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Coffee , Caffeine , and Anxiety

Background info on caffeine Over 100,000 metric tons of caffeine are consumed around the world every year (that is equivalent to the weight of 14 Eiffel Towers).

Caffeine is a stimulant drug and the most widely-consumed mind-altering substance in the world. It belongs to a class of compounds known as the methylxanthines, and is found in a number of natural sources including the seeds of coffee plants and the leaves of tea plants.

How caffeine works

Caffeine acts as a stimulant for the central nervous system, keeping us awake by blocking one of the body’s key sleep-inducing substances –cyclic adenosine monophosphate (or, adenosine). The longer you’re away, the more fatigued you become. This is because whenever you’re awake, adenosine binds to your brain receptors which slow down brain activity, making you feel more tired. Caffeine competes with these adenosines and takes their place, which explains why the sleepiness effect isn’t felt anymore. Caffeine also promotes adrenaline and affects dopamine levels to make you feel happy. As caffeine only lasts for approximately 6 hours, the caffeine level in your body decreases and the adenosine jumps back into the receptors, which explains why people need around two cups of coffee to get through the day.

Effects of having 1-3 cups of average-sized coffee

  • Enhanced mood and alertness

  • Regulated blood sugar levels

  • Faster information processing speed

  • Faster reaction time

  • Heightened awareness and attention

  • Keeps you stimulated

Effects of having too much coffee (roughly more than 3 cups / 400 milligrams)

  • Headaches

  • Drowsiness

  • Moderate to high levels of anxiety

  • Nausea

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • Hostility

  • Hyperactivity

Why does caffeine increase anxiety

Though coffee rarely causes anxiety, it can worsen symptoms in people who are already prone to anxiety. Whilst coffee can instantly wake you up, it could also cause a jittery sensation, causing you to be anxious and nervous (or sweaty, even). Caffeine activates your “fight or flight response” (by the triggering of adrenaline), and overdosing on it can increase baseline anxiety and the likelihood of panic attacks.

Effects on anxiety sufferers

  • Increased anxiety levels for people who has anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Provocation of panic attacks (in people that are prone to them)

Caffeine-related disorders

(according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - version 5)

  • Caffeine intoxication

    • Consuming a high dose of caffeine

  • Caffeine withdrawal

    • After abrupt cessation of caffeine intake

  • Caffeine-induced anxiety disorder

  • Caffeine-induced sleep disorder

Quitting the caffeine addiction

You may experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea and headaches if you stop altogether suddenly. By slowly decreasing your intake by drinking tea the next week then having chocolate the week after can potentially and gadually lower your caffeine intake level until you reach zero.

Be mindful of what you put into your body and avoid taking painkillers as most of them have caffeine in them. It takes roughly 1 to 2 weeks before you can beat your caffeine addiction.


How does caffeine keep us awake? - Hanan Qasim

Your brain on coffee - ASAPScience

Caffeine consumption and self-assessed stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children - Richards and Smith

I gave up coffee for three months: Here’s what happened - Hailey Welch

Quitting caffeine the headache-free way

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - version 5

Caffeine - Induced Psychiatric Disorders - Francis M Torres

Researcher - Hailey


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