Is the Association Between Caffeine and Anxiety Real or Not

November 18, 2022
Is the Association Between Caffeine and Anxiety Real or Not
Anxiety Treatment
Is the Association Between Caffeine and Anxiety Real or Not

Many people are curious about the relationship between anxiety and caffeine. But is this association scientifically proven?

Caffeine is the most widely-used stimulant drug in the world. In fact, up to 85% of the U.S. population consumes it every day. Many people take caffeine to stay alert or to keep themselves awake. However, too much caffeine can have adverse effects on people. For example, it can cause the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Here is a look at the link between caffeine and anxiety as well as panic attacks.

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Anxiety Disorders Explained

An anxiety disorder is a mental condition where a person is overwhelmed with uneasiness and fear. Anxiety can be a normal reaction to a stressful life event, which prepares the body to confront an environmental threat. But in the case of anxiety disorders, they affect people’s daily lives. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 31.1% of all adults suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

Anxiety symptoms depend on the type of disorder one is experiencing. Common anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worries for 6 months or more.
  • Panic disorder. Characterized by intense and recurrent panic attacks that cause severe discomfort.
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD). Characterized by intense feelings of anxiety in social situations.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Develops after experiencing a traumatic event.

Can Caffeine Cause Anxiety?

Many people dispute the correlation between caffeine and anxiety attacks. However, the link becomes more obvious when you know the effects of consuming too much caffeine. These include your heart beating faster, your breathing rate increasing, and your body heating up. All these symptoms mimic anxiety and, therefore, can worsen the existing condition.

How Does Your Body React to Caffeine

A 2008 study revealed that caffeine promotes alertness by blocking a brain chemical known as adenosine that makes you feel tired. Caffeine effects also include the release of adrenaline, which increases energy.

These effects are stronger if the intake amount is high, leading to caffeine-induced anxiety. Although caffeine consumption has numerous mental benefits, high doses can induce anxiety symptoms, and people who have panic disorder and social anxiety disorder are especially sensitive to it.

Another study established that excess caffeine consumption can cause symptoms similar to psychiatric conditions, such as sleep deprivation disorders, increased hostility, psychotic symptoms, and anxiety.

Caffeine effects

According to the National Library of Medicine, the main signs of caffeine overdose are:

Fast or slow heartbeat
Blood pressure variations
Dilated pupils
Nausea Vomiting

Interactions Between Coffee and Anxiety Medications

Coffee and other caffeine products can impact medications for treating anxiety disorders. Drug interactions can result in unwanted side effects or reduce the effectiveness of the medicine.

Interactions depend on the medication you are taking. For example, interactions between coffee and anxiety medication like Xanax can lower the effects of the drug. Caffeine can also reduce the efficiency of beta blockers.

Consult a doctor to know if your anxiety medications interact with caffeine.

Withdrawal Symptoms After Stopping Caffeine Intake

If you have likely developed an addiction to caffeine and stop abruptly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Morning anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty concentrating

While caffeine withdrawal isn’t dangerous, it can be stressful. So, talk to your doctor for suggestions on how to get rid of caffeine anxiety when reducing caffeine. This may include getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and exercising.

Consuming Caffeine Safely

If you don’t notice that caffeine causes anxiety, there is no need to eliminate it completely. Caffeine has health benefits, including improving concentration, mental alertness, athletic performance, and overcoming fatigue. Other benefits include a lower risk of diabetes, weight loss, reduced risk of cancer, and reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease.

According to FDA guidelines on caffeine use, a healthy adult should consume less than 400 mg/day to avoid adverse effects. This is equivalent to 4-5 cups of coffee.

How to get rid of caffeine anxiety

Some groups of people should consult their doctor to determine whether to limit or avoid caffeine. These include people who:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have insomnia
  • Have anxiety
  • Experience chronic headaches or migraines
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have an irregular heart rate or rhythm
  • Take medications for asthma and heart diseases, antibiotics, or stimulants

You should also consult your doctor about energy drinks. Most energy drinks have high levels of both sugar and caffeine. It is also not healthy to combine alcohol and caffeine.

Alternatives to Caffeine

Many people depend on the energy that caffeine gives them every morning. This behavior can cause a development or worsen anxiety. One of the best alternatives for many people is tea or decaffeinated coffee. These beverages have a flavor similar to caffeinated drinks but don’t provide the much-desired energy boost.

After a person successfully weans themselves from caffeine, these drinks are a calming choice. You can also opt for herbal teas. These aren’t only alternatives to caffeine, but they also come with numerous health benefits.

Exercise is another good way to start the day instead of taking a caffeinated drink. A walk or a jog on the treadmill is an excellent way to get blood flowing and clear brain fog. Drinking water may also help you wake up.

Wrapping It Up

The connection between caffeine and anxiety attacks is a hot topic in the medical field. In general, caffeine helps provide the required fuel to start your day. It is a stimulant with many health benefits, including alertness and energy. However, some people may have anxiety from caffeine. Therefore, you should consume it in moderation. For high-risk groups, caffeine should be used with extra caution. If you are taking any medications for anxiety, consult your doctor to know about possible interactions.


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