Does Coffee Cause Anxiety?
If you’ve found yourself visiting Espresso Insiders, chances are you’re a coffee lover like me. However, whilst there are a lot of benefits of drinking coffee on a regular basis, some people experience anxiety that is agitated by drinking the stuff.
Coffee anxiety is a real thing. The caffeine in coffee can cause a jittery, heart-pumping reaction that is reminiscent of a panic attack in some people.
The overconsumption of coffee can indeed set off the symptoms of anxiety and even trigger an anxiety attack in someone already suffering from anxiety. ‘Coffee anxiety’ is a real thing and is quite common in overconsumers of the drink. Symptoms may lead to a diagnosis of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) if they persist for longer than 6 months.
It is not uncommon to feel a little over alert, restless, or have trouble getting off to sleep at night if you have too many coffees during the day. You may even feel jittery, have random muscle twitches, or have difficulty concentrating after one too many brews.
Whilst this is not too much of an issue if it only happens every so often, having these symptoms last for a prolonged period of time can actually be a sign of anxiety developing. You may even mistake a genuine anxiety-related mental illness such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, or agoraphobia.
Both environmental and genetic factors can play into your susceptibility to developing an anxiety-related disorder. Whilst we may have limited scope to control the genetic side of things, we can try our hardest to control external factors like stress, the foods and drinks we consume, and our intake of drugs and alcohol.
How Much Coffee Can Trigger Anxiety?
Since the caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, it has a natural tendency to set off our fight-or-flight tendencies. This puts us on high alert by reducing our tiredness and allows us to seize the day. However, even a small amount of coffee for someone that has a low caffeine tolerance can spell trouble.
Reputable health and wellness source Mayo Clinic states in their article “Caffeine: How much is too much?” that a regular, healthy adult will be able to tolerate around 400 mg of caffeine or 4 cups of brewed coffee per day. This is of course a very rough guideline, as some people will be able to drink more than this with minimal side effects, whilst others will feel jittery after just 1 cup of coffee.
Therefore, the exact number of coffees you can have in a day and avoid symptoms of anxiety is difficult to pin down. However, if you have a low caffeine tolerance and feel yourself getting jitters or headaches when drinking other caffeinated beverages such as tea, Coca Cola or energy drinks like Red Bull, you should probably limit your coffee intake. You can do this by drinking decaf coffee, which actually has a number of health benefits of its own. There are also a number of alternative coffee bean varieties that contain lower levels of caffeine and are less acidic.
For those who do not drink coffee regularly, drinking just one cup can trigger feelings of anxiousness, irritability, or restlessness.
However, it may be the prolonged consumption of coffee that increases your tolerance to coffee that causes the worst of it. As your body becomes more accustomed to caffeine, you need to consume more to get the same effect. But, the more you consume the most anxious you may become over time. What’s more, you can actually become reliant on caffeine to the point where not having your regular intake for a few days could cause withdrawal symptoms. Again, you may feel irritable, suffer from headaches, tiredness, muscle aches or have brain fog if you suddenly abstain from coffee.
How to Treat Coffee Anxiety
Now, we have discussed the various issues that drinking too much coffee can cause in terms of anxiety. But, there are a few ways in which you can treat an anxiety attack brought on by drinking too much coffee or reduce the effect of long-standing anxiety that may be a result of continuously overconsuming caffeine.
The first and perhaps the most effective course of action you can take if you are suffering from coffee anxiety is to do some light exercise. This will help you metabolize (burn-off) the excess energy the caffeine has given you and calm you down. This will also take your mind off of that anxious feeling and help you to gain control over your mind and body again!
With great power comes great responsibility, and it’s not different when it comes to coffee consumption! As coffee has a tendency to dehydrate you, it is a good idea to have a glass of water alongside each coffee that you gulp down. However, if you find yourself suffering from the effects of one too many cups of joe, it is a good idea to drink as much water as you can comfortably manage in order to flush the excess caffeine out of your system. This won’t get rid of it all immediately, but it will certainly go a long way toward reducing those initial jitters!
Reduce Caffeine Intake
An obvious way to limit the effects of having too much coffee is to reduce your caffeine intake in the first place. Whilst this may sound blindingly obvious, there are a few things you can do other than just drinking less coffee that you may not have considered. First off, if you are drinking coffee later in the day then switch to decaf. You can still get that great coffee taste but the after-effects will be much less detrimental.
If you love a few cups of coffee whilst working, be wary of taking on other caffeine sources like sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, or pre-workout drinks. These all contain caffeine and can up your overall intake without you even realizing.
Centering yourself by using deep breathing techniques is a great way to quickly lower your heart rate and reduce the impact of overconsuming caffeine. You may not even notice it, but if you are suffering from coffee-related anxiety, or any anxiety attack for that matter, your breathing will likely be short, shallow, and fast. Forcing yourself to take long, deep, slow breaths will calm your body down and relax your mind. This is a natural and easy way to get over that coffee rush.
Fortunately, vitamin C is a natural antidote to caffeine. Caffeine does some weird things to our body, and one of them is to make our body think we are deficient in vitamin C. Taking a vitamin C tablet or eating foods high in vitamin C such as oranges, kiwis, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes or spinach will replenish your stores and help you feel better fast.
Whilst we are certainly proponents of coffee at Espresso Insiders, we also love herbal tea. It is wonderful stuff that has a myriad of health benefits and simply tastes great! Herbal teas are great for digestion so will help to flush the caffeine out of your system, whilst also calming your mind and slowing your heart rate. Green, camomile, fruit, and mint teas are my personal favorites.
One of the unintended consequences of drinking too much coffee can be dehydration that can occur. One of the best ways to combat this is to replenish your electrolytes as these keep your sodium levels high to keep your body functioning at its best. Pop an electrolyte tablet into a big glass of water to kill two birds with one stone!
Coffee is a drink loved by many people the world over. However, you can have too much of a good thing, and drinking too much coffee can keep you awake at night, as well as cause anxiety. This is a real thing and whilst you may think that the symptoms you are feeling are just coffee related, they may be masking a real mental illness. If you are suffering from an anxiety attack or have coffee jitters, try to calm yourself down and flush the extra caffeine out of your system. If you are concerned about any of the symptoms discussed in this article, be sure to speak to a healthcare professional.