A few weeks ago I had a work meeting with a psychiatrist. We discussed CalmiGo and other natural treatments for anxiety and he mentioned that he is always surprised by the fact that people come to see him, requesting medication for anxiety, while holding their just-bought coffee mug. I then realized that many people are not really aware of the effect of Caffeine on their anxiety level and decided we should dedicate a blog post to that.
Why Is Caffeine Affecting Your Anxiety?
Caffeine is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Drinking caffeine in moderation has some health benefits but too much caffeine can lead to increased anxiety or complicate an existing anxiety disorder by aggravating the symptoms For people who are more sensitive to caffeine or for those who regularly suffer from anxiety disorders, the caffeine effect on stress and anxiety levels can be significant.
Here are some of the ways anxiety is linked to excessive caffeine consumption:
- Insomnia – Depending on the time of the day you're consuming caffeine, the stimulant may affect your ability to get to sleep at night. The fact is, caffeine can stay in your system for up to six hours. Not enough sleep/bad sleep can extremely affect your mental health and stress level.
- Elevated Stress Hormones – Caffeine elevates the level of the stress hormones Cortisol and Epinephrine up to double the normal levels! To better feel it, think of the things that happen when you drink a lot of coffee or soda – your heart rate increases and your blood pressure goes up - these are all similar signs to those of high-stress level.
- Cause of Mental Disorders – DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s standard guide of mental disorders, includes 4 disorders that are linked to excessive caffeine consumption: caffeine-induced anxiety disorder, caffeine intoxication, caffeine-induced sleep disorder, caffeine withdrawal
- Inhibits the calming Neurotransmitter GABA – GABA, the neurotransmitter which makes people feel relaxed and happy, becomes lower in levels with the introduction of caffeine into the system. Caffeine may also reduce serotonin in the body.
- Counteractions with Anti-Anxiety Medications – Caffeine may affect the efficacy of some medications. Anti-anxiety medications and sleeping pills are among them. In addition, there is a list of more than 90 medications that should not be taken together with caffeine.
Some people take longer to metabolize caffeine than others. If you're one of these people, you likely have a sensitivity to caffeine. This sensitivity may make you more prone to the effects of caffeine, from insomnia to a racing heartbeat.
Where is caffeine hiding?
The first step in being able to reduce caffeine consumption is to be aware of all of the places caffeine is present. A few of the more common places where caffeine is found include:
- Energy drinks
- Pain killers (especially headache medicine)
You may be surprised when you start reading the labels on certain foods, drinks, and medications.
How to reduce caffeine without missing the things you like
You probably love your coffee and we get it. There is no need to completely cut your coffee, there are some ways in which you can minimize caffeine effect and still enjoy your cup of coffee.
- Time Your Caffeine Consumption Properly – Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are higher in the morning. Therefore, drinking your first cup a little later in the day, and at least an hour after you wake up, may decrease the caffeine effect on your stress and anxiety levels. In addition, make sure there is a six-hour span of time between your last cup of coffee (or soda) and your bedtime.
- Substitute a few of your Coffee cups with other tasty alternatives – Cacao, decaf coffee, and even caffeine-free tea can all be great substitutes. I myself love making Cacao using unsweetened almond milk and Agave as a sweetener. This way you enjoy the health benefits of Cacao and cut on caffeine and sugar.
- Limit Caffeine – Follow the guideline of up to 400 mg of caffeine per day (unless you are pregnant or has other special restrictions) in order to keep anxiety levels lowered. This is equivalent to about 3 cups of coffee.