Your question: Why do I get anxiety after drinking coffee?
Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.
At least 73%(1) of Americans drink coffee daily. This beverage has become a complementary part of the routine of many people, who feel that they do not function equally during their day if they do not drink one or several cups before starting their day.
However, coffee can also generate both physical and psychological problems if consumed in an excessive manner. Anxiety after drinking coffee is common, and is related to the stimulating effect that caffeine has on your nervous system. You may experience tachycardia and an intense feeling of nervousness or fear after a cup of coffee.
Possibly this worries you, because you feel that it has presented itself abruptly in your life. However, our body does not always react in the same way to situations. If coffee is making you anxious, your first reaction or thought may be to stop drinking coffee altogether. While this may be effective at first, you may eventually experience anxious symptoms again.
Anxiety is a part of life and there are no quick fixes or magic solutions to deal with it. Whether it is related to food, social interactions or drinking coffee, anxiety must be treated at its core. Your anxiety is unique and you must understand its source before seeking strategies to help you feel better.
No situation, thing, person or substance that makes you feel bad should be kept in your life, however, with adequate doses, coffee is harmless and does not have to represent a danger in your life. Therefore, the solution is not so much to give up coffee forever, but to learn to cope with anxiety. It is a difficult process, but through this guide I will give you the first support to do it.
What is anxiety like after drinking coffee?
The feeling of anxiety that appears in your body after drinking coffee increases rapidly, and can last for hours after drinking coffee and even the rest of the day. Some of these symptoms are:
- Nausea and dizziness.
- Feeling of dehydration.
- Excessive fear or worry.
Why do you feel anxious after drinking coffee?
Caffeine has multiple effects on the body, so its relationship with the feeling of anxiety is well documented(2). Some of the reasons why you may be experiencing anxiety after drinking coffee are:
Increases the production of neurotransmitters
Dopamine and noradrenaline, neurotransmitters associated with emotionality and affectivity, as well as stressful events, increase their levels after you drink caffeine. This can make your body feel that you are in a state of high alertness or stress, even if there is no threat present, causing you to feel anxious symptoms after drinking coffee.
Increases your heart rate
Caffeine affects the cardiovascular system, increasing your blood pressure and heart rate. Therefore, after drinking coffee, it is common to feel your heart more accelerated than normal, a symptom also associated with anxiety. This uncomfortable sensation in your heart rate can cause your body to gradually activate other symptoms of anxiety, perceiving that it is in a state of stress and alertness.
Dependence to caffeine
It is possible that caffeine means for you a stimulating and pleasant sensation that generates dependence. This means that each time you feel that you need to consume more. After drinking coffee, some people feel anxious because they feel the desire to continue drinking, and they do not calm their cravings, which manifest themselves in the form of anxiety symptoms, until they drink coffee again during the day.
What can you do to decrease the anxiety after drinking coffee?
Decreasing anxiety related to coffee consumption involves consuming coffee in moderation, modifying your habits. The FDA(3) indicated that the safe amount of coffee for adults is 165 milligrams per day, an average of 1-2 regular cups of coffee.
Therefore, although you may find it difficult at first, there are strategies you can implement to gradually decrease your coffee consumption and with it, your anxiety symptoms.
Alternate or decrease caffeine
There are decaffeinated drinks that you can gradually add to your daily consumption, which tend to decrease the anxious sensation linked to drinking coffee. Changing coffee for tea can be abrupt for many people at the beginning because they will feel that “it does not feel the same”. Alternating is a good option, i.e., one morning drinking regular coffee, one morning drinking tea or decaffeinated coffee.
When you experience anxiety after drinking coffee, breathing exercises will be useful to remind your body to enter a state of rest and relaxation. Inhaling through your nose for three seconds and exhaling through your mouth for another three seconds, rest one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. While breathing and feeling how your body decreases tension, repeat to yourself a mental phrase that helps you to calm down. Applying this exercise regularly will help you cope with anxiety of any kind.
In my experience…
Drinking coffee can be a delicacy for many, but a stress for others. Sometimes both at the same time. The problem with coffee related anxiety demands that you change your coffee drinking habits to a healthier one, as it is causing an inappropriate and disturbing reaction in your body. By implementing these techniques, your anxiety will decrease.
I hope that with these suggestions you can improve. I recognize and applaud you for seeking professional counseling, because it shows that you want to feel better and you are on the right path to change the things that make you feel bad. I believe that you have the capacity to improve, although sometimes your mind makes you believe that you have no solution. It was a pleasure to write to you
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Cappelletti S, Piacentino D, Sani G, Aromatario M. Caffeine: cognitive and physical performance enhancer or psychoactive drug? [published correction appears in Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015;13(4):554. doi:10.2174/1570159X13666141210215655