Reaching for that morning cup of coffee may be the worst thing you can do for your anxiety. Instead of waking you up and giving you energy, a cup of joe may cause your heart to race and leave you feeling jittery, agitated and restless. But does that mean you have to forgo the warm, rich sweetness of coffee for the rest of your life? Perhaps not. Let’s take a closer look.
Caffeine and Anxiety: The Inexorable Link
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that primarily affects your central nervous system. While coffee can make you feel powerful and alert, it can also make you feel anxious. Many of the side effects associated with caffeine — rapid heartbeat, irritability, jitters, sweating and insomnia — are also symptoms of anxiety.
Your brain cannot distinguish between a caffeine buzz and an anxiety attack. When you have anxiety and begin to feel the effects of caffeine in your system, your brain automatically reacts with feelings of fear and nervousness. In short, caffeine consumption can cause you to feel like you have anxiety.
Your Body/Brain on Coffee
The caffeine in coffee has a profound effect on your brain’s chemistry. It is believed that it blocks certain receptors in the brain (adenosine) while stimulating the production of chemical neurotransmitters called norepinephrine, dopamine and acetylcholine. This pushes the brain into an excitable, vigilant state. In this state, your brain is poised for peak performance. It’s also primed for anxiety.
Caffeine Consumption Guidelines for People With Anxiety
If you have anxiety, you should strive to reduce your caffeine consumption — but what if you can’t give up your coffee? Fortunately, you don’t have to give it up altogether. In addition to decaffeinated coffee, you can enjoy caffeinated coffee if you do so in moderation.
Drink no more than two cups of coffee per day, and don’t down them. Sip slowly throughout the day. If you can reduce your coffee consumption to one cup, even better. Pay attention to what type of coffee you’re drinking as well. Some brands contain less caffeine than others.
There’s no way around it: Coffee is not good for anxiety. However, with a few adjustments, you can enjoy an occasional cuppa while avoiding unwanted side effects.