Coffee And Anxiety – Friend Or Enemy?

coffee and anxiety

Have you noticed coffee and anxiety have a surprisingly strong relationship?

I have a feeling many coffee drinkers who suffer with anxiety will relate with me in this article.

If you are anything like me, coffee is one of those things your brain absolutely loves but your body just can’t stand.

I am so sensitive to coffee, there has been many times it has put me in a full blown panic attack..

Come to think of it, of all the serious panic attacks I have had there has been caffeine involved.

Unfortunately, even in realizing this it is still extremely hard to stop some days.  

The Addiciting Cycle

A lot of us with anxiety are naturally more tired.  Mental health problems can be exhausting.

When I am frequently tired I just want a coffee, the ironic thing is coffee makes me more stressed and anxious.

I’ve dealt with anxiety long enough to realize that anxiety makes me more tired.  

So now we find ourselves in this situation where we are tired, so we have a coffee.

Then for the rest of the day we stress out even more than usual since the coffee made our anxiety worse.

The next day we are likely tired again because we put our bodies and adrenal glands through a lot of stress.

Now around that midday slump, we are questioning if we would deal with a little more anxiety to wake the hell up…

For me I often get stuck in this cycle for days on end, but I always hit my wall.

Maybe I’ve had a few low anxiety days where nothing has been too stressful so I decide to have an extra coffee.

Soon enough I either crash, or get thrown in a stressful situation and realize I made a huge mistake.

My anxiety will take days to return to baseline after an episode like this.

An Over-Caffeinated Hell

Coffee and anxiety are tightly connected and affect both mental anxiety and physical anxiety.  

Mental anxiety is where you just can’t stop your mind from thinking and thinking and thinking, quite often about something undesirable.

Physical anxiety on the other hand, is that feeling like your heart is going to pop out of your chest,  or maybe you want to puke because your stomach is so upset.

When I overdue coffee both of these worlds meet.

In my case, a panic attack can not happen if these worlds don’t intersect.  

I’ve had times where I just curled up in a ball in my bed and thought I might die…

My heart felt like it was a hammer and my mind said I would never get out of this revolving door of anxiety.  

Cutting out coffee

I can honestly say stopping drinking coffee is easily in my top 5 most important steps personally for overcoming depression and anxiety.  

I am not saying coffee causes depression, but for me anxiety does.  It comes by association.

Maybe you aren’t as sensitive to caffeine as I am, but you also might be surprised.  

I really have to self evaluate on those days I am extremely tired and just accept it.  

I would rather push through 4 hours of fatigue and have a nap when I get home rather than have a coffee and anxiety for the next 24 hours after.

 It still is not easy for me,  I miss having a coffee at a cafe with my girlfriend or mom.

I don’t go as often but when I do I opt for decaf or even a tea.

 

Coffee And Anxiety – The Science

So why exactly does coffee/caffeine mess people like myself up so hard?  

First off, some people are just more genetically disposed to caffeine sensitivity, but there is some clear biological reasons.

Reason #1

Caffeine increases cortisol.

This is not something you want if you are an anxious person.  

Cortisol is the stress hormone and having too much will cause anxiety.

Cortisol itself is not a villian like it is often seen as,  it only becomes a problem when it is too high or too low.

Every time you drink coffee you are artificially telling your adrenals to release more cortisol.

Having cortisol elevated for extended periods of time will wreak havoc on your adrenal glands.

Having an anxiety disorder puts enough stress on them to begin with.

When your adrenal glands are fatigued you are introduced to a whole host of problems.

This may also be why caffeine leaves some even more tired once it wears off.

Check out this fantastic article-Caffeine and Adrenal Fatigue

Reason #2

Caffeine increases adrenaline.  

Too much adrenaline and…you guessed it anxiety!

Not ironically adrenaline comes from the adrenal glands.

Too much adrenaline and you will get that tight feeling in your chest.  It may even be hard to breathe normally.

Don’t mess with the adrenals!

Reason #3

Coffee decreases magnesium levels in the body.

If you have suffered from anxiety for awhile and haven’t heard of, or tried magnesium you might be surprised by the benefits.

Magnesium is the most important mineral for anxiety.

It has serotonin boosting properties which is helpful for depression as well.

Magnesium is definitely an indisposable weapon in my arsenal and anything that lowers it is bad news in my book.

Conclusion

I hate to break it to you coffee lovers it might be time to put down the espresso and opt for something a little weaker.  

It may be tough, but try weaning off slowly.

If your anxiety doesn’t get any better, you have my permission to go back to your coffee.

I promise you it has made a huge difference for me, and the relationship between coffee and anxiety will be evident to you almost immediately.

If this helped you please let me know in the comments!

2 Comments

  1. Love your blog!
    (Found it on BoldAndDetermined.com)

    Not many blogs combine health, exercise and mental health like yours.

    Hope you keep writing! Maybe a book even?

    Thank you for the post!

    • Hey Mathew, thank you for the kind words, and of course welcome to the blog!

      BoldandDetermined is a personal favorite myself.

      Health, exercise, and mental health have all been a big part of my life, and not coincidentally all play a big part in supporting each other. When one is lacking so do all the rest.

      I have plenty more posts to come hope to see you back!

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