I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I could go a day without at least one cup of coffee. Well, I could, but I simply choose not to. It’s a good source of energy and honestly, is just a great way to start my mornings. That being said, two cups are generally pretty sufficient, as more than that might heighten my already existing anxiety related symptoms. Which begs the questions- how much can coffee really have an effect on your anxiety? Are there benefits to coffee consumption?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes”. It can also promote our “flight or fight response” and caffeine can encourage a similar response, such as making you react differently to situations you might not normally react to. Increased caffeine can also cause symptoms such as:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Agitation

These are just a few side effects of too much caffeine, which are also quite similar to anxiety symptoms. This is why those who already struggle with anxiety or have panic attacks frequently are especially susceptible. That being said, this does not mean you have to stop drinking coffee if you really enjoy it.

Here are some things to remember if you want to keep drinking caffeine, but might be sensitive to it:

1. Be Mindful of Your Coffee Intake. According to the FDA, a daily intake of 400 mg (or approximately 3-4 cups brewed at home) is considered a safe amount. However, if you notice that this amount makes your anxiety worse, maybe decrease it to 1-2 cups. It is also recommended that caffeine consumption stop at least 6 hours before bedtime. Which means if you go to bed at 9 pm, you should stop drinking caffeine around 3 pm. If you find yourself extra sensitive to it, you might want to stop even earlier to avoid disrupting your sleep cycle.

2. Find Alternatives. If you tend to rely on multiple espresso shots or energy drinks throughout, try switching it out for less caffeinated tea or something similar. If you only enjoy coffee or espresso-based drinks, just be mindful of the different variables that can affect it. For example, the brand, type of bean and the way it’s prepared can all have an effect on the caffeine amount. This in turn may have a larger effect on how your body reacts to it.

It is also important to keep in mind that if you are relying on espresso, energy drinks or just plain coffee to stay awake throughout the day, it might be a good idea to focus on the underlying cause of the fatigue. This leads us our final point, which is…

3. Ask Your Doctor. Finally, if you have noticed that even with cutting back on your coffee intake or finding alternatives you are still feeling the effects, it’s important to consult with your doctor. They might recommend other additional alternatives that will suit you and your needs specifically. In addition, they will also probably ask about other habits, such as your sleep schedule, nutrition and daily exercise, as these all play an important role in gaining (and maintaining) energy, as well.

If you find yourself overly sensitive to it or experiencing a negative reaction to coffee, despite trying alternative methods, it might be good to omit it altogether. Everyone has a different tolerance to coffee, whether having anxiety or not, so it’s important to be mindful how your own body reacts. If you are not sure, consult with a doctor, but remember to do what is best for your own well-being.

Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper

Mollie Clupper works for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with her fur-niece.