Caffeine Intake and Anxiety

Man in coffee shop

There are mixed reviews and studies available when it comes to coffee and depression link. Some studies suggest that while coffee can decrease depression in people, it can cause anxiety at the same time. If a person has both depression and anxiety symptoms it would be the best to steer clear from drinking the coffee.

Overall, coffee has mostly positive reviews when it comes to health and mood. Some studies have shown great effects of coffee on person’s health.  Coffee is linked with decrease of pre-diabetics’ risk for diabetes, prevention of heart attacks after a meal and lower incidence of liver and bile tract cancer. It is suggested that regular coffee consumption can decrease mortality in cardiovascular deaths and also deaths from all causes.  Coffee intake is also associated with decreased rates of diabetes, heart failure and stroke.

In cases when a person has an anxiety disorder, it is suggested that it would be the best to avoid drinking coffee. However, medical world is divided when it comes to drinking coffee and feeling of anxiety. Coffee is a well-known stimulant and people with anxiety generally tend to also feel panic attacks and overall feeling of being jittery. It would make sense not to drink coffee in this situation. Interestingly enough caffeine helps the brain to release dopamine into the prefrontal cortex which is the area of the brain that is associated with mood regulation. Caffeine intake may help with storing of dopamine in amygdala – part of the brain that is essential for regulating anxiety. There are definitely pros and cons for drinking coffee and one should certainly avoid drinking coffee if feeling anxious. If one notices that coffee acts as a stimulant and promotes good mood, there is no reason to avoid coffee.  Positive effects of the caffeine intake are its ability to increase senses of energy and euphoria, which in turn promotes good mood. Caffeine increases levels of dopamine and dopamine is the neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with feeling happy, being in good mood, rewarded or motivated about something. It is also linked with feeling of love.

People that suffer from depression as well as social anxiety disorder have typically low levels of dopamine in the brain.. As anxiety and panic attacks are manifested through body by fight or flight reaction, coffee as a stimulant may boost and adversely increase body’s defense mechanism and cause a person to feel increased levels of anxiety or panic attacks than he or she normally would.

It is suggested that most people that tolerate caffeine well can drink between two to four cups of coffee, depending on the size of the cup and overall caffeine intake.  One study in Finland has suggested that people drinking up to seven cups of coffee a day have decreased risk for suicide, although the risk has also increased with consumption of over eight cups of coffee a day. The same study found that caffeinated tea, chocolate and decaffeinated coffee did not have positive effects on human body. If people are already feeling depleted of energy, consumption of caffeine may contribute to the overall burnout of the person, so it can be very subjective how one can react to long term caffeine intake if already feeling anxious and depressed.

Long term high doses of caffeine intake can decrease magnesium in the body which is important neurotransmitter in the brain. Also noted are fluctuations in blood sugar, which can also increase anxiety levels. Coffee can increase insomnia so if a person has depression issues it is suggested to avoid drinking coffee in the afternoon until the sleeping issue is resolved.

If a person is feeling well while drinking coffee, it is best to drink it in low to moderate dosages such as from two to four cups a day. The best way to take coffee is without sugar or artificial sweeteners, in order not to raise insulin levels in the body and cause anxiety.

Experts believe that caffeine facilitate the transmission of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Further investigation is required in the relationship between coffee or caffeine intake and depression risk. This article does not suggest either consuming or not consuming coffee when it comes to depression and anxiety/panic attacks. One should do what feels right for one’s body. Our body will tell us if caffeine intake does not agree with us.


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