coffee anxiety triggerCaffeine is probably the most widely used brain altering substance in the world today with about 83% of Americans drinking coffee at an average rate of about 3 cups per day.

and this figure is increasing each year…

This makes the US the leading coffee drinking nation in the world.

Of course coffee is not the only caffeine beverage avialable these days, there are

sodas

energy drinks

teas

chocolate

all of which mean that if caffeiene is an anxiety trigger, then there is certainly enough caffeine to go around.

How Does it Work?

We all know that coffee helps keep us awake and keep us alert, that is why we use it, but how does it work?

Well…

Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system.

It basically counteracts the effects of adenosine, a chemical in the brain that lowers the levels of neural activity. Suppressing the effects of adenosine helps us stay awake and alert.

The problems begin however because caffeine actually increases activity in the specific part of the brain that signals danger.

This increased activity triggers the same symptoms that are experienced during the “fight or flight” response to a threat. The same symptoms that are experienced during a panic attack.

Just take a look at the official symptoms of caffeine consumption:

– Rapid or irregular heartbeat
— Restlessness
— Nervousness
— Insomnia
— Flushed face
— Twitching or trembling
— Distracted thoughts and speech
— Physical agitation
— Nausea
— Light-headedness
— Diarrhea
— Mood swings

Look familiar?

Of course you have probably experienced some of these yourself from drinking coffee, but they are the exact same symptoms you will get during an anxiety or panic attack.

It doesn’t take much of a leap to see that if a drug has the exact same symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks there is a very good chance that it could cause anxiety and panic attacks.

The problem is that many people who have caffeine sensitivity will often overlook the role caffeine plays in their anxiety.

They will knock back a coffee with breakfast and then head down the highway to work. If a panic attack kicks in they will often blame the driving rather than the coffee.

People forget that coffee takes about 15 – 25 minutes to kick in, but it will be another 5 or 6 hours before the amounts of caffeine in the blood have even been reduced by HALF.

It is easy to see how people often do not link their anxiety to their coffee as the symptoms might not immediately appear after drinking.
This means that coffee often gets away without ever being looked at as a possible culprit,  so it certainly does look like there is a relationship between anxiety and caffeine.

But what does the science have to say?

Studies

There have been many, many studies done in both rats and humans that show the correlation between caffeine consumption, and anxiety and panic attacks.quote 1

And it has also been directly shown that people with panic disorder have an increased sensitivity to caffeine, so even giving them small amounts can trigger a panic attack

quote 3

 

Other studies have shown similar results with anxiety disorders and have pointed to caffeine toxicity being a possible contributing factor to their anxiety symptoms.

quote 4

What can you do?

If you think caffeine might be an anxiety trigger for you, then you should think about cutting out all of your caffeine.

This means stopping all caffeine drinks including coffee and sodas and unfortunately steering clear of chocolate as well.

If you are a heavy coffee drinker then you should probably reduce your coffee consumption slowly over time as coffee is addictive and the withdrawal symptoms could also trigger anxiety.

If you are not sure if coffee is a trigger for you, then you could try an experiment that one doctor recommends, to try and find out: Sit down with a pen and paper, drink your usual amount of strongly brewed coffee and note down how it affects you.

Note down the symptoms and see if any of these might normally result in a panic attack.

If you feel that the symptoms from the coffee are the same symptoms that you usually associate with your anxiety or panic attacks, then you should think about cutting the coffee out completely.

Of course just because caffeine is a trigger for many people does not mean that it is what is causing your anxiety

If it is then great. Count yourself lucky

You have an easy cure

If it isn’t then you can continue on your journey to find the root cause of your anxiety