Yes, it is a thing – I can vouch for that from personal experience, like many of us! So caffeine is a widely consumed stimulant found in a variety of drinks and foods, including coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate. While it can provide a quick boost of energy and alertness, it can also cause negative side effects in some people, including so-called caffeine anxiety.
Let’s dive into this subject.
Caffeine Anxiety and How to Handle It
What is Caffeine Anxiety?
As the phrase suggests, anxiety that is caused or made worse by caffeine. You know, when you’re either calm and it makes you anxious, or when you were anxious to begin with and it really pushes you over the edge – sometimes even into a panic attack!
If you’re someone who experiences caffeine anxiety, you’re not alone. Caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world, and while it is generally safe to consume in moderation, it can cause negative effects in some people. Caffeine works by blocking the action of a chemical called adenosine, which helps regulate sleep and wakefulness. By blocking adenosine, caffeine can increase alertness and energy.
However, this can also lead to a higher heart rate, increased blood pressure, and a feeling of jitteriness or nervousness.
What Causes It?
One of the key factors that can contribute to caffeine anxiety is consuming too much caffeine. The acceptable daily intake of caffeine is generally considered to be ~400-600 milligrams per day (about 4-6 cups of brewed coffee), but this can vary depending on your size, age, and other factors.
Taking in more than this amount can increase the risk of having negative side effects, including anxiety. (And honestly, in my experience, 3 cups would be the absolute daily maximum, unless you’re drinking really weak stuff).
Another factor that can contribute to caffeine anxiety is individual sensitivity to caffeine. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, which means that they may be more likely to experience negative side effects from even small amounts of caffeine.
How to Reduce It
If you’re experiencing caffeine anxiety, it’s important to pay attention to your caffeine intake and consider cutting back or eliminating caffeine from your diet. This can help reduce or eliminate anxiety symptoms. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the timing of your caffeine intake. Consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep and lead to feelings of anxiety the next day.
In addition to reducing or eliminating caffeine, there are other steps you can take to help manage anxiety. These include:
- Getting regular exercise.
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation. (Try a meditation app like Headspace or Calm).
- Getting enough sleep.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Just taking a break and relaxing.
- Walking, especially in nature (“forest bathing).
- Seeking support from friends and family.
- Talking to a mental health professional.
If you’re struggling with anxiety and are unsure of how to manage it, it can be helpful to talk to a mental health professional. They can help you identify the underlying causes of your anxiety and develop a treatment plan that works for you.
What If You Already Have Panic Disorder?
Then excessive caffeine is a big no-no. Per one study:
The results confirm that caffeine at doses roughly equivalent to 5 cups of coffee induces panic attacks in a large proportion of PD [Panic Disorder] patients and highly discriminates this population from healthy adults. Caffeine also increases anxiety in PD patients as well as among healthy adults at these doses although the exact relationship between caffeine-induced anxiety and panic attacks remains uncertain. The results suggest that caffeine targets important mechanisms related to the pathophysiology of PD.
Ways of Getting Energy Besides Caffeine
So what if you don’t want the anxiety, but still need the boost? Well, consider these other energy-enhancers:
- Getting more sleep.
- Exercising regularly.
- Exercising in the morning.
- Only taking caffeine when you really need it, and not as a matter of routine.
- Listening to energetic music.
- Eating more whole grains or whole fruits and less simple carbs.
Summing Up Caffeine Anxiety and How to Deal With It
In sum, caffeine anxiety is a common problem that can be caused by consuming too much caffeine or being sensitive to caffeine. If you’re having trouble with it, it’s important to pay attention to your caffeine intake and consider cutting back or eliminating caffeine from your diet.
And like we said, there are also a variety of other strategies that can help manage anxiety, including exercise, relaxation techniques, getting enough sleep, and seeking support from friends and family.
Anxiety sucks. So, don’t add to it with too much coffee, and consider the other ways I’ve outlined to increase your energy but not your anxiety.
I leave you with a video on the subject so you can learn more: