Caffeine, Anxiety and it’s Vicious Cycle

Ah coffee, that morning elixir, the warm comforting drink, a daily ritual or, for some, the only way to get through the day. The reason for the temporary buzz or increased energy is due to caffeine’s stimulating effect on the nervous system. It’s this get up and go that makes it one of the most widely used drugs on the planet.

Caffeine is an alkaloid found in coffee, chocolate, kola nut, guarana berries as well as black and green tea. Often it’s found in energy drinks and weight loss pills. It’s stimulating effects are due to its inhibition of adenosine receptors indirectly affecting the release of adrenalin, dopamine, noradrenalin, serotonin, glutamate and GABA. This explains why it makes us feel good and gives us this burst of energy. While there have been benefits associated with caffeine consumption, too much or a sensitivity to caffeine can impact our health. Some effects of caffeine include nervousness, restlessness, increased heartbeat, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, dizziness, heart palpitations and sweating.

Due to everyone’s bio-individuality, caffeine and its effects present differently in each of us. Some people are more sensitive and can’t consume it while others can drink it before bed and sleep soundly. Blood levels peak around 15 – 90 minutes after consumption and can last between 4 to 10 hours, again this depends on an individual’s ability to absorb it through their gut.

So you noticed one of the effects was anxiety right? Well this is due to the inhibition of the adenosine receptors we spoke about earlier. This inhibition stimulates the release of adrenalin and cortisol, the hormones in our fight or flight response, our stress response. This is the same process that happens when we are anxious. There’s an increase in the stress hormones and the heart pumps faster, thoughts flood our brain, breathing quickens and we feel almost hypervigilant.

Therefore if you are suffering from anxiety or you think something in your lifestyle may be exacerbating your anxiety, have a look at your caffeine intake. Some people are drinking 8-12 cups of coffee or black tea a day to get through their workload wondering why they’re feeling burnt out. Maybe you work in a café and drink 6 coffees day (this was me at 18) and wonder why you feel so on edge. Maybe your choice of caffeine is energy drinks throughout the day or with alcohol at night. Others may drink 2 cups and notice some restlessness. So take a look at your caffeine intake and cut down slowly to no more than one a day or eliminate entirely and notice the effect it has on your anxiety, mood and wellbeing. Note that a large takeaway coffee or a long black has two shots so that’s basically two coffees in one.

There are some side effects to caffeine withdrawal such as headaches, irritability, lethargy, constipation and lack of concentration. These only last 1-3 days. During this time stay well hydrated with water, rest and get adequate sleep, boost energy naturally through exercise and enjoy soothing herbal teas like chamomile, lemon, ginger or dandelion.


Words: Danielle – Instagram @the_holistic_pursuit

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *