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Does Caffeine Cause Anxiety?

Does Caffeine Cause Anxiety?
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Caffeine is an excessively consumed psychoactive substance that affects people differently based on genetics and metabolism. It stimulates the central nervous system, contributing to a feeling of freshness.

However, does too much caffeine cause excessive restlessness? You might also wonder if there is any connection between caffeine and anxiety.

Learning the complex interplay between caffeine consumption and anxiety is important for mental well-being.

It is important to make informed decisions regarding caffeine intake by understanding how caffeine affects anxiety and how it speeds up bodily functions.

Working Mechanism Of Caffeine

Caffeine primarily affects the central nervous system, leading to increased brain activity. It activates a neuron called noradrenaline, which transmits signals to various parts of the brain.

Caffeine can trigger the release of dopamine, which is responsible for the feeling of happiness. It could also inhibit the production of adenosine, a chemical that induces tiredness.

Does Caffeine Cause Anxiety?

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety serves as a signal to make us aware and take action against perceived threats or stressors. It is the state of unrest that could make us dread and overthink a situation or an event.

Contributing factors to anxiety may include fear, dread, and uneasiness. Symptoms of anxiety can generally manifest in several ways, including:

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal issues

These symptoms are the body’s way of preparing to face a perceived threat or stressful situation.

However, when anxiety becomes excessive and persisting, it could significantly impact a person’s quality of life and well-being. Anxiety disorders involve excessive and persistent worry that can interfere with daily activities.

Symptoms Of Caffeine-Induced Anxiety

The physiological effects of caffeine on the body can often manifest as symptoms closely resembling those of anxiety, as noted by Harvard Medical School.

Here are the symptoms of anxiety that can attributed to caffeine consumption:

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Fast Heart Rate

Recommended Daily Consumption Of Caffeine

Consuming about 4 cups of coffee, which equals around 400 milligrams of caffeine, is generally considered safe for a healthy adult.

Consumption of caffeine up to 1,200 milligrams can potentially lead to adverse effects on health, including the risk of toxic reactions such as seizures.

However, individual sensitivities to caffeine can vary, affecting how it impacts the body and how quickly it metabolizes caffeine.

How Much Caffeine Are You Consuming?

The concentration of caffeine varies significantly among different beverages and brewing methods.

  • For instance, a 16-ounce serving of decaf coffee contains 0-13.9 mg, while the same amount of plain black coffee could contain 100 mg.
  • Espresso, known for its strong caffeine content, can contain about 65 mg per 1.5 ounces.
  • Other popular beverages, like energy drinks, also have varying caffeine levels, ranging from 80-150mg in an 8-ounce serving.

Relation Between Caffeine And Anxiety

As a central nervous system stimulant, caffeine could affect mental health. The DSM–5 now includes caffeine-related disorders like sleep and anxiety disorder, caffeine intoxication, and withdrawal. Caffeine withdrawal is now a claimed diagnosis and requires additional studies.

Chronic caffeine might result in physical dependence and could significantly interfere with daily functioning.

Can Caffeine Cause Anxiety?

In people without an underlying anxiety disorder, caffeine probably doesn’t directly cause anxiety. However, it can worsen anxiety symptoms, particularly in people predisposed to panic disorders.

Research suggests that in people with panic disorder, caffeine consumption raises the chances of having a panic attack and increases anxiety levels. Therefore, people with anxiety should consider avoiding or limiting coffee and other caffeinated drinks.

Things To Do If Concerned About Caffeine And Anxiety

For people concerned about the potential impact of coffee on anxiety levels, gradually reducing caffeine intake could be beneficial strategies to consider.

  • Avoid sudden reduction in caffeine intake, as it may lead to caffeine withdrawal.
  • Opt for lighter coffee brews or beverages with lower caffeine content to lessen the impact on anxiety levels.
  • Decaffeinated options like green coffee or matcha green tea could help people sensitive to caffeine’s effects. However, consume matcha and green coffee in moderation.
  • Staying mindful of energy, chocolate, and soft drinks is also essential in managing caffeine consumption.
  • Keep a journal to track caffeine intake and its effects on anxiety symptoms.

Caffeine withdrawal

A sudden reduction in caffeine intake might lead to caffeine withdrawal if you are habituated to caffeine. These withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Lack of focus
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Trembling

Though unpleasant, these withdrawal symptoms are not considered life-threatening, unlike the withdrawal symptoms of opioids like morphine, heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.

A gradual and steady decrease in caffeine intake is advisable to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Regular exercise and drinking at least 2 liters of water per day can be beneficial in reducing these symptoms.

Effect of sugar with coffee on anxiety

The moderate consumption of sugar or other artificial sweeteners in coffee has no severe effects. However, consuming large amounts of sugar with coffee, especially for people predisposed to anxiety, may worsen the symptoms of anxiety over time.

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When To Seek A Doctor?

You should consult a doctor if you find that your caffeine intake has worsened your anxiety and is interfering with your ability to perform daily tasks, focus at work, or engage in social activities.

Other concerning indications that show caffeine is worsening your anxiety may include:

  • You’re having trouble controlling your anxiety: Difficulty in managing or controlling your anxiety levels, especially in situations where caffeine consumption exacerbates these feelings.
  • Your anxiety is affecting your sleep, work, or relationships: When anxiety starts to impact crucial areas of your life, such as sleep quality, work performance, or relationships with others.
  • You have any symptoms of depression: Symptoms of depression alongside anxiety, such as constant sadness, lack of interest in activities, or changes in appetite and sleep patterns, indicate the need to consult a healthcare expert for a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can Caffeine Consumption Worsen Symptoms of Pre-Existing Anxiety Disorders?
    Caffeine consumption may exacerbate pre-existing anxiety symptoms. High doses of caffeine can intensify restlessness and nervousness, especially in individuals sensitive to its effects. Moderation in caffeine intake is prudent for those with anxiety concerns.
  • Are There Any Alternative Ways to Boost Alertness Without Consuming Caffeine?
    Alternative ways to boost alertness include exercising regularly, eating healthy food rich in nutrients, and drinking at least 8-10 cups of water regularly. Ensuring adequate sleep, practicing mindfulness, and taking short breaks for movement or stretching throughout the day can also be beneficial.
  • How Long Does It Take for Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms to Subside?
    Caffeine withdrawal symptoms typically subside within 2-9 days, depending on individual factors like consumption levels and metabolism. Gradually reducing caffeine intake, staying hydrated, and ensuring adequate rest might help alleviate withdrawal effects.
  • Can Caffeine Sensitivity Change Over Time or With Age?
    Caffeine sensitivity can fluctuate over time or with age, influenced by factors like genetics and lifestyle. Monitoring personal reactions to caffeine intake is essential for adjusting consumption levels to maintain optimal well-being.
  • Is There a Link Between Caffeine Consumption and Sleep Disturbances in People With Anxiety?
    Caffeine’s stimulant properties could exacerbate sleep issues, leading to disrupted sleep patterns. Managing caffeine intake, especially in the evening, may help improve sleep quality in this population.


Though caffeine may worsen the symptoms of pre-existing anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, there is a lack of evidence making caffeine the sole contributory factor to anxiety.

Moderate amounts of caffeine could provide benefits like improved cardiovascular health, energy levels, concentration, and focus in your daily tasks.

However, excessive consumption of caffeine could lead to symptoms similar to anxiety, including restlessness, elevated heart rate, and insomnia.

People with anxiety disorder, especially panic disorder, should consider reducing caffeine intake gradually, as sudden reduction might lead to caffeine withdrawal.

You could also reduce anxiety symptoms related to caffeine consumption by exploring alternatives like decaf and integrating regular exercise into your routine.


  • The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • Consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before following health tips or instructions.
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