Does Caffeine Cause Anxiety? (The Real Answer!)

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Do you drink coffee and struggle with anxiety? Then this article is made for you!

You’ll learn how coffee impacts your anxiety and if it can make your anxiety worse!

Surprise: it’s NOT what you think!

Let me explain!

This is what caffeine does to your body…

First of all: what does caffeine do to your body? According to Prevention.com, caffeine blocks the chemical that is involved in you feeling sleepy, called adenosine.

Then your central nervous system is ignited and releases more adrenaline and dopamine. After your cup of coffee, your dopamine levels increase and you feel more alert and focused. 

When you want to feel wakeful and alert, this is great… but if you are already anxious, you probably want to feel less alert and focused. But when you drink too much coffee (which happens quicker for anxious people, as they are more sensitive to caffeine), this can lead to adverse effects, like jitters.

Because if all the adrenaline has no place to go, this might translate itself into heart palpitations and finding it hard to breathe… which are familiar symptoms for the anxiety sufferer.

Some of the symptoms of too much caffeine are:

  • Frequent urination
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Anxiety and being irritable
  • Trembling hands

I Quit: And Then, This Happened…

During the peak of my anxiety in 2020, I consumed 4-5 cups of coffee a day. I have to admit that I not only drank the famous beverage for the taste… but also to level up my productivity.

My life came to a total standstill and trying to stay at peak performance seemed the best option to be more productive. Everything was failing in my life (business, education, life in general), so drinking more coffee seemed helpful to generate more brainpower.

The thing I wasn’t aware of, was the fact that I was already anxious and that the coffee made my anxiety worse. 

When I discovered that caffeine can mimic the symptoms of anxiety, I decided to eliminate coffee. Because I was already anxious and alert… so why did I need more of that?

A few days after I quit coffee, I began to feel more relaxed. The extra alertness went away and I felt less on edge. The anxiety was still present (of course) but with less intensity.

If you quit coffee, don’t expect your anxiety to go away. Coffee didn’t get you into anxiety and won’t get you out of it. The only thing it does is making your anxiety less intense.

Working on the cause of your anxiety is the most important thing you can do. If you want to learn how to work on the cause of your anxiety, then download my FREE PDF where I teach you what to do when you feel anxious.

Can caffeine make anxiety worse?

The big question is: can caffeine make anxiety worse? Let me make it simple for you.

Coffee does not cause anxiety, but it can contribute to your anxiety.

What does that mean?

The symptoms of anxiety and drinking lots of coffee can overlap: a rapid heartbeat, gastrointestinal issues and being extra alert. And if you are already anxious, it might be very difficult to distinguish the two. You may interpret these symptoms as anxiety, while it is just the coffee.

Because anxious people are already alert, the caffeine in coffee can cause some anxious people to become even more alert. And because anxious people already have an overstimulated nervous system, they may be more sensitive to the caffeine in coffee. According to Medical News Today, caffeine can mimic the symptoms of anxiety.

How much caffeine is too much?

Now you understand that coffee is not the cause of anxiety, but that it can mimic the symptoms of it… you probably wonder the following:

“How much caffeine is too much?”

You love drinking coffee and don’t want to give up on it, right? Then understanding the limits will help you with finding out how many cups of coffee you can drink.

Understand that the more anxious you feel, the less coffee I would recommend drinking.

Why?

Because the more anxious you feel, the more sensitive your body is to stress. It more easily thinks that the alertness and beating heart are anxiety, which makes those symptoms even more present.

So… how much caffeine is too much? 

According to Webmd, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that the average adult can consume up to 400mg of caffeine daily, without experiencing negative side effects.

To give you some ideas about the amount of caffeine in your beverages: your average home-brewed coffee has 100mg, the average Tall Starbucks coffee has 250mg and some energy drinks have as much as 400mg!

This doesn’t mean that you can drink 4 cups of home-brewed coffee a day and not experience anxiety. The more anxious you are, the more sensitive you might be to caffeine, which means that even 1-2 cups can be enough to trigger anxiety. 

What are alternatives for coffee?

I think we both agree that a cup of coffee is a great way to start your day, or to simply relax while watching a favourite TV show or reading a book. For me, I couldn’t imagine a life without coffee. Why? Because every morning I made myself a cup while reading for thirty minutes. These two things were connected.

But because of the anxiety that was mostly present in the morning for me, I had to eliminate coffee to feel less tense. A great way for me to still drink coffee was to switch to decaf. That way I was still enjoying the taste of coffee, but without the extra alertness and tension that I already experienced because of my anxiety.

Takeaway

I hope this article gave a lot of clarity about the impact of caffeine on your anxiety. Coffee doesn’t cause anxiety, but can replicate the symptoms of anxiety, which can scare people with anxiety. The beating heart, pressure on your chest and alertness are the result of (too much) coffee and are common symptoms of anxiety as well.

Because anxious people have an overstimulated nervous system, they may be more sensitive to caffeine and the symptoms that it causes.

But don’t worry, you can easily solve ease your anxiety by drinking less coffee. This doesn’t mean you can never drink coffee again. Just decrease your intake when you are in an anxious period and are recovering from anxiety. Start reducing your coffee intake slightly or switch your normal coffee for decaf. 

If you want to learn more about freeing yourself from anxiety, make sure you watch my FREE training today.

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Author: Wouter Manders

Wouter is a mindset coach from The Netherlands. For many years he suffered from depression and anxiety. It gave him the motivation to coach people on overcoming their anxiety, out of first hand experience. With more than 6000 blog visitors a month he helps many people on their road to having less anxiety.

About Wouter

Wouter is a mindset coach from The Netherlands. For many years he suffered from depression and anxiety. It gave him the motivation to coach people on freeing themselves from anxiety. With more than 6000 blog visitors a month he helps many people on their journey towards less anxiety.

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