Does Caffeine Cause Anxiety & Depression?

Caffeinated beverages are consumed daily by multitudes of people around the world. The substance helps us feel more alert and energized after first awakening. Research indicates that caffeine also improves mental and physical performance. While caffeine effects are more easily recognized when the mind and body at varying levels of fatigue, the effects of the chemical compound are also generally noticed during waking hours. Unfortunately, caffeine has the ability to cause a number of undesirable effects that include mood changes.

Anxiety and Irritability

Caffeine acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system and on the brain in particular. The substance signals the brain to release the neurotransmitters dopamine, norephinephrine and serotonin. Chemical processes also alert the adrenal glands to emit adrenaline. When these compounds are abundantly flowing through the body, caffeine drinkers feel agitated, anxiety-ridden and sometimes irritable. The more caffeine an individual consumes, the more intense the feelings become. Some people are more susceptible to the effects of caffeine than others. A study revealed that in one study, people consuming 1,000 milligrams of caffeine during the day exhibited symptoms that were similar to clinical anxiety disorders. This amount of caffeine is equivalent to drinking 10 cups of coffee.

Depression

Though not too many studies have researched the topic, evidence exists that equates caffeine consumption with depression. While caffeine remains in the body, there are sufficient amounts of neurotransmitters to interfere with the possibility of experiencing depression. One U.S. study of 800 adult women revealed that the individuals who chose to consume caffeine daily were less likely to suffer from depression. As the amount of coffee consumption increased, the rates of depression decreased. However, consuming more than 400 milligrams per day begins to cause negative mood effects.

Similar to the effects people feel when blood sugar levels drop below normal, caffeine crashes may also lead to depression. Unless continually replenished throughout the day, caffeine levels typical drop dramatically after approximately three hours. Caffeine also increases insulin levels, which lowers blood sugar and adds to the mood altering effects.

Signs of an Emotional Downfall

If experiencing changes in sleep patterns, have difficulty focusing, concentrating or start feeling hopeless, caffeine consumption may be the cause. Other symptoms of depression include unusual feelings of aggression, irritability, sadness or an onslaught of negative thoughts. While some of the symptoms may occur from time to time, when depression symptoms continue on a long-term basis, caffeine might be the cause. Individuals should try giving up caffeinated beverages for at least one week and see if symptoms begin diminishing. Eat healthy from breakfast and throughout the day to keep blood sugars level. If depression signs and symptoms persist despite stopping the caffeine habit, consider consulting with a health care professional.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "Does Caffeine Cause Anxiety & Depression?," in PsychologyDictionary.org, March 6, 2016, https://psychologydictionary.org/article/does-caffeine-cause-anxiety-depression/ (accessed September 21, 2019).
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