The Caffeine-Anxiety Connection


Be Happy – The Anxiety Secrets You Need to Know...

Step 1. Select Which Type of Anxiety You Suffer With


Stop — your drink is causing anxiety! Don’t take another sip of that coffee. Here’s why…

Caffeine, the stuff found in your coffee, tea and cola, is one of the most popular mood-enhancing drugs on the planet. That’s right, caffeine is technically classified as a drug, and rightly so… it can cause havoc with your anxiety and worry levels.

Caffeine may make you feel energetic and alert by increasing levels of brain chemical called norepinephrine. But as with most things in life, you don’t get something for nothing. Caffeine has a dark side…

“Caffeine is an energy loan shark. What it lends you in the morning it takes back with heavy interest in the afternoon.” ~ Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D.

And every time you drink caffeine your own natural abilities to produce those feel-good chemicals are reduced, so eventually you need even more coffee to get the same alert/energetic feelings. Before long you become dependent on coffee just to “feel OK.” But that’s not all…

1. Caffeine increases the levels of your stress hormone adrenaline. This can trigger feelings of anxiety and cause feelings of tension and stress. It’s not uncommon for such people to be prescribed anti-anxiety medication, when all along the symptoms were triggered by caffeine intake. And every time your body releases more adrenaline unnecessarily, you are putting more stress and strain on your nervous system, which ultimately makes you more prone to anxiety.

2. Caffeine blocks the effects of hormones serotonin and melatonin. When this happens sleep becomes more difficult, which also makes you more prone to anxiety.

3. Caffeine leeches vital vitamins and minerals out of your body. Which (guess what?!) makes you more prone to anxiety.

I think you get the message by now. The good news is when you reduce your caffeine levels you’ll find yourself with higher levels of calmness, more energy, and better sleep. And best of all, less anxiety and worry. But coming off caffeine can be tricky, there are some initial downsides…

You’ll lose that almost instant energetic caffeine buzz. You may find, only initially, you get more headaches. And whilst you’re on a caffeine comedown, you’ll probably feel cranky and irritable. Thankfully, all of these downsides are short-lived.

The best way to become caffeine-free without harsh withdrawal symptoms is by gradually reducing your intake week-by-week. Your first job is to get down to just one cup of coffee a day. So if you drink four cups a day, for the first week drink three a day, for the second week drink two cups, and for the third week drink just one cup.

If you are committed to eliminating caffeine from your life and minimizing anxiety, once you are down to one cup, begin the week by drinking just half a cup of coffee (that means putting in half the measure of coffee you usually use, not just half the amount of water!) For the next week you should be able to go coffee-free without harsh withdrawal symptoms.

Ideally if anxiety and worry are dominating your life it would be best to totally eliminate caffeine from your diet altogether — you will feel the most benefits that way. But if you are a coffee/caffeine lover then at LEAST cut back to 100 mg maximum a day. Here are typical caffeine content levels per drink:

Coffee 90-150 mg
Tea 30-70 mg
Red Bull 80 mg
Dr. Pepper 61 mg
Mountain Dew 55 mg
Surge 51 mg
Tab 47 mg
Coca-Cola 45 mg
Diet Coca-Cola 45 mg
Pepsi Cola 43 mg

It’s crazy, just the simple act of having these seemingly innocent drinks can cause very real anxiety problems. For some people one cup of coffee is enough to set them up for a day of worry and anxiety, without them even realizing.

It amazes and annoys me how and why doctors don’t know this sort of information and instead rely on the prescription pad. But that’s a rant for another day…


31 Responses to “The Caffeine-Anxiety Connection”

Kim said on April 18, 2008:

It annoys me too that doctors don’t suggest it. I tried everything for my anxiety, antidepressants, valerian etc etc. The problem was, COFFEE. And it didn’t take much – 2 cups a day and I was a MESS. In the end I felt like I couldn’t breathe. 2 days after quitting coffee, I felt better than I had in 10 years. Cheers. (P.S. I drink 1-2 cups of Tea now and I feel great)

j hancock said on September 6, 2008:

i agree with everything you said i had the same problems plus. i drank diet pop for 10 years and finally weened myself off and all my sleep meds,anti depress. meds, pain meds, i didnt need anymore, although i started drinking coffee 4 months ago and the probs have returned now i have to start all over again, its rediculus the drs dont either know this or dont care.

Egill said on April 18, 2009:

hey

But what about soda?

why does soda affect anxiety?

Regards:

Egill

Kaffish Korn said on April 30, 2009:

Coffee which makes the politician wise
And see despite his half-shut eyes…

Simon said on April 26, 2010:

I know this is an old post, but the information is very relevant.

I have suffered from undiagnosed severe anxiety for years. Heart palpitations, sweats, dizziness, heart skipping beats, tingly arms…you name it I had it.

Early on I thought I was dying for sure. Ran through heaps of doctor led tests to ensure my heart was indeed in good health. It of course was, but my symptoms were still very real.

4+ years of dealing with this and a friend suggested laying off all caffeine intake for 2 weeks just to try.

I wish I had taking this advice years ago. The transformation is amazing. My symptoms are all but completely gone and if I feel like testing myself out, I can easily fall back into these feelings by having a couple cups of coffee or a few cans of coke.

If you’re having these kind of symptoms:

1) Get check out for any physical issues immediately
2) Ignore the doctor who tries to push anti-anxiety pills on you
3) Look at your diet. You may have a simple hypersensitivity to foods/liquids and/or chemicals like caffeine.

Adjust your diet starting with known bad things like caffeine and see how it affects your symptoms before resulting to mood altering medication.

OJC said on June 18, 2010:

I have always had anxiety, however lately I have been having terrible panic attacks. They are getting unbearable. I ordered some natural anxiety pills. I want to try and beat my anxiety naturally rather than getting prescribed meds that can be addictive. I have been searching the web for all sorts of natural remedies. Like better foods to eat, and certain vitamins to take. I have been reading a lot about caffine and that it can have a huge part in anxiety. I drink atleast one 2 liter of coke a day or more. I depend on my caffine to function, I knew soda wasn’t good for me, but never knew it was connected to my anxiety. I have tried quit a few times, but I get horrible headaches, and I just love the taste of soda. I am going to give it another go, and I hope I can see some improvement. My anxiety is taking over my life! So I hope this will help..

usmc said on June 19, 2010:

um pretty much i’ve drank about a litre of soda almost everyday since i was about 8 or 10, Anxiety forced me out of the millitary, after i got out of bootcamp i started drinking mt dew again and then igot panick attacks and anxiety, and soda also started hurting my stomach and giving me stomache aches, and just today i found out that it could have been soda contributing to or even causes my anxiety, its going to be hard to quit but im quiting soda for good. i just wish i wasnt so addicted. soda is done ruinning my life. done.P.S. if ur in the military, i suggest u get off soda as well, especially if u get anxiety or overstressed. iwish i knew all this sooner.

Moshe said on June 22, 2010:

can i trust caffeine free coffee, and caffeine free cola?

Snap said on September 23, 2010:

Thanks so much for the information.

I have a very serious anxiety problem. There are certain things I know to affect my anxiety level. However, I have always ingested caffeine. I have ‘only’ drunk tea for a long time, thinking it had way less caffeine. Now, I see that is not really true: and in any case, I have anywhere from 3 to perhaps 5 cups per day.

I am cutting it back. I’ll report back. People really do make life way more complicated than it need be. I’m very optimistic this will make a difference, considering I know I am very sensitive to stimulants (e.g. pseudoephedrine in medicines sends me over the edge!).

Thank you.

Michelle said on November 22, 2010:

Hi All

I can have one cup of coffee and the hot rush will begin.

It is definitely a trigger for my anxiety.

dan said on February 1, 2011:

great site thank you. I have had anxiety all my life, i went to the doctor about it just recently and he recommended getting off caffeine completely instead of recommending drugs because most of them are highly addictive. i drink about 4 cups of tea a day, gonna try cutting down to at least 2 cups of tea a day this week and hopefully to 1 next week then Zero!
i remember years ago i stopped drinking tea for about two weeks and feeling very relaxed.

Andy said on February 1, 2011:

Hi,
So glad for this thread, I never really made the connection between anxiety and coffee becauseI only have one cup a day. (Although I do make it pretty strong). Except that for a long while now I’ve felt this unexplained anxiety during the day, almost like a pressure in my chest. And usually around 4-5 pm it eases a lot (Happy Hour?). I can also remember a morning or two when I skipped my coffee and felt so..mellow. So today I made a cup of 50-50: regular/decaf blend. I felt much better! Much more mellow. Tomorrow I will try decaf only. And yes, I will keep the aspirin handy. I think this may solve the anxiety problem for me, based on what I’m experiencing. Hope this helps someone else. Andy

lee hall said on February 17, 2011:

hi does anyone no if all soda causes anxiety or is it just cola an red bull thanks i have been suffering from it for around 4 months now

Garry said on February 21, 2011:

For those suffering from anxiety, try the following exercise. It was recommended by a therapist I saw when I was having a lot of anxiety problems. I have not found this exercise on the web or in any book, and I’m really surprised because it worked so well. So here it is:

Your body has a nuclear weapon against anxiety. It is known as deep breathing. Not simply taking deep breaths; instead, do it like this.

Inhale through your nose and take a deep breath. When exhaling (this is important), exhale as *slowly* as you can. You want to maximize the exhale for as long as possible. Repeat this 10 times, then, on the 11th breath, hold your breath for 20-30 seconds. Exhale normally.

Repeat this whole set 2 more times. So, in total, you will have done 33 breaths.

It can take between 10 – 15 minutes to complete this, but you will feel extremely relaxed after (you may have even fallen asleep).

My therapist said to do this *TEN* times a day for a full two weeks and see him if my anxiety wasn’t cured by then.

It was hard to find the time to do this ten times a day, but I tried to do as much as I could. It really helped a lot and I didn’t need to see him again.

Now, if I feel anxiety coming on, I only need to do a few breaths, and it goes away. I think your body / brain learns how to relax faster the more you practice.

This breathing exercise is so powerful that it will suppress the blink reflex and the swallow reflex. If you do it with your eyes open, you won’t blink; you will actually have to “think” about blinking. You will also not have the urge to swallow.

I have also found that this tends to remove a lot of “junk” thoughts from my head. Those negative thoughts that seem to wander in the background of your brain, hijacking your ability to think clearly.

I have never taken anti-anxiety drugs and I never want to. When I do breathing like this, sometimes it is like magic that I feel “normal” again. It feels like I took a pill, yet I didn’t. I sometimes wonder if things like this were taught in school, whether the pharmaceutical companies would have to find something else to sell.

So there you have it. I’m really interested to see how this helps others. So please comment on what your experience is.

panic sufferer said on March 30, 2011:

Just came across the link between caffiene and anxiety after a really bad panic attack last week. I’ve eliminated caffiene from my diet completely since then. I do not recommend going cold turkey as I have done. I’ve experienced quite a few withdrawl symptoms like sleeplessness and nervousness. According to the experts, I should only have two or three days left of these symptoms. I’ll let you all know if eliminating caffience helps reduce the panic attacks.

Ben said on May 17, 2011:

Glad I found this site. I been suffering from anxiety a lot lately and I have found that even one little cup of coffee can trigger my anxiety BAD… then the trip begins. Think I am having a heart attack. Think I am having an aneurysm, think I am going to pass out. I try to drink as much water as I can shove down my throat to dilute it, but still. anxiety happens.

I stopped drinking soda a few years ago because its just gross, but I really need to stop drinking coffee too.

Mike said on July 18, 2011:

Hello all,

I stopped all caffeine intake cold turkey as of a week ago.

For the first few days, I felt very tired, depressed (most depressed on the first day), argumentive, and lacking energy.
Getting up was a lot harder, and I lacked energy in the morning/ throughout the day. I did not have any headaches (none that I really noticed anyways).

I drank quite a bit of coffee and caffeine products prior to stopping (ie: 3 good strong cups a day, with maybe a can of soda if it was available), yet it didn’t consume my thoughts when I didn’t have caffeine. I DID get excited in anticipation of getting coffee (ie waiting for the coffee maker to finish).

After a week of no caffeine, I noticed that I am a lot more energized when I wake up (good sleep helps too) as well as more energy throughout my day.

30 minutes ago I drank a can of Dr. Pepper to see what would happen.

After 1 week of no caffeine, 1 can of Dr. Pepper gave me a huge rush within minutes. About 1 hr later I am still having a rush (although not as big a rush as 15 minutes ago). My head feels like it is abuzz, and I feel hyper-alert. Sitting still, the world seems as though it is “very busy”.

I am keeping a journal on this, and going to see where this goes. Endstate shall be either a) ceasation of caffeine, b) lower amounts of caffeine taken, and if negative effects are noticable again, go cold turkey for longer and re-assess.

I hope that someone finds this useful, and also an unbiased account of what just 1 week without 1 common chemical can do to a person.

I am in the opinion that caffeine is/can be a powerful, addicting drug which can make an impact, good or bad, on people’s lives.
I am a major coffee lover, but am willing to stop if it’s worth stopping.

My .02,

Mike

P said on July 26, 2011:

Garry,

Your deep breathing excersise is amazing! I had my first panic attack when I was 17 (I’m now 27) and for a good amount of years I had things pretty under control. The past 2 or so years have been the hardest with my symptoms. I do NOT want to go on anti anxiety medication…I know I can do this naturally. I’ve cut out caffiene from my diet, which has definitely helped,but of course I still have some anxiety.
Just tried the breathing exercise and I know this is going to help me a ton! Thanks so much :)

John Campbell said on August 6, 2011:

wondered if OJC and umsc are still watching this thread – if so, how has it been for you, off caffeine? Thanks

Kathy said on August 28, 2011:

This helped me so much. I will begin practicing deep breathing exercises. I feel so much anxiety but I drink about 10 to 12 diet cokes every day.

julie grey said on September 5, 2011:

Hi Am glan to have found this site,my 18 yr old son has always been extremely anxious,always been a poor sleeper and at times mildly agressive,just lately his lack of sleep has driven him and the rest of us almst over the edge,a good friend reccomended I take him to see a homeopath,I was sceptical but seeing as the antidepressents the doctor reccomended last year didnt work said we would try.She found his intolerance to caffenine incredible also dairy products his B complex vitimins were almost depleted and these are very important for anxiety,also he drank tons of lucozade,so we have switched to decaff to help him wean off,lucozade is gone!The difference in only 3 days is amazing he is at this minute sleeping like a baby,Im not saying this is a miracle cure its early days yet,but hopefully we are getting there!

Craig said on September 9, 2011:

very interesting. have a similar experience to above. Ended up a nervous wreck- blamed a lot on business collapsing, and ended up seeing GP and going on SSRIs. was having just one latte a day and was insomniac, exhausted next day- coffee then up all night again. i gave up coffee and am feeling ok. i recently tried a few lattes over the weekend and it didnt take long to get back into the same pattern- never touching the stuff again!!

John said on September 17, 2011:

Hi, great thread here. I’m just now finishing up one week of being off caffeine entirely, which is after over 20 years as a steady coffee and tea drinker, with a diet coke off and on when eating out. My usual intake was at least 2-3 cups per day. So, I did go cold turkey, and it was tough, but not as bad as I thought it would be this time (I’ve gone cold turkey on caffeine before for short periods of time). This time the withdrawal headache was the worst between 3pm and 6pm the first day. A couple ibuprofen did help, as well as dinner and going to bed early. I slept great. The second day I was a bit foggy throughout the day, but surprisingly no headache, just a little fogginess. Best thing on day 2 — I could already feel the improvement in my ability to respond to work stress, one of the things I’m doing this for. Day 3 and I was already feeling more energy, and enjoying the calmness even more. Oh yeah, I’ve been drinking different flavors of herbal teas throughout the day, and it’s really helped.

I’m feeling so much better now, just after one week. I’ve had anxiety issues over the years, and even had a med prescribed at one point. Although I should have tried long ago, I’ve never gone without caffeine entirely for long before, and I know that’s been my problem. I now know caffeine was a major contributor to the anxiety. Yes, I’m like everyone else on this thread that is surprised that my doctors over the years never suggested I give up caffeine. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised… as these are the same doctors that won’t usually give you good advice on diet and nutrition. Yes, they don’t usually know about prevention, and that is the problem. Prevention is where we should all be looking for answers I think. Anyways, I’m preventing the caffeine from getting into my system now, and I’m feeling great because of it after just 1 week. Besides anxiety and stress from caffeine, leading to cortisol and adrenaline release, one thing that’s helping motivate me is reading all of the health information out there on the detrimental effects on you central nervous system, your waistline (cortisol), blood pressure and your heart.

Anyways, after this first week, I can say with confidence that I won’t be drinking caffeine anymore. I know for a fact that it’s always been the major cause of my anxiety and stress… which has been tough on both mind and body. I’m looking forward to seeing how good I can feel without it. There may be the random cup of coffee or tea in the future, but that’s down the road. If you have anxiety and stress in your life and are a coffee/tea caffeine drinker, seriously consider going without for a week+ and see how good you feel. Best wishes!

Adele said on September 18, 2011:

To Garry, re: your post on a breathing exercise… Do you exhale through your nose or your mouth?
Thanks! A.

Tina said on September 19, 2011:

Garry,
I have thyroid problems and also have suffered from anxiety. I was prescribed xanax as needed. But then my primary doctor recommended that i go for Biofeedback treatment, which is the breathing treatment you are referring to. It worked for me well and i really recommend everyone to do it. Nobody will notice..you can do it anywhere. I ve been having a little anxiety again now.. so i am trying to do the breathing so it doesnt get serious.. Good luck to everyone!

Dale said on September 20, 2011:

I posted on 30 March. I quit caffeine completely, but I was still on SSRIs and had panic attacks. In June, I quit the SSRIs completely and I was pretty much panic free for a while. I made the mistake of taking the occassional Xanax when I felt stressed especially after my father moved in. Low and behold the anxiety is back. I’ve decided to completely quit Xananx (two weeks so far) and it has not been too bad, but the withdrawl sysmptoms really suck. The urge is definitely there to take a Xanax and slip into the haze. But I’m going to try this breathing exercise and see if it can help.

Tom H said on September 22, 2011:

I have to agree with the idea that anxiety and coffee don’t mix.

I’ve been going through a hard time mentally for around 9 days now….cut out the coffee (well apart from my morning one), and have not had the crazy jitters, or had the fear that a panic attack was just around the corner.

I have had a few minor headaches (I NEVER take headaches), but have told myself it’s lack of coffee lol!

Not going to touch soda with caffine in it either again.
Anyway, water is better for you!

Why in the hell don’t caffine products come with a warning like cigarettes and alcohol do!?

Sarah said on September 28, 2011:

I gave up caffeine years ago after being diagnosed with M.E. My nervous system was so shot I had to give up everything bad to help manage my illness. Over the years my health has improved and about a month ago I started re-introducing caffeine (fool!).
Initially it was great, 1 drink made me really energetic and I loved the new found energy and had no real side effects so I continued to take caffeine in Coke or coffee but no I’m paying the price! The last week or so I’ve been having that dirty after effects feeling…..tight chest, clammy hands, dry throat etc but like a fool I ignored it! Today I had a latte and tonight a hot chocolate…..for the last few hours I’ve been suffering….I thought I was having an angina or heart attack because of chest tightness etc but the severely upset stomach didn’t add up! Then as the pounding heart worsened with the clammy hands and fear I was going to pass out I realised it’s more likely to be a panic attack! I googled
the effects of caffeine and came across this site! What a fool I have been! My advice to anyone with slight nervous system problems would be steer clear of this nasty dirty drug!
Thanks for the wake up call guys x x

Erik said on October 12, 2011:

Hi all,
This is all very interesting. I have been living with anxiety for most of my adult life, and largely with the help of medication in small doses and various therapies (of which the Grinberg method has been very useful) I have managed to make sure it never keeps me from going about my daily stuff and having fun (work, sports, etc) so consider myself quite lucky somehow. Though I see anxiety (and the rather speedy-character that comes with such issues) a great driver, it does not take much for the positive anxiety (or shall we call it stress energy) that gives you enhanced creativity and performance (oddly, being anxious, I do enjoy being on “stage” in a central position) to pass over the threshold where it becomes close to paralyzing and all thoughts/ body functions are on red alert waiting for the worst to happen (which incidentally never happens – odd that after all these years and seeing nothing happens, it still catches me – shows the power of this phenomena rarely understood by the non-sufferers). I will strongly agree that caffeine is a dangerous trigger and I know I have to get off it (don’t drink much as normally espresso/latte number two tugs me over the “good stress” to “debilitating stress” barrier….I do not see myself as an addict to coffee as I drink comparatively few cups, but it seems it is more a habit of drinking coffee to kick start the anxiety which I have become used to having around me (also as my job is related to numerous meetings, coffee is always offered, and I regularly hear myself saying “say, no thanks – ask for water”, but yet there I am sipping on the stuff and slowly breaking into a sweat) – it is nearly as if I have become used to being anxious and need to be in that state somehow to feel “me” – clearly not logical and it runs me down. I will, however, this autumn, cut the stuff out (maybe on my next business trip as a breaking point) and really test this out as I think it will do wonders on my stress – I think those of us who have this have enough natural energy to move a mountain so we really don’t need to add gasoline to the fire.

Thanks for the comments and certainly hope something so ridiculously simple can change so much.

@Garry – thanks for the tip – always good to hear about coping techniques which have worked!

Good luck to all – if you can manage this, you can manage most things – redirecting your nervous energy will give you wonderful strength and capacity to do things others are incapable of (they don’t know what they are missing -fortunately or unfortunately).

Erik

Alan said on October 25, 2011:

I hadn’t heard before that caffeine can cause anxiety, but through my own experiences I came to my own conclusion, because I noticed that after drinking caffeine an immediate whirlwind of uncontrollable thoughts would reak havoc on my mind EVERY TIME, It was anxiety! I have been caffeine free now for many months, and it feels GREAT!!! SET YOURSELVES FREE!!! Get off caffeine today!!

aishwarya said on October 27, 2011:

i ve been taking 1-2 big cups of coffee a day and 1-2 cups of tea too since the last one week as my xams are up and i wake up early at 4. i take a cup of tea at 4am, the second cup of tea at around 7 and then a cup of coffee in the evening around 5pm and another cup of coffee any time of the day, when i feel to drink, i started taking coffee this much as i found one of my mock exam result which i took after drinking a cup of cappuchino helped me a lot to answer quickly and accurately. now that even whn i m awake i cant solve maths problems, i cant concentrate and the maths problems that i ve solved before without enough practice , even practice i cant solve them now, i m feeling too febrile or too flippant at times it takes me long to sleep and even if i sleep, i wake up in between,its jus 2 days for my final exam and now i ve found out that caffeine levels have brought me this and someone please help me out, to bring my caffeine levels down immediately and get me sound sleep

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