Caffeine and Anxiety: Is Drinking Coffee Responsible for Your Anxiety?
It’s no surprise that coffee is now a heavily entrenched tradition in our lives. All over the world, millions of people start their day with a cup of coffee to get the boost of energy they need for the rest of the day. For a lot of people, the kick of energy is essential, while for others, the habit has just been part of their lifestyle. Even for those who claim not to be coffee drinkers, coffee still affects their lives by influencing the people around them and by putting up cafes and coffee shops on almost every corner.
For the most part, coffee has become mythical in its own way — this conventionally bitter beverage has inspired a ceaseless number of traditions, as well as an infinite number of flavors, preferences and varieties. Coffee connoisseurs have made coffee their life’s work, while others simply enjoy it with some good conversation. It is a multi-billion dollar industry spanning the entire globe; and it is a beverage that has had a big impact on society, whether we drink it or not.
But as we delightfully sip our own cup of joe, with whatever mix of cream, sugar and other additives we prefer, it’s sometimes easy to forget what kind of effect coffee has on our lives. More specifically, the effect that caffeine has on how we feel.
For people who suffer from anxiety disorders and panic attacks, caffeine has mostly been neither here nor there. But modern researchers have started to find connections between caffeine and anxiety.
But how exactly does coffee work? And how does it affect those of us who suffer from anxiety?
The Effect of Caffeine on the Body
As mentioned earlier, coffee is traditionally used to give us that boost of energy in the morning. On top of that, it’s also used to keep us burning the midnight oil if we have to work late hours. But how exactly does it do that?
It goes without saying that coffee affects the chemistry in our brain. It works by inhibiting the natural brain chemical that induces sleep in our body. That’s why caffeine is taken to perk us up in the morning, or keep us up in the evening. The chemical adenosine makes us drowsy by slowing down the activity of our nerve cells; but caffeine works by blocking the chemical adenosine.
However, there are other side effects to taking in too much caffeine. Since caffeine blocks the chemical adenosine, your brain activity increases. This explains why people suddenly become “hyper” after drinking too much coffee. The lack of adenosine in the body makes your body more alert, and eventually produces epinephrine, more popularly known as adrenaline. Adrenaline makes your pupils dilate and clears your breathing. It causes heart palpitation and sends your blood pressure up. It also makes your muscles tighten as if readying itself for more action.
That’s why it’s no surprise that a lot of the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder are similar to having too much caffeine in the system.
On top of that, caffeine also brings up your dopamine levels similar to amphetamines. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that, in short, gives your body a sense of “pleasure” and “reward”. This is actually the same chemical found in drugs such as heroine. Obviously caffeine’s effect is much lower than heroin’s, but it pretty much works the same way. It is even hypothesized by most researchers that the presence of dopamine is what makes caffeine so addictive.
The Relationship Between Caffeine and Anxiety
Anxiety and panic are traditionally seen as feelings that are related to stress. However, most people tend to overlook the fact that their diet can also have a huge impact on your body; most especially the consumption of coffee. Having too much coffee can easily trigger symptoms of anxiety and panic. To make matters worse, caffeine induced panic attacks have been known to happen.
Caffeine and anxiety are slowly becoming more recognized bed partners as medical researchers and nutritionists continue to uncover the relationship between the two. In fact, coffee is now one of the most heavily documented and researched beverages in the world, with published studies covering a wide variety of subject matter on the commodity.
Most documents and published reports show that coffee isn’t bad when taken in moderation, however that kind of moderation cannot last for very long; especially since caffeine has been proven to be addictive in nature. Because of this, the caffeine in coffee has been known to not only trigger anxiety, but a good number of other psychological and physiological conditions.
Some of the more common symptoms of anxiety and panic is a palpitating heart and shaking or trembling hands. However, these are also side effects of drinking more than the recommended amount of coffee in a single day.
However, some people make the common mistake of believing that coffee is the only source of caffeine. In fact, there are many other caffeinated drinks on the market that can be just as anxiety-inducing as coffee. Caffeine can be found in most drinks designed to give you a burst of energy: that includes energy drinks, sodas and even some carbonated juices. It can also be found in a number of sweets such as a chocolates and candies.
Having too much coffee and caffeine can have you feeling nervous, irritable as well as anxious. On top of that insomnia and irregular heart beat is also a known side effect. The problem with having too much caffeine in your diet is that it can trigger constant feelings of anxiety and panic. For those who have trouble controlling and keeping these feelings in check, they can prove to be quite overwhelming.
There have been a lot of first hand experiences by anxiety sufferers that caffeine and anxiety are a disastrous concoction. Caffeine anxiety is a major concern for those who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders, but are hooked on caffeine. However, kicking the caffeine habit is easier said than done.
Kicking the Caffeine Habit
Since coffee has traces of the neurotransmitter dopamine, it isn’t a surprise that millions of people all around the world are addicted to the kick caffeine gives them. In a very real sense, being addicted to coffee isn’t that much different from being addicted to a drug. But the positive side of it is that it isn’t as serious of course.
Since there are very small traces of addictive elements in coffee, it is far easier to kick than say nicotine or heroine. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be rid of the habit overnight.
For anxiety sufferers looking to kick their caffeine habit; it’s very important to make a commitment to go all the way with this goal. Like any bad habit you’re trying to kick, it’s very easy to fall out of sight of your true goal.
Caffeine is a toxin, and to remove it from your body, it’s important to be able to make a commitment to detoxify yourself. Taking non-caffeinated, detoxifying teas is one way, and drinking regular amounts of water is another. But for those of us requiring a big kick of energy to get us going in the morning there are alternatives to coffee…
Alternatives To Coffee
Exercise helps increase natural dopamine levels in the body, whether it’s through a brisk run in the morning or through a quick yoga routine straight out of bed. If you’re looking for a beverage to perk you up, you can simply start taking decaffeinated drinks in the morning to simply substitute for your coffee. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish from having a psychological substitute for your coffee in the morning.
It’s also possible for you to withdraw your coffee intake slightly, rather than all in one go. If you want to be free from these anxiety symptoms, cutting back on coffee is recommended. But to avoid serious withdrawal effects, especially headaches, doctors advise to reduce coffee consumption gradually. You can do that by simply scaling down over a number of days or weeks the daily coffee amount.
Make note of how much (and what kind of) coffee you consume on average and work down from there. Rather than just giving yourself a limit of coffee cups a day, also give yourself a window on when you can drink them. For example, allow yourself a single cup of coffee in the morning. And then you can give yourself a second cup in the middle of the afternoon when crunch time in the office has really hit its stride. From there you can start substituting your coffee for other drinks as well. You can even switch to drinks with less caffeine intake; or coffee with less concentrated caffeine per cup.
By outlining a plan for yourself and your coffee intake, you can eventually kick the habit completely if you stick to it. Although kicking your caffeine habit will by no means rid you of your anxiety completely, it can however lessen the manifestation of anxiety and panic symptoms in your daily life.