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Can Caffeine Cause Anxiety?

Can caffeine cause anxiety? The answer is yes! Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, and too much of it can cause anxiety symptoms. While the consumption is mainly to escape sleep and increase alertness, excessive caffeine consumption can have a detrimental effect on people. It may be causing a variety of side effects, including certain anxiety disorders.

A view of a hand pouring the coffee from the thermos into the coffee mug in the other hand with the nature background.
Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels

Anxiety is a mental illness characterized by overwhelming feelings of anxiety and unease in daily life. Everyone feels anxious, restless, and agitated from time to time. But if you are consistently worried, tense, or on edge, you might have an anxiety disorder.

We need to know how caffeine-induced anxiety disorder affects the body, its symptoms, and the mental disorders it may cause.

1. What Are the Sources of Caffeine in Humans?

Caffeine, present in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate, is a stimulant. It is the world’s most extensively used psychoactive drug. Some drugs and supplements, particularly weight-loss pills, may include it. And, of course, in energy drinks, which can have dangerously high caffeine levels.

Caffeine is typically safe in modest amounts (under 400 mg daily) for healthy persons, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. According to its diagnostic and statistical manual, coffee includes 80 to 100 mg of caffeine in each cup, which is how the bulk of us acquire our daily dose. Naturally, a stronger brew will have more. Energy drinks, on the other hand, contain a range from 40 to 250 mg of caffeine per 8 ounces.

According to James Giordano, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Neurology and Biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, energy drinks also contain plant-based chemicals that have a stimulatory effect or build upon the available caffeine in the beverage. He advises against mixing coffee with other stimulants.

2. What Is Caffeine-Induced Anxiety Disorder?

Caffeine-induced anxiety disorder is a subtype of substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder, according to the DSM-5. Caffeine consumption has long been connected to anxiety. Caffeine’s effects, as well as anxiety symptoms, both stimulate sympathetic nervous system activity.

A woman with black paint around her eyes and showing a sketch of a smile while covering her mouth with it.
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Caffeine has been connected to the aggravation and maintenance of anxiety disorders. It can lead to the onset of panic attacks in people who are predisposed to such events. Caffeine intake of more than 200 mg has been linked to an increased risk of anxiety and panic attacks in a population. Caffeine in excess can cause symptoms ranging from general anxiety to obsessive-compulsive and phobic symptoms.

3. Types of Caffeine-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Caffeine is a psychoactive drug. The American Psychiatric Association published the guide- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).

It is used by healthcare professionals to diagnose mental disorders, and presently specifies four caffeine-related disorders:

  • caffeine intoxication
  • caffeine withdrawal
  • unspecified caffeine-related disorder
  • Other caffeine-induced disorders (anxiety disorder, sleep disorder)

4. Symptoms of Anxiety

In addition to the aforementioned requirements, it’s vital to note that the diagnostic criteria for substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder aren’t met if the panic symptoms occur before the substance intoxication. If symptoms of worry or panic predate the administration of caffeine, a diagnosis of caffeine-induced anxiety disorder will not be made.

Furthermore, the diagnosis cannot be made if symptoms linger for more than one month after chemical consumption. The persistence and maintenance of symptoms after the initial intake of caffeine point to a different diagnosis that would explain the long-term symptoms better.

Caffeine-induced anxiety symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed as serious mental diseases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, resulting in people being treated for the wrong problem. When panic attacks or anxiety symptoms prevail, a caffeine-induced anxiety disorder diagnosis should be made rather than a substance addiction or intoxication diagnosis.

5. How Does Caffeine Affect Anxiety?

5.1. Can Increase Stress Hormones 

The majority of persons who suffer from anxiety say that they carry a great deal of weight on their shoulders. They sense worry stress, and unease, which can be amplified when coffee is eaten in large amounts.

Caffeine raises your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormone levels in the same way as stress does. Caffeine can more than double your blood levels of the stress chemicals cortisol and adrenaline if you drink too much coffee.

5.2. Causes Neurotransmitter Balance 

Caffeine blocks the calming neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which slows down brain activity when it’s needed (for example, when you’re anxious). According to scientists, low amounts of this neurotransmitter might cause anxiety.

 5.3. Caffeine Sensitivity 

We’ve all met people who can drink a cup of the World’s Strongest Coffee and still sleep like the dead. However, if you suffer from anxiety, you are most likely not one of them. You can credit your genes if you take longer to metabolize coffee than the average person.

5.4. Causes Sleeplessness

Caffeine can exacerbate the situation if your thoughts spiral into a never-ending marathon at night. Sleep is critical for our brains since it is at this time that metabolic garbage and poisons are washed away and rebuilt into new brain cells. Caffeine consumed too close to bedtime can disrupt the normal sleep cycle, making restorative sleep more difficult to achieve.

5.5. Can Increase Anxiety when Taken with Certain Medications 

Caffeine is frequently ingested as a habit, making it a significant part of our daily lives. However, it’s easy to forget that it’s a psychotropic substance that doesn’t combine well with other medications. It’s commonly used to make over-the-counter pharmaceuticals more effective, such as pain relievers.

However, it can increase the number of negative effects of asthma prescriptions, antidepressants, and some antibiotics. Make an informed decision when it comes to your medicine of choice.

6. Causes of Anxiety Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a mix of environmental and hereditary variables likely increases a person’s chance of getting an anxiety disorder. Anxiety, like so many other illnesses, appears to run in families.

Anxiety can be triggered by stress, whether it is the result of a significant life event or the cumulative effect of tiny everyday pressures. Other medical conditions can accompany anxiety that require treatment, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, or thyroid issues. Caffeine and anxiety are inextricably linked, as are alcohol and anxiety. 

Additionally, some drugs can cause anxiety. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol, as well as changing medications, may help to alleviate anxiety in this scenario. While all of these medications, stress, and stuff might make you feel anxious, this form of anxiety is not the same as a mental diagnosis of anxiety disorder.

6.1. Caffeine-Induced Anxiety Causes Jitters and Nervousness

Caffeine is a stimulant that can make people feel anxious. The jitteriness that caffeine produces can cause the brain to jitter as if it were an event. Research has shown that these actions may trigger panic attacks and cause depression. While caffeine increases alertness, attention, and cognitive functions, it may be more dangerous when consuming too much caffeine. 

According to other studies, while coffee can increase alertness, concentration, and cognitive performance, too much of it can cause anxiety, especially in a person with panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. One too many cups of coffee, like the symptoms of anxiety, can make you nervous and grumpy, as well as keep you awake at night.

6.2. Caffeine Addiction and Withdrawal

Given the favorable effects of caffeine as a stimulant, some people might develop a caffeine addiction. Caffeine stimulates many of the same behavioral and neuropharmacological pathways that other reinforcers, such as drug abuse, do.

Caffeine, like many other reinforcers, is linked to a variety of positive subjective effects, including feelings of well-being, sociability, energy, and alertness. The caffeine consumption problem affects a tiny fraction of the population for this and other reasons.

Caffeine may become physically addictive for certain people. Caffeine withdrawal is caused by the absence or reduction of coffee consumption in these people.

This can result in a variety of symptoms such as a headache and exhaustion, decreased alertness and energy, sleepiness, low mood and attention issues, and irritability.

6.3. Long-Term Effects of Caffeine on Health Conditions

Caffeine, when taken in moderation, can offer a variety of health benefits. Chronic caffeine intake, on the other hand, can cause a variety of long-term health problems in people over time. Caffeine use has been proven in rat studies to alter the excitability of the brain permanently.

Long-term consequences are more common in adolescents who use excessive amounts of caffeine regularly, as previously noted. This may have an impact on their neuroendocrine activities, raising the risk of anxiety disorder.

7. How Much Caffeine Intake Is Right?

According to a 2019 survey of university students, persons who consume caffeine are roughly 173 milligrams per day (mg/day). This is a moderate caffeine intake. Many studies have discovered that moderate drinking can lower the incidence of some cancers, neurological diseases, and liver problems.

A red and white coffee mug is kept isolated on a wooden table.
Photo by P.O.sitive Negative on Unsplash

Caffeine, on the other hand, has several disadvantages. Drinking too much coffee has the potential to be harmful.

8. How Does Caffeine Work in the Body?

Caffeine affects the brain and the rest of the body in a variety of ways. However, because of the high caffeine concentration necessary, adenosine receptor antagonism is the major route of action. The following processes are possible methods for caffeine to work within the body, however, they may or may not be responsible for the clinical effects of the chemical, depending on the required caffeine concentration and other circumstances.

8.1. Mobilization of Intracellular Calcium

Caffeine reduces the excitability threshold in muscle cells at very high doses of roughly 1–2 mM, resulting in prolonged contraction. Calcium enters the muscle cell more easily through the plasma membrane and sarcoplasmic reticulum when high amounts of coffee are administered.

8.2. Inhibition of Phosphodiesterases

Caffeine and other methylxanthines inhibit the enzyme cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase, which typically breaks down cAMP. The inhibition of this enzyme causes a buildup of cAMP, which increases the second messenger’s activity throughout the cell. Though it is possible, it only happens when caffeine levels have reached dangerous levels.

8.3. Antagonism of Adenosine Receptors 

Adenosine is a purine nucleoside that plays a role in processes including energy transfer and signal transmission. Caffeine works by blocking adenosine A1 and A2A receptors. Caffeine does not affect adenosine g protein-coupled receptors.

8.4. Other Actions of Caffeine 

Some monoamine neurotransmitters, such as noradrenaline and dopamine, release and recycle at a faster rate when exposed to methylxanthine. Caffeine acts as an antagonist on adenosine receptors, which has an excitatory effect on mesocortical cholinergic neurons.

8.5. Treatment for Caffeine-Induced Symptoms

Even tiny doses of coffee may have detrimental effects on those who are using benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax) to treat anxiety disorders. Caffeine can counteract the effects of benzodiazepines, which can cause anxiety and even panic attacks. Caffeine consumption has been linked to an increase in cytotoxicity and cell death through necrosis associated with benzodiazepine usage in studies.

A close-up of a stethoscope and other equipment on a plain white sheet.
Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

However, this effect (which is assumed to be mediated by TSPO) can also be seen with only benzodiazepine use. The clinical significance of caffeine-benzodiazepine-induced cytotoxicity in humans is unknown, and no evidence that it is hazardous has been found.

Although benzodiazepines are useful in treating acute caffeine-induced anxiety symptoms, avoiding coffee rather than increasing benzodiazepine consumption is generally recommended. The most common treatments for caffeine-induced anxiety disorder include caffeine abstinence or caffeine decrease, as well as behavioral therapy.

Some doctors may advise that caffeine consumption be continued, but only if the patient actively monitors any physiological changes that occur as a result of caffeine consumption. This method aims to assist patients in better understanding the effects of caffeine on the body and distinguishing dangerous signs from normal reactions.

Know more about: How Long Does Caffeine Last: 4 Constructive Ways to Reduce its Effect

9. Final Takeaway on Can Caffeine Cause Anxiety?

The effects of caffeine have yielded varied outcomes in research. While moderate caffeine usage is unlikely to cause harm in most people, reactions to the stimulant are largely dependent on very personal factors such as genetics and lifestyle choices. When using caffeine, people should be aware that they are ingesting a psychoactive chemical.

It’s no secret that coffee is an important part of many people’s lives. In this scenario, appearances, odors, and tastes can all be deceitful if you don’t listen to your body and provide it with the nutrition it requires. If you suffer from anxiety, a more natural source of caffeine, such as green tea (that’s the tea), may be beneficial. I’d advocate only having one cup of coffee per day, but if you give a human a cup of coffee, odds are they’ll want another.

10. FAQs

10.1. Why does caffeine trigger anxiety?

Caffeine may cause jitters and nervousness that are similar to those when we have frightening events. Caffeine may stimulate the fight and flight response that triggers anxiety.

10.2. Should I avoid caffeine if I have anxiety?

Yes, people with anxiety issues should avoid caffeine or take limited caffeine drinks.

10.3. What are the symptoms of caffeine anxiety?

Jitters or nervous feelings, sweating, insomnia, and headaches are some of the symptoms of caffeine anxiety.

Read more from us here.


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