If you are a caffeine drinker, you have probably had the jitters a few times from having a little too much of it. You might have a routine for your caffeine, drinking a certain amount of cups per day, but if you have anxiety, your 4 pm latte might do more harm than good. This is because caffeine is a powerful stimulant that will help speed up your bodily functions, which can trigger your anxiety. Here, we will look at how caffeine can affect your anxiety.
The Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine is the most commonly used stimulant in the world. It works by stimulating your central nervous system to make you feel more awake and energetic, which is why so many people rely on it to get through their day. However, the way that someone reacts to caffeine depends on their specific body chemistry, and it can have some side effects that can complicate matters for people. If you are experiencing side effects from your caffeine and decide to stop drinking it, you can also experience withdrawal. Some of these include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Upset stomach
- Trouble sleeping
How does caffeine affect anxiety?
As you can see, many of the side effects of drinking caffeine are similar to the side effects of anxiety. It is common for people to think that they are having an anxiety attack when they are really experiencing caffeine side effects.
The fight of flight part of your body is located in the autonomic nervous system, which is part of the central nervous system that caffeine triggers. In fact, caffeine-induced anxiety is considered a distinct type of anxiety disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR).
Too much caffeine can also lead to not getting enough sleep, which can also impact your anxiety.
Caffeine and Anxiety Medications
If you are on medication for your anxiety, caffeine can interact with it in a bad way or limit its effectiveness. These potential interactions and side effects will, of course, depend on what you are taking and your specific body chemistry, but it is something to keep in mind since caffeine has the potential to cancel out the medication. If you are unsure about whether or not the medications you are taking can have issues with caffeine, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Should I cut back on caffeine for my anxiety?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend having more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, which is the equivalent of four cups of coffee. If you are consuming more than 400 mg, you are more likely to have adverse side effects, and it is not good for your anxiety.
If you have anxiety, it is generally a good idea to consider cutting back on your caffeine, though you should not try to quit caffeine cold turkey. Trying to quit your caffeine cold turkey can end up making your anxiety worse until your body adjusts. Start by determining how much caffeine you are consuming in a single day, and then you can start to gradually cut back on it so you are drinking less in a single day. One way to reduce your caffeine is by swapping out your drinks for something with less caffeine in them. Just make sure you do this gradually, so you do not get hit with withdrawal symptoms.
Since there are many side effect overlaps between anxiety and caffeine, it might be hard to tell if your coffee is impacting your anxiety. Try keeping a journal of your caffeine for a week. Count every cup of coffee you drink and even the decaf that still has a little bit in it. Also, track your anxiety in that journal, marking the times and symptoms. See if they sync up at all and how they overlap. Then you can start to reduce your caffeine intake, continuing to monitor both it and your anxiety. If your caffeine is indeed hurting your anxiety, you should start to see an improvement in a week or two as your caffeine intake begins to decrease. If you do not see any changes to your anxiety, then your coffee addiction is probably not the cause of your anxiety, and you are probably safe to keep drinking it, though staying at your reduced caffeine amount is always recommended.