You wake up groggy, eyes adjusting to the light, everything is a little blurry, you stumble into the kitchen and get your first cup of coffee. The smell hits you first, a nice dark roast perhaps, and then finally your first sip, ahhhhh… You start the rest of your morning routine and that beautiful aroma filled drink in your cup kicks off your day.
But have you ever wondered if your morning coffee ritual is contributing to anxiety or depression? If so, I have some answers for you in this article.
We’ve become a coffee-obsessed culture: we drink it for pleasure, to relax, as a treat, to socialize and, most of all, for energy. Suffice it to say, all that coffee craze can cause anxiety and unhealthy dependency – how else can we keep our energy up, indulging on the go, to accomplish all the things we need and want to do in life?
So, here’s the lowdown on coffee, anxiety and depression.
Coffee and Depression
There is some very interesting research on coffee and depression. It turns out that coffee may actually be a protective factor against depression and is even correlated with a reduction in suicide It’s a pretty amazing finding for deep L lovers and those facing depression or suicide!
In fact, there are studies that speak to this very interesting result. However, before we get too excited, let’s hit the pause button and clarify a few things. I say “might” because research is research, and while this gives us some evidence, it’s always important to remember that each of our bodies reacts differently to different environments, circumstances or substances, and there are many variables at play, so nothing is 100%, but it’s a good indicator for sure!
Some of the variables to consider in these studies include the general lifestyle of the subjects and the control groups, as well as a very important one: whether the coffee they drank was caffeinated or decaffeinated, as much of the research is unclear. So, more work needs to be done on this, but it is encouraging.
And that’s not all. Coffee, which is most often linked to unhealthy habits, was removed from the WHO’s list of carcinogenic foods in 2016, a somewhat rare move. The WHO even reports that coffee may protect against uterine and liver cancer
And they are not alone, several other well-known and esteemed organizations, such as The World Cancer Research Fund and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have also stated that coffee consumption in moderation (three to five cups a day) can have positive health effects and protect you from various forms of cancer.
As far as depression is concerned, it has been found that it may not just be the caffeine that is at play, as there are other impactful components in coffee. The most notable are chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid and caffeic acid, all of which have been found to reduce nerve inflammation, which is a factor in the brains of people suffering from depression. More good stuff!
Coffee and anxiety. Can coffee cause anxiety?
The research on coffee and anxiety, however, is not as positive for anxiety sufferers as it is for depression sufferers. And it’s not that surprising either, but there was something I found interesting in all the reading I did on this topic.
In general, it was found that, if you don’t suffer from anxiety, coffee probably won’t have too much of a negative impact on you when consumed in moderation. However, when caffeine doses increase to over 400 mg per day, symptoms associated with anxiety, such as restlessness, nervousness, and trouble sleeping, can occur. In those suffering from anxiety, it will take much less to exacerbate their already present anxiety symptoms, which is not too surprising.
But, anecdotally, there is a lot of documentation of people giving up coffee for a period of time and writing about the impact on their anxiety, which was considered quite negligent. So, in general, if you suffer from anxiety, it’s very likely that moderate coffee consumption won’t have too much impact on your anxiety, although it certainly won’t help it.
That is, can coffee cause anxiety or depression? Yes, if you drink too much of it or if you already suffer from anxiety.
How does coffee affect your mood?
When it comes to your overall mood, what you need to consider is how your body responds to caffeine, as this is the main problem for most people – depression or anxiety aside – and our bodies have different sensitivities to caffeine.
Some people can have an espresso right before bed and have no trouble sleeping, but for others, it could guarantee a restless night with lots of tossing and turning. And poor sleep contributes to irritability, lower resilience to cope with life’s stressors, as well as other indicators of poor health and, therefore, lower mood.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential, especially when dealing with chronic anxiety. Therefore, if you are in this camp, it might be good for you to moderate your coffee intake or even just evaluate and assess for yourself to see what the impact might be over a period of time without caffeine.
It is important to get to know your body and how it reacts to different substances and environments. Conducting a little experiment on yourself can be a fun way to get to know and understand your body and how you metabolize caffeine.
The bottom line on coffee, anxiety and depression
Overall, the research says that there are potentially a few more health benefits when it comes to depression and coffee consumption than in the case of coffee and anxiety, where it is found to have a negative or neutral impact. In addition, there are a number of other potentially beneficial health effects from coffee consumption.
Given all this research – some of it very promising (around depression) and some of it not surprising (anxiety) – coffee is not going to eradicate any mental health problems, although it does not necessarily seem to cause them
The most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about the impact of coffee consumption on anxiety or depression is that it can exacerbate sleep problems, which is a really important part of self-care when it comes to depression, anxiety, or any mental health issue.
want to cut back on your coffee consumption?
If you want to cut back a bit on the amount of coffee you drink or even do that little experiment on yourself that I was referring to, you can start with a few simple tips.
Caffeine is a stimulant, and you are likely to feel some physiological symptoms, such as headache, brain fog and general fatigue. This will last for a day or two, possibly longer, depending on the amount of caffeine you have consumed. Before you start cutting back, it is good to know how much caffeine you consume per day. This way, you can gradually reduce by one drink each day or more.
Make sure you stay hydrated
Coffee – or caffeine – is a diuretic, which means it naturally dehydrates you, so cutting back will probably help with dehydration. However, that said, it’s still important to make sure you drink enough fluids, as that will help minimize the effects of withdrawal.
Get plenty of rest
Naturally you will feel a little tired when reducing caffeine/coffee intake, make sure you get enough rest, giving your body a chance to adjust and recover from withdrawal.
Increase your physical activity
Try to increase your physical activity a bit. Physical activity is known to increase mood, which will counteract the irritability you may feel when reducing coffee consumption.
Keep a small log or journal to note how you feel on different days and how much caffeine you are drinking, if any, at various times during your “ordeal.” Think about your mood, how you are feeling, how you are sleeping, and possibly how you feel it is affecting your relationships and daily activities. When you look back at your data, you will be able to assess the impact of caffeine and coffee intake more accurately.
Keep in mind
The amount of coffee we drink and its effects vary greatly depending on many, many factors. The best thing to do is to know yourself, pay attention to how coffee affects you, talk to your doctors, and take into account your personal life circumstances
Taking all of these steps will help you make an informed decision for yourself, which will likely change over time.