How Does Caffeine Consumption Impact Anxiety Disorders?

Targeting Trauma on PTSD Awareness Month

Caffeine is the most popular habit-forming psychoactive substance in the world. While people who consume caffeine can still maintain a healthy diet, the fact that the substance is present in many beverages and food items can make avoiding it difficult.

The US Food and Drug Administration suggests that the intake of up to 400 milligrams of caffeine is not known to usually lead to unhealthy outcomes among most adults. Yet, the agency claims that 1,200 milligrams can result in toxic effects, such as seizures. 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are four official disorders associated with the consumption of caffeine: caffeine withdrawal; caffeine intoxication; unspecified caffeine-related disorder; and other caffeine-induced disorders, which includes anxiety disorder and sleep disorders. 

The link between caffeine and overall mental health is clear. But the substance’s connection with issues related to anxiety is even more evident and validated by numerous studies.

The way it works is that the effects of caffeine — restlessness, nervousness, trouble sleeping, increased body temperature, and rapid heart rate — tend to mirror the effects of anxiety. The problem is that the human brain is essentially unable to distinguish if those symptoms are caused by anxiety or caffeine. 

Occasional anxiety can certainly be an element of most people’s lives. But for those with anxiety disorders, experiencing symptoms that are similar to the effects caused by caffeine is something that occurs frequently and strenuously. 

Thus, the individuals who already have experienced anxiety or trouble sleeping will naturally have a greater problem with caffeine than others. 

This is also why every person reacts differently to caffeine and explains why even consuming the same amount of it can promote different effects among different people.

Different body sizes and genetic characteristics can also make each person metabolize the substance in drastically differing speeds. 

Mental health disorders associated with caffeine intake often get overlooked because they are not as severe or as dangerous as the disorders associated with some other addictive substances. For instance, a person going through a caffeine withdrawal will certainly not be facing as much risk as those going through opioid withdrawals. However, both scenarios can be challenging.  

Speaking with a healthcare provider about whether trying to cut back on caffeine is a good idea or not is something that should be considered, particularly for people who are regularly taking medications or have other conditions, such as high blood pressure or insomnia. 


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