Why does coffee make me anxious? An expert explains
The pretty barista at your cafe is very impressed with your daily French press, but it also makes you so shaky that you can barely type at 1pm. While your morning brew may be a beloved way to wake up, caffeine can stress you out, especially if you are already prone to anxiety.
“I tried getting down to the cafe, but had to go without it because it seemed to make me nervous,” Hannah, 32, told Bustle. “I was getting nervous, I felt weird and unstable. »Too much caffeine can even cause “coffee intoxication“, which will sound familiar if your group chat texts are a bit messy after your second espresso.
“Although caffeine is considered safe to consume, it can be a problem for a number of reasons.” Dr Seema Sarin MD, director of lifestyle medicine at EHE Health, told Bustle. “In moderation, caffeine is good, but in excess it can lead to health complications such as anxiety and insomnia.”
How caffeine affects your stress level
Why is coffee stressful? Basically it goes straight to the adenosine receptors in your brain, your heart and elsewhere, making you more awake and vigilant. It also activates the pituitary gland, encouraging it to release adrenaline, the hormone that puts you into “fight or flight” mode. That’s why you’re suddenly able to crush your expense report after a good latte, but it’s also why you might feel nervous that all of your “business lunches” aren’t approved. In fact, if you drink a lot of coffee, you might become less able to handle stress overtime; a 2021 study published in Molecular PsychiatristYou found that regular coffee drinkers had fewer connections in the parts of their brains related to emotional processing.
Your genes could also mean that you are more vulnerable to stress related to coffee. A study in Frontiers in Psychiatry in 2017 found that some people caffeine receptors are super sensitive, which means they experience these stressful effects after drinking less matcha. Even if you don’t carry this gene, the study noted that as little as 200 mg of caffeine per day can cause anxiety. (Eight ounces of coffee has about 130 mg.) That said, many studies on coffee and stress focus on people who already have anxiety disorders, which could skew how people without anxiety can relate to the results.
Can Caffeine Make You More Stressed?
Caffeine can indirectly cause more stress than it helps, says Dr. Sarin. If you drink a lot of caffeine and find yourself rolling over, or just not sleeping, it can affect your mood on a daily basis. “It can manifest itself in the form of stress, anxiety or depression depending on the person and the situation, ”explains Dr Sarin.
Still, some evidence shows that when you’re stressed out, small amounts of caffeine can actually help. A study published in Physiology & Behavior in 2017 found that when stressed people received a low dose of caffeine, they did better in demanding thinking tasks and felt less anxious. A little café au lait – or, according to a 2019 study, a matcha cookie – could help reduce your stress level.
The key, quite boring, seems to be moderation. If you’ve noticed that your daily cold brews seem like dizzying anxiety, you might want to consider switching to a less intense caffeine punch. Your bartender will understand.
Dr Seema Sarin MD
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