Time to smell the beans: Compelling links between coffee and anxiety

 

By SHANE RICHARD BELL

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press

It’s time to wake up and really smell the coffee.

If you’re a one-cup-a-day kind of coffee drinker, you’re probably fine. Now if you habitually down three cups of joe every morning, order a latte at 11 am, and then to avoid a meltdown, chug another round for an afternoon caffeine happy hour, coffee might be the culprit behind a host of other problems.

Excessive caffeine usage, analyzed in more than 40 research studies, can cause a litany of side effects: rapid heartbeat, restlessness, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, twitching, trembling, distracted thoughts and speech, nausea, diarrhea, and mood swings.

Do you consume immoderate amounts of caffeine, experience these symptoms, and cannot determine why?

Interestingly these reactions are symptoms of the fight-or-flight response, triggered by excessive amounts of caffeine released into your bloodstream.

The caffeine tells your body to prepare for battle, even though there are no enemies in sight.

“’Caffeine can trigger and worsen anxiety and panic disorders,’ said Roland Griffiths, PhD and professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Caffeine can also cause jitters, headaches, nervousness and irregular heartbeat.’”  (“Caffeine and Coffee,” http://www.LiveStrong.com)

Even so, coffee continually pours into American culture, rooting itself in Starbucks, local coffeehouses, social circles, trendy coffee mugs, punch cards, and at-home espresso machines.

At least 80 percent of Americans drink coffee, according to the National Coffee Association.

Coffee consumption also rose by 6 percent in 2012, adding around 18 million new coffee drinkers.

Panic and anxiety disorders are also on the rise. “Panic and other anxiety disorders have become the most common mental illnesses in the United States.” (“Brewing Trouble,” www.MedicineNet.com)

The impact of coffee on the nation’s portrait of mental health is profound.

“The American Psychiatric Association has officially added three new disorders to its list of official diagnoses: caffeine intoxication, caffeine-related anxiety, and caffeine-sleep disorders.” (“Brewing Trouble,” http://www.MedicineNet.com)

As a stimulant, coffee stimulates the body’s central nervous system while temporarily increasing metabolism. Caffeine suppresses a chemical in the brain called adenosine, which slows down nerve cells and causes drowsiness. When caffeine reaches the bloodstream, the body cannot differentiate between caffeine and adenosine, and thus creates a surge of cellular interaction and energy.

“’Caffeine is the most widely used mood-altering drug in the world,’ says Roland Griffiths. People often see coffee, tea, and soft drinks simply as beverages rather than vehicles for a psychoactive drug. But caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and panic disorders.’” (“Brewing Trouble,” www.MedicineNet.com)

Every one responds to caffeine differently. Some reap the benefits; some reap the side effects.  But “the National Institute of Mental Health recommends that people who suffer from anxiety disorders should avoid caffeine, as it can worsen anxiety.” (“Caffeine and Anxiety,” www.LiveStrong.com)

Psychologist Norman Schmidt concurs.

“’If you tend to be a high-strung, anxious person, using a lot of caffeine can be risky,’ said Schmidt. ‘Whereas some people may feel more focused and energetic with caffeine, those who are prone to anxiety often feel nervous and a sense of impending doom.’” (“Caffeine and Anxiety,” www.LiveStrong.Com)

To obtain a copy of this article, pick up today’s Coeur d’Alene Press, January 17, and refer to the “CDA Fit and Health” publication.

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