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 The Connection Between Anxiety Disorders and Caffeine


The Connection Between Anxiety Disorders and Caffeine

Night terrors. After a long day of doing “god-knows-what”, I’ve finally put my head to the pillow. My mind and my heart engage in a three-legged race, sprinting without a finish line as soon as the gun fires.

Another night of panic attacks.

They happen frequently and somewhere between my 26th and 30th birthdays, I started a never-ending war with anxiety. The symptoms aren’t nearly as abrasive as they used to be thanks to treatment from my Psychiatrist, Dr. Theodore Osuala. I’ve been very open about my journey and we spoke about the benefits of his work on the podcast. “Most people think seeing a psychiatrist is such a bad thing,” says Osuala. “Especially culturally. Some people think if you see a psychiatrist you are a weak person. Even the strongest people, tough military guys, still get help.”

Part of that treatment includes medication. While it’s helped with the chemical balance upstairs, I’m starting to wonder if I’m making matters worse with my ever-important (big) cup of coffee in the morning (and sometimes night).

The Drip

We throw the word addiction around loosely so I’ll just say that I’ve become a super-fan of the ‘dark potion’. So much of a fan, I began reviewing different brands of coffee. I really like the taste and texture of a good morning brew.

On average, I would say I consume between 16 – 24 oz. of coffee a day. Some days 30+. I’m a dark roast drinker.

According to the USDA, that puts me around 273 – 341 mg of caffeine, on average. As noted by USA Today in 2019,  “federal dietary guidelines suggest three to five eight-ounce cups of coffee per day (providing up to 400 milligrams of caffeine) can be a part of a healthy diet.” That means even the higher end of my daily consumption average isn’t necessarily alarming.

But when you factor in the anxiety treatment, well, that could be concerning.

Caffeine & Anxiety

There’s no need to belabor the point surrounding my diagnosis. Surely you understand how harmful an anxiety disorder can be. Couple those concerns with the possible effects of caffeine consumption and you’ll understand why we’re gathered here today.

“While there are mental benefits to caffeine, high doses are known to induce anxiety symptoms, and people with panic disorder and social anxiety disorder are especially sensitive,” shares Healthline.

The caffeine-anxiety entanglement was explored in a 2008 study by NIH. It found that caffeine blocks a chemical in the brain named Adenosine, increasing alertness and warding off tiredness. It also releases Adrenalin which gives us energy. As you can imagine, a higher caffeine intake creates stronger results and can harbor caffeine-induced anxiety.

“Excessive caffeine consumption can lead to symptoms similar to psychiatric conditions including sleep and anxiety disorders, increasing hostility, anxiety, and psychotic symptoms,” continues Healthline, based on a 2005 study from Cambridge.

I feel seen.

What now?

Well, I think I want to focus on the idea of limiting caffeine intake.

I have a tendency to yearn for the flavor and completely lose track of how much I’m drinking. With multiple brands in my cabinets, the drip is endless. Not to mention all the points I’ve racked up at Dunkin Donuts. But, it’s worth experimenting with a lower caffeine intake or even different options like mint tea, black tea, and others.

Also, I need to have a conversation with my Psychiatrist about this to really get a grasp on what I should or shouldn’t be doing. I think the key to it all is understanding that our bodies and minds are different so our needs are different. If you’re suffering from some of the same symptoms, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor to organize a plan that fits for you.

I’ll do my best to keep you involved with my journey, slash experiment. We should have some answers before long.