Anxiety is a succession of intense feelings of worry and nervousness. It may manifest in a variety of disorders called “anxiety disorders’. Caffeine is a stimulant that increases the heart rate, and as such may cause irritability and agitation, which increases anxiety levels.
Among some people, who have already been suffering from anxiety, caffeine may trigger anxiety attacks.
Among people who are not prone to anxiety, caffeine can cause anxiety.
Caffeine’s effects on anxiety
Many products contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolates, and some medicines.
Caffeine is defined as a stimulant because it temporarily stimulates the central nervous system of the body, increasing the rate of metabolism.
Caffeine suppresses a chemical in the brain called Adenosine. As a result, it slows down the nerve cells and causes a feeling of drowsiness.
Caffeine effects on anxiety
Caffeine, increasing the heart rate, can cause panic attacks, a sense of dread, and intense anxiety, and possibly even a heart attack.
Neuroscientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine report that caffeine can trigger and exacerbate anxiety and panic disorders. The caffeine can also cause irritability, headaches, and irregular heartbeat.
. Psychologists who have studied the effects of caffeine on patients suffering from anxiety, explain that if a person tends to experience high levels of stress and high caffeine intake, he or she may risk undesirable health issues.
The National Institute of Mental Health recommends that people with anxiety disorders should avoid caffeine, as it can aggravate anxiety
While some people may feel more focused and energetic with caffeine, people who tend to suffer from anxiety usually experience nervousness and impending doom.
The relationship between caffeine and anxiety – Theories or hypotheses
Every person responds differently to caffeine, and some people, including those with anxiety disorders, are more sensitive than others to nervous reactions. Many people drink caffeinated drinks in order to experience an energy boost in the morning or to become aroused when tired.
Some people develop caffeine tolerance and drink larger quantities to produce the same effect, and like drug addiction, they can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop consuming caffeine.
Prevention methods and solutions
People with anxiety disorders should avoid caffeine intake and, if necessary, gradually reduce its use until complete avoidance.
If there is no known medical history of anxiety disorders, but one still continues to experience anxiety symptoms such as an accelerated heart rate, inability to sleep, and irritability after caffeine intake, one must consult a physician about having tests and reducing caffeine intake at the same time.
If feelings of anxiety persist after caffeine use is stopped, you should consult with a psychologist.
If you ask people what caffeine does to them, many will say that it sharpens their minds, but this concept is valid only in the sense that the pressure increases alertness. As humans, we tend to remember traumatic events very clearly. For example, almost everyone remembers what they did the day the twin towers fell.
Centuries ago, it was a survival mechanism that helped us remember and avoid dangerous situations. That ability, in some instances, could have meant the difference between life and death.
Today, however, millions of people create artificial pressure in caffeine intake many times a day and then marvel at how it ‘sharpens’ their minds.
So what are the harmful effects of caffeine on the mind and emotions, and what really happens to the brain and nervous system when under constant pressure?
Studies have unequivocally shown that caffeine contributes to anxiety, irritability, panic attacks, depression, and anger.
With high levels of caffeine in the blood, even a small event in life can take on tragic dimensions. The irony, of course, is that when people are in distress, they tend to drink more coffee.
On the face of it, this seems reasonable because most of the time we seem to need more energy, but what you get from caffeine is not energy but rather metabolic and neurological stress.
We are told that coffee drinking can help solve our problems. However, there is nothing farther from the truth. Even the term coffee break is absurd because the direct result of coffee consumption is just higher pressure and lessens coping ability.
Caffeine and brain functions
The stress response has an undeniable effect on the nervous system. It is known that people who are under threat of attack, suffer from stress, even if no attack occurs. In the same way, caffeine creates stress in the background that ultimately lowers the quality of life. This effect is not always noticeable because other stressors regulate it.
However, unlike other stressors in life, relating to the amount of caffeine we consume, we can do something about it!
At some point, most people realize that peace is a very desirable experience. The time to do something about caffeine consumption is before the peace breaks.
The pressure threshold
Another indisputable fact is that caffeine lowers the pressure threshold by creating anxiety, irritability, anger, and hostility. In other words, events that we would typically carry on with successfully, make us lose our heads in the presence of caffeine.
Life is complicated and unpredictable, and dealing with these challenges requires flexibility, understanding, a sense of harmony and inner balance. However, for people whose caffeine levels are high – the emotional health margin is minimal.
When the first stresses in life occur – perhaps through illness, financial crisis, public appearance, final exam, relationship problems, or just a parking ticket – the experience destroys peace of mind and tends to overwhelm.
Caffeine promoters will deny this issue, but their data is flawed and deliberately misleading. For example, in studies evaluating the effect of caffeine on behavior, people who are under a lot of pressure are usually excluded from the study, perhaps because they may exhibit “overreaction” to caffeine.
Does that make sense?
A more accurate and meaningful research method would be to include such people because they are the ones most likely to be harmed. The most appropriate approach would be to evaluate the cumulative effects of stress resulting from both the environment and caffeine.
A landmark study that measured the effect of caffeine on military recruits found that caffeine is a significant contributor to the development of Combat Shock Syndrome (which is actually stress). “Caffeine-free” coffee in military institutions is likely to decrease the range of various anxiety reactions, including battle-shock reactions.”
A report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association illustrates clearly the role of mental health stress:
According to this report, stress can change biochemistry in the brain so that the effects of future events are significantly increased. Abnormal brain biochemistry and a 200% increase in aggressive behavior were observed for up to one month from the stress period.
In other words, stress can cause long-term changes in neurotransmitter production in the brain, leading to an increase in norepinephrine levels, resulting in increased anxiety and hostility. The message is that stress has a cumulative effect on our lives, and that caffeine plays a significant part in the increasing damage we experience.
How does It work?
Caffeine interferes with the adenosine receptors, which usually regulate the rate of stimulation that arises from neurons in the brain.
Also, coffee interferes with GABA metabolism, an essential biochemical material that helps in filtering information and thus is linked to a strategy of logic operations. Hence, the combination of caffeine and stress actually increases brain activity, but at the same time reduces coping skills and reduces the ability to relax.
The result? – Anxiety and irritability.
What is impressive is that even without knowing how it happens, most people know that caffeine makes them nervous, and yet – the typical reaction is not to reduce caffeine intake but to look for antidepressants.
Today, one in five adult Americans is taking sedative or antidepressant medication. Because seven out of ten Americans drink coffee, many are likely to drink coffee and also take sedatives.
This behavior is similar to driving with one foot on the fuel pedal and a second foot on the brake pedal. No wonder so many people fall apart.
Truth in advertising
An ad in one of the American magazines raised the question: “Are there any signs of prolonged anxiety in your life?” Following is a list of symptoms, such as:
Was it an advertisement for Coffee Detox? No, it was an advertisement for a new anti-anxiety drug. Nowhere in the ad is it stated that any of the symptoms mentioned might be due to caffeine intake. Nor did doctors’ information suggest that they ask patients about their caffeine habits before they prescribe the drug.
Beyond anxiety: Panic disorder
For approximately five million Americans, anxiety has become a condition called panic disorder. The onset of ‘panic attacks’ usually occurs in the third decade of life, and attacks women three times more than men.
Panic disorder is characterized by sudden, unexpected fears and for no apparent reason. It usually involves end-of-world sensations.
The accompanying symptoms, which include:
make the situation a truly frightening experience.
A panic attack may take several minutes to several hours.
I am not saying that panic attacks and anxiety are caused by caffeine intake, but let’s look at possible causes that could turn a person’s nervous system on its face. One of the most significant is caffeine.
In analyzing the medical and scientific status of those suffering from an anxiety disorder, well-defined changes in the physiology and biochemistry of the brain were discovered.
Among these were the following changes:
Furthermore, caffeine intake can cause anxiety attacks for those who are suffering from the above disorders.
And yet, caffeine sales promoters around the world ignore these characteristics of their products, claiming that if caffeine was so bad, almost everyone would experience anxiety disorders.
Such a reaction is reminiscent of the (until recently) cigarette manufacturers’ defense of their produce by stating that “if the cigarettes were so damaging, every smoker would have to get cancer”.
Caffeine and brain functions
Of course, not every smoker is cancerous, and not every caffeine consumer has anxiety attacks. However, there are continuities to these effects. Anyone who smokes destroys healthy tissue in the body, and in many cases this leads to cancer. Thus, anyone who consumes a lot of caffeine is causing harm to their nervous system, and in many cases, it can lead to anxiety attacks.
The widely held view that regular caffeine consumption reduces the stress response has also been rejected. A landmark study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine has examined the effects of caffeine consumption on stress reactions, both in regular and moderate coffee drinkers.
Exercising psychological stress on subjects (i.e., giving them a difficult task while interrupting their performance) resulted in an increase in stress hormones norepinephrine and cortisol, but moderate caffeine supplementation increased twofold.
What is important is that moderate coffee drinkers, and regular coffee drinkers, have found the same increase in stress hormones – proving that people do not develop resistance to the caffeine-induced effects of caffeine.
On the contrary, they simply get used to feeling the pressure, irritability, and aggression caused by the drug.
The interesting thing about caffeine is that it manifests, or increases the stress in our lives. This effect occurs not only when consumed, but also when it is prevented from regular coffee consumers, even for several hours.
Remember that caffeine does not improve mood, except for the feeling of alertness that the metabolic stress creates.
In other words, caffeine does not improve mood – it merely helps to relieve the fatigue and depression associated with rehab.
These fatigues and depressions can come quickly (within three hours of withdrawal), and almost anyone can become addicted to caffeine, not just regular coffee drinkers.