that when a stressor is introduced (i.e. public speaking, finishing a project, worrying about holidays, meeting new people), you can begin to tremble, become itchy, feel fatigued, or feel faint. Take caffeine out of the equation and your stress response lessens.
Caffeine Can Increase Anxiety When Taken With Medication
Most people consume caffeine out of habit and not necessity. Even if they think they need it, they most likely do not and are used to the habit more than the actual caffeine. Because caffeine is a psychoactive drug, consuming it alongside various medications, which typically contain caffeine in order to be fast-acting, can increase the presence of side effects like anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, and many more.
Many people consume caffeinated beverages on a daily basis. You should consider more than the taste of your caffeinated beverage if you have anxiety. Opt for natural sources of energy or seek out caffeine-free alternatives like chicory root. If you feel that you can’t give up coffee, try limiting yourself to one cup a day and make sure that you drink it in the morning to avoid sleep troubles or insomnia.