Does Caffeine Make Anxiety Worse?

caffeine and anxiety

Caffeine is the world’s best-known and most frequently used stimulant, and because it’s so prevalent, you might assume it’s totally harmless. However, if you have an anxiety disorder, you should be aware that caffeine might make your symptoms worse. Before you refill your coffee cup or reach for an energy drink as an afternoon pick-me-up, here’s what you need to know.

The Connection Between Caffeine and Anxiety

Many people rely on caffeine to help them focus and have more enthusiasm to power through tasks, but it can be problematic for those living with anxiety or panic disorders. That’s because caffeine releases adrenaline and cortisol to trigger your body’s fight-or-flight response, which is already overstimulated due to your anxiety.    

If insomnia is one of your anxiety symptoms, you’ll especially want to avoid caffeine consumption in the afternoon, which can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, reduce total sleep time, worsen perceived sleep quality and cause you to wake up multiple times per night.

How Much Is Too Much?

As a rule of thumb, healthy adults should limit their caffeine consumption to 400 mg per day. Still, you might not keep track of your caffeine intake because you don’t know how much is in your favorite beverages.

  • The average cup of homemade coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine.
  • A tall Starbucks coffee contains about 250 mg.
  • A can of Coke has 35 mg.
  • One can of Red Bull has more than 100 mg of caffeine.
  • Other energy drinks can have 300 mg or more.

Consuming more than 400 mg of caffeine in a day might leave you feeling jittery and on edge, and bring on symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain or a racing heart rate. The elevated stress levels caused by caffeine can also put you at a higher risk of developing health issues like reduced immune function.

Should You Cut Out Caffeine?

While caffeine provides a temporary boost, most people also experience a subsequent crash that can be jarring. For sustained energy throughout the day, try relying less on coffee, soda and energy drinks and more on all-natural lifestyle changes like exercising, drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet.

Caffeine may limit your ability to absorb some vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. That’s because many vitamins are water-soluble, and as a diuretic, caffeine could wash these nutrients out of your body before they have a chance to benefit you. In addition, caffeine can interfere with calcium and iron absorption – two minerals that are also common deficiencies. If you are malnourished and trying to work your way back to good health, you could benefit from going caffeine-free.

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You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick. This is the philosophy behind our residential addiction treatment program. At Canyon Crossing, women learn to live life on life’s terms while staying in a safe, substance-free setting. This gives our clients the space and peace needed for lasting recovery.
Our residential program combines high-accountability sober living arrangements with first-rate clinical care. While staying in our homes, clients participate in process groups, one-on-one counseling sessions, and hands-on learning opportunities. They also receive ongoing training; in these meetings, life skills like financial management and conflict resolution are imparted. All of this happens with 24/7 encouragement, guidance, and supervision from our clinical team.
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