I suffer from anxiety and depression. These are issues that influence my life on a daily basis, so I am quite attuned to them. I started to notice that sometimes, while I was drinking coffee, I would begin to have those tell-tale feelings of anxiety, and it made me wonder if it was the coffee triggering these attacks. After doing a little research, I found that I am not the only one out there who suffers from this specific problem.
Coffee has been becoming more and more popular. It is now considered stylish to be walking down the street with a disposable Starbucks or Dunkin cup in our hands. They can be found all over Instagram as proof. Coffee shops are where people go to catch up with friends, study, have meetings, and more. With this new societal norm in mind, researchers have become increasingly concerned with caffeine’s role in panic and other anxiety disorders. Roland Griffiths, PhD, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says, “People often see coffee, tea, and soft drinks simply as beverages rather than vehicles for a psychoactive drug. But caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and panic disorders.”
How, you may ask. Caffeine works by blocking the depressant function of a chemical called adenosine. For most people, the result is a pleasurable feeling of energy and the ability to focus (Vogin para. 7). However, that same energy-inducing drug can cause the jitters. In people predisposed to anxiety disorders, caffeine can trigger increased heart rate, sweaty palms, ringing ears, all leading to a full blown panic attack (Vogin para. 8). So why does caffeine make some of us feel great and induce panic in others? People with anxiety disorders experience caffeine’s affects as signs of impending doom. This then allows their anxiety to take over.
One study has found that, among healthy college students, moderate and high level coffee drinkers scored higher on a depression scale than low users (Murray para. 2). Several other studies have found that caffeine intake has been positively correlated with the degree of mental illness in psychiatric patients, especially related to panic disorders and depression (Murray para. 3).
Of course, these study results could also be due to chance. It is possible that caffeine had nothing to do with it, but my personal experience leads me to believe these results are accurate. If these results are wrong, they are a false positive. In class, Andrew talked about the harmful affects of sugary drinks. It is important to remember that the caffeine in these drinks can be harmful also.