Can Caffeine Cause Anxiety? Should it Be Avoided?

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When discussing a question as broad as whether or not can caffeine cause anxiety we need to remember one thing in particular – there are multiple types of anxiety, with some of the symptoms ranging from nervousness all the way to panic attacks.

Most of us love our caffeine-filled foods and drinks to death, be it coffee, tea, ice cream, soft drinks, energy drinks – anything.

When it comes to coffee, the most commonly consumed caffeine-filled beverage,  people get particularly defensive – they really love this stuff!
The smell, the taste, the entire morning ritual – everything!

The fact is that caffeine is a drug and is highly addictive, like cigarettes or alcohol.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a “say no to drugs!” kind of article, merely me pointing out a possible cause for a certain problem that you may or may not have.

A double-edged sword

A few years back I had a friend who went to college, from what I recall he did an engineering course.
Not only that, he also spent a lot of his time tutoring other students in order to pay his bills.

Heh, nobody said that life is easy, right?
The man was brilliant, he put endless hours of hard work to master his craft, accomplishing a lot without any help from others.

One day, we were talking with another and he revealed to me that he was stressed out over his finals, something that I could tell based on his overall nervousness.

This should be normal behavior, but I know my friend well and he is typically the “out of sight out of mind” kind of guy.
So I asked him about it, and in return, he said to me that he sleeps for a few hours a night and runs mostly on coffee, energy drinks, and a bunch of other sugary abominations.

I immediately pinpointed his sleeping problem, but his unusually obsessive thoughts were a source of concern for me.
So after we finished talking and went our separate ways, only one thought stuck in my mind – coffee.

Don’t get me wrong, caffeine is great for you for the most part, but only in small dosages.
Data shows that it can boost memory, keep you alert, prevent cancer and do so much more.

But regardless of these benefits, caffeine still has considerable drawbacks.
When it comes to anxiety in particular, caffeine does way more harm than good.

The answer is that caffeine is one of the last things that you want to consume when already experiencing high levels of stress, nervousness or flat-out anxiety.

Let me explain.
We already agreed that caffeine increases your focus and overall level of alertness, right?
While doing so it produces very similar symptoms to stress-related issues.

This isn’t a coincidence either.
Studies show us that caffeine can more than double the levels of stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) in your blood.

So yeah, this stuff isn’t good for any pre-existing stress.
Don’t buy into the myth that coffee and tea help you calm down, these are lies that you were taught to believe in.

Coffee Beans

Ever heard of caffeinism?

As it turns out, caffeinism is an actual, real disorder derived from simply consuming too much caffeine, be it through coffee or otherwise.

Caffeine meets all the requirements to be considered an addictive drug.
And much like any drug, you may very well find yourself grow dependent on it.

For many people, this isn’t actually too bad a problem – you drink a cup or two of coffee every day to get yourself going and enjoy the many benefits of it along the way.

Either that or maybe you like drinking any other type of caffeinated beverage every.

The problems actually begin when you consume a tad too much caffeine (some experts suggest 250mg/day), and then you begin to experience very specific symptoms.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Insomnia – Believe it or not, the Caffeine-induced sleep disorder is actually a widely-recognized disorder. Wikipedia even has a page about it!
  • Nervousness – As I have said before, caffeine can increase the levels of stress hormones in the blood, making you nervous, twitchy and awkward
  • irritability – much like with anxiety, caffeinism can really throw you off your game and get you pissed off at the world
  • Anxiety – This right here is the big kicker. Caffeine has a direct relation to anxiety, making it flat-out responsible for a type of anxiety disorder.

Caffeine increases pre-existing anxiety as well

Here’s some food for thought.
How do you research panic attacks? It’s pretty difficult to force people into a state of panic on a whim.

A study on the subject attempted to understand whether or not does caffeine have anything to do with increases in the probability of panic attacks.
They collected 26 test subjects with a relatively similar level of social anxiety and administered them with 480mg of caffeine (more than our 250mg).

Soon thereafter, 17 participants experienced a panic attack right there and then.
That’s 61%!

If you have anxiety already, you don’t want anything to do with caffeine, even if you aren’t addicted or experiencing caffeinism.

It’s easy to see that caffeine may very well take you from “bad” to “worse” in literal minutes.
Sure, 480mg is a lot of caffeine, but even a cup a day can build up into something much, much worse.

Withdrawal and addiction

The most dangerous thing about excessive consumption of caffeine, at least from a purely anxiety-based viewpoint, would be how addictive it is.

Unless you can shrug it off purely on a whim, which most of us can’t, you will find yourself unable to let it go.
Even if you somehow could, this would bring up a whole new set of problems for you.

One pattern of behavior that can be observed in all types of addictions would be withdrawal.
Your body feels that it needs to have caffeine, or else it simply can’t go on.

This is actually the biggest problem you could face when it comes to caffeinism.
Withdrawal normally peaks at around 24-48 hours after your last caffeine intake and can last up to an entire week, with a few rare cases going all the way up to 12 days.

This means that that you have to handle all of the lovely symptoms of withdrawal for a week.
These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Muscle twitching and stiffness
  • Lack of focus
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Abnormalities regarding heart rate

As you can see, these can be quite difficult to deal with.
The real problem is that the people who grew dependent on it will not be able to continue to function properly without it at least for a while.

I am sure that most of you can relate.

But what can you do about it?

Gradual progress is key

The brute force approach to dealing with caffeine addiction, something that you might have even without knowing, is to simply stop drinking it in one go.

It isn’t going to work

Sure, some of you may not be big believers in baby steps, and that’s fine, but your body does need time to adjust.
The alternative is flat-out withdrawal at its absolute worse.

So what should you do? Gradually let caffeine go.

If you are a coffee drinker, try to drink one cup of decaf for every two cups of regular coffee, eventually change this into a 1:1 ratio (one decaf for every regular coffee) and then go down from there.

You could also try and drink green tea instead of coffee or soft drinks, while it does contain caffeine, it’s nowhere near regular coffee.

In fact, green tea has up to 8 times less caffeine in it than coffee.
Soft drinks actually contain a very small amount of caffeine, so letting them go should be relatively easy.

Another thing that you might want to do is to take better care of yourself – drink properly, sleep properly, and rest whenever you can.
Consider actually relaxing in the weekend, and if your condition is bad enough, you might find yourself calling sick for a couple of days.

Yes, withdrawal can be that difficult to deal with

Relaxation coffee

If you have anxiety, there’s no other way

There’s no need to sugarcoat this – if you are suffering from anxiety, stress, nervousness anything like that then you need to let go of any caffeine-filled foods and/or drinks that you might be consuming.

The “rush” of energy that you get from them really isn’t worth it.
So do yourself a favor and try to tone it down for a bit – you will begin noticing results relatively quickly.

After all, getting that extra boost of energy to finish some work won’t do you any good if you break down from the stress after a short while.

So here’s a question for you – Did you ever notice your caffeine intake and how it affected your anxiety?

Make sure to leave your answers in the comment section below – I read every single one of them!

If you got any further questions you would like to ask me then please send me an email – I always enjoy reading them!


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