What’s the second thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Grab coffee; surely because the first thing is brushing your teeth. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a coffee addict. The best part about coffee is everything; the taste, the warmth of it on your hands, the smell, the ritual and the joy of having the first sip.
However, here’s the thing: coffee (or more precisely, caffeine) is a psychoactive drug. What it does is cause stress-related signs and exacerbate anxiety in a number of ways. Nonetheless, the good news is, you can really do something about it. Now, we don’t want to scare you by saying that “stop drinking coffee!” but know that coffee is making your anxiety disorder worse.
Without any further ado, let’s jump into 15 ways in which caffeine is related to anxiety… and what you are able to do about it:
If you drink 3 – 4 cups of coffee a day (or even more), I am sure, you do complain a lot about how you have so much stress in your life – and how caffeine is adding up to the burden. So, basically, what caffeine does is increase your blood pressure levels, heart rate and the level of your stress hormones. Consuming caffeine doubles your blood levels of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine.
Do you ever feel insomniac when you drink too much caffeine? That’s because caffeine works by suppressing the activities of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for making you feel tired and sleepy. While increasing the brain chemicals like dopamine and acetylcholine, caffeine also passes on the feelings that we desire – increased brain power, motivation and productivity.
But here’s the downside for those of you who are suffering from anxiety:
Caffeine interferes with your calming neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). All GABA does is slows down your brain activity when required and could be called “nature’s Valium”. As much as it is essential for making you feel happy and relaxed, it’s no surprise that a lower GABA level is linked to panic attacks and anxiety.
On the other hand, let’s not forget that serotonin is linked to happiness. The relationship between serotonin and caffeine is complicated; while consuming caffeine can initially increase serotonin, but it is evident that the regular consumption leads to serotonin depletion.
By now, you must be tired of hearing this, but well, accept the truth that caffeine-induced sleep disorder is real. If your anxious thoughts are making you feel restless during your night’s sleep, chances are that caffeine can compound to the problem. There is no doubt that your brain health and mental well-being depends on a good night’s sound sleep.
During your sleep, your brain washes away the harmful toxins, repairs itself, creates new brain cells as well as consolidate memories. Taking caffeine even six hours before your bedtime hampers your sleep. So, you might as well want to cut off caffeine a little earlier than you thought.
Over time, caffeine has become a significant part of our lifestyle. As much as it is easy to forget, this psychoactive drug does not mix well with other medications that you may be taking. Take a look at Drugs.com that lists about 50 drugs that should not be taken alongside caffeine. While some drugs like over-the-counter painkillers work better with caffeine, but sometimes, caffeine undermines the effects of other medications. Sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills and lithium for bipolar disorder falls under this category.
Do take note of the fact that anti-anxiety pills, when taken alongside with caffeine, could cause shortness of breath and sometimes extreme heart palpitations. Sometimes, it may also lead to nervousness, insomnia, irritability and heart rhythm abnormalities.
As per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), there are mainly four caffeine-related disorders:
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized caffeine addiction to be a clinical disorder.
Surprisingly, caffeine excretes some of the nutrients that are important for your mood and brain health. So, if you’re ever feeling down, twitchiness or shakiness, it is the magnesium that is depleted from your brain that is having effects on your mental well-being. Other brain-related critical disorders would be anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder and depression.
It’s not very obvious through scientific studies as to why you get panic attacks just because you do, but surely, caffeine does play a role in it. Studies have proven that by giving 480mg of caffeine to social anxiety disorder participants, 61% of them faced panic attacks reliably induced by caffeine. Interestingly enough, researchers have also concluded that caffeine is likely to cause auditory hallucinations; something like hearing non-existent sounds. So, the next time you hear some noise that’s actually not ringing, remember, it’s caffeine and your mind, not the sounds itself!
Now that you’re at the rock bottom let’s try to calm you down!
It’s not like all sources of caffeine are harmful or beneficial because think about it; soft-drinks contain an excessive amount of sugar, synthetic caffeine with no nutritional value. Energy drinks are no exception either. Coffee and tea (as your daily source of caffeine) contain vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and amino acids that have significant health benefits along with a healthier brain.
However, if you’re looking for a productive caffeinated drink, you might as well consider drinking green tea. That’d help you stay calm as well as focus on the unique compounds that it comes with.
So, don’t freak out, take some time off your anxiety and abide in some blissful tranquillity.