Those that suffer from anxiety often seek out easy ways to relieve their anxiety symptoms. After all, while anxiety itself is a mental health problem and may have some genetic causes, there are lifestyle factors that contribute to anxiety symptoms and if you can change your lifestyle, you can potentially relieve some or all of your anxiety.
Yet within those tips and strategies lies one very popular belief: if you want to relieve your anxiety, you need to stop drinking coffee. In a lot of ways this makes sense. Coffee is a stimulant, and as a stimulant it has the potential to make you jittery – much like anxiety. But if you look into the research, you’ll find that coffee may actually not affect anxiety at all.
The Truth About Coffee
Coffee is a stimulant, but it is a stimulant that doesn’t cause jitters unless you drink it in excess. Mild coffee consumption, such as one or two cups in the morning on possibly once more before the afternoon, is very unlikely to create any jittery symptoms – or any symptoms of unease at all.
In fact, there’s a strong chance that drinking coffee may actually help with your anxiety, at least a mild amount. Consider the following:
- Numerous studies have shown that coffee is linked to a release of neurotransmitters that help improve your mood. While the release isn’t enough to cure your anxiety altogether, it does provide you with a very minor improvement – certainly not making your mood worse.
- The alertness you get from coffee may help you complete your projects during the day, presumably decreasing your anxiety about finishing a project. Anxiety is cumulative, so if you can decrease your anxiety in any area of your life (for example, completing a project at work early), the rest of your life will be less anxiety filled as well.
- Avoiding Withdrawal – If you already have a caffeine addiction, then drinking coffee helps you avoid the effects of withdrawal. Withdrawal from coffee can be fairly stressful, with headaches, anxiety, and other issues that may increase your stress level.
- Normal Routine – In addition, as long as you traditionally get your coffee fix in a stress free environment like your home, work, or a small unknown coffee shop, then getting coffee is a part of your normal routine. Routines can be very comfortable, especially if you otherwise have a very busy and hectic life.
These are all very real benefits of coffee on anxiety, all while coffee is currently not actually known to increase anxiety symptoms. It’s unclear where this myth started.
Harmful Effects of Coffee on Anxiety
That said, there are a few issues that may arise, but are not necessarily anxiety related issues. Those with panic disorder – a type of anxiety disorder – may want to avoid coffee because the increased heart rate can trigger anxiety attacks. Although it should be noted that caffeine is a part of exposure therapy a – treatment method to cure panic disorder.
Another issue is simply body discomfort. Not everyone has the stomach to easily process coffee and the acids from coffee, nor does everyone drink coffee black. What you add to coffee and the coffee itself may cause stomach discomfort and gas, and that is a type of stress that can lead to an increase in anxiety symptoms.
Finally, it is possible to have too much caffeine, and caffeine in heavy excess can potentially lead to jitters and other issues.
Coffee and Anxiety
Still, available evidence does not support the idea that caffeine from coffee leads to an increase in anxiety, and most available research shows that it may actually help in a small amount with anxiety symptoms. It’s not conclusive, and certainly if you find that decreasing your coffee intake improves your anxiety you should do so. But the idea that coffee increases anxiety does appear to be a myth.