Dripping with Anxiety: Caffeine and Its Side Effects


For many people, drinking coffee is a part of their daily morning routine in order to function, or it can be used as a pick-me-up in the afternoon. Regardless, 64% of adults say they drink coffee regularly, which is a substantial amount of the American population (Pham, 2019). On a larger scale, 85% of the US population consumes some sort of caffeine every day, according to an article from Healthline, and it is the most consumed drug in the world. Caffeine is found in coffee, energy drinks, and soda, and the latter two are most often consumed by young people (Richards, 2015). However, drinking too much coffee can lead to “jitters” and other symptoms that can aggravate or worsen symptoms of anxiety since it is a stimulant. It is important to note that while coffee does not cause anxiety, it can make someone who has anxiety or an anxiety disorder more prone to experiencing behaviors similar to a panic attack. 

Studies have shown that given more than a 480 mg dose of caffeine, 61% of the patients with a generalized anxiety disorder had a panic attack (Pham 2019). It increases alertness by blocking the brain chemical adenosine, which makes you feel tired, and increases the amount of adrenaline in your body (Rafi, 2020). 

Furthermore, people who suffer from anxiety disorders are more prone to be negatively impacted by excessive coffee consumption, since many of the symptoms associated with coffee mimic symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, restlessness, and irregular sleeping patterns. According to the FDA, up to 400mg of caffeine (roughly 4 cups of coffee) does not cause any negative side effects, but these levels can vary from person to person. Having more than 1,200 mg of caffeine could be very dangerous. Caffeine can affect people in different ways, according to a 2015 article highlighting how people with pre-existing illnesses, such as panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, were affected more by excessive amounts of caffeine consumption (Richards, 2015). Thus, consuming caffeine in moderation is important to prevent these symptoms. 

Additionally, quitting caffeine altogether might not be the best solution, depending on the method chosen. While scaling back coffee consumption is a healthy way of curbing your caffeine intake, quitting “cold turkey” or immediately not drinking coffee could lead to withdrawal symptoms. These periods of withdrawal can trigger symptoms like headaches and depression, which can also exacerbate anxiety further. Alternative methods can be to only drink caffeine when it is necessary, like if you are fatigued or unable to focus. Furthermore, substituting caffeinated beverages with decaf coffee and tea options could reduce the risk of anxiety-like symptoms (Frothingham, 2019). 

Many people are not aware of caffeine’s negative side effects or the impact it has on the brain. In fact, many people do not know that caffeine is even a drug. While not as harmful as other drugs on the market, it can still impair daily activities if taken in excess quantities. If symptoms of anxiety continue to manifest, make sure to talk to your doctor to ensure that the amount of caffeine you are consuming is right for you. 

 

References

Frothingham, S. (2019, May 24). Does Caffeine Cause Anxiety? Retrieved October 25, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/caffeine-and-anxiety

Pham, D. (2019, October 04). How Do Coffee and Caffeine Affect Anxiety? – GoodRx. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.goodrx.com/blog/does-coffee-caffeine-cause-anxiety/

Rafi, Z. (2020, March 10). How does caffeine work in your brain? Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://examine.com/nutrition/how-caffeine-works-in-your-brain/

Richards, G., & Smith, A. (2015, December). Caffeine consumption and self-assessed stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4668773/

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