A cup of coffee in the morning may not be the worst thing you consume, especially if you avoid excess sugar and creamers. Sip a second espresso in the afternoon or a cappuccino after dinner, and you may feel a bit on edge. Do those afternoon pick-me-ups mess with your mental health, though? If you suffer from anxiety, the answer may be yes.
Psychologists typically encourage people with anxiety to avoid caffeine, or keep intake to a minimum. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that can kickstart your anxiety by accelerating different bodily functions. We’ll explain this in more detail below.
Does Caffeine Cause Anxiety?
As previously stated, caffeine is a natural stimulant that can induce a host of sensations in the body. Your heart may beat faster, your breath rate may increase, and your body may heat up. All of these things mimic symptoms of anxiety, making it difficult for your mind to tell the difference. It feels the same as anxiety, but your brain doesn’t know that. There is, however, caffeine-induced anxiety, and the signs are as follows:
If you consume more than 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day (about four to five cups of coffee), you increase the likelihood of anxiety and panic attacks. This is especially true if you have anxiety, or you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Sometimes, caffeine is so potent that health experts had to make caffeine-induced anxiety disorder a subclass in the DSM-5 Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders.
Your Caffeine Intake Relates To Anxiety
Caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world. It doesn’t affect everyone the same way because everyone is wired differently. Some people can only handle a small amount of caffeine, while others are not affected by that same small amount. Genetics do play into how your body processes caffeine. A 2019 study found that people who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine tend to metabolize it slower than others do. That means that it can linger in the body for a lot longer.
For people who take longer to metabolize caffeine, drinking it regularly can make them more prone to anxious feelings. An anxiety attack, sleepless nights, or very low energy in the morning can result from caffeine-induced anxiety. When you drink another cup of coffee in the morning to wake yourself out of that groggy state, the vicious cycle begins again. Your morning cup of Joe may be behind your anxiety! There are ways to tell, so you can do a mini observational study on yourself to determine that.
Determining If Caffeine Causes Your Anxiety
The best way to determine if caffeine induces anxiety is to keep a journal of how caffeine impacts you for a week. Count every caffeinated beverage you drink during the day, but also log other sneaky sources of caffeine. Decaf coffee (which still has some caffeine), soda, chocolate, over-the-counter pain medication, energy drinks, and certain mints or snacks contain caffeine. The following week, eliminate all caffeine while keeping the rest of your diet and activities the same. People with anxiety tend to notice improvement in anxiety levels from the first week to the second week.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to caffeine consumption, and consuming caffeine affects everyone differently. If you feel that caffeine causes your anxiety, consider enjoying caffeine in moderation. Try to limit yourself to one cup of coffee per day with no unhealthy creamers or sweeteners.