Caffeine & Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder is a mental ailment also known as “manic depression.” It afflicts men, women, and children. The inflicted individual typically experiences extreme highs (manic states) and lows (depression) in mood, energy, sleep, and thought. They may feel energetic, optimistic, and impulsive one day and uninterested, withdrawn, hopeless, and even suicidal the next. Types of bipolar disorder range from mild to severe as well as the frequency of episodes according to gender and age when the illness was first diagnosed.

Manic states tend to encourage a person to engage in risky or unhealthy behavior, such as extreme overspending, dangerous or unsafe activities without regard to proper equipment or training, or drug use. They make grandiose plans and are restless and impulsive. Their mood, however, can suddenly change from happiness and joy to irritation, anger, and hostility.

Conversely, those experiencing episodes of depression may have bouts of uncontrollable crying or difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Depending on the degree of illness, they may gain or lose weight, fade in and out of extended periods of sleep and wakefulness, and generally cloister themselves away from the public, family, and friends. Extreme episodes may find the person at such a “low,” they attempt to inflict physical harm on themselves or others they may blame for their mental and emotional pain.

Mitigating Bipolar Mood Swings by Avoiding Caffeine Stimulants

Bipolar disorder is caused by any number of things including ADHD (attention deficit disorder), PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), environment stressors, brain changes, and genetic predisposition. Drugs, alcohol, unhealthy fatty-food diets, and stimulants, such as caffeine, can trigger and compound bipolar mood swing symptoms.

Stimulants energize and directly elicit more aggressive moods and behavior in all, not just bipolar, individuals. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, soda, and energy drinks. Some over the counter cold and allergy medications contain pseudoephedrine which produces similar caffeine-like affects. These should also be avoided. Although some of those affected with bipolar disorder claim caffeine has no affect on their mood and illness, the majority experience manic periods of heightened energy levels and happiness offset with restlessness, irritability, inability to concentrate, and interrupted sleep or sleep deprivation. Interrupted sleep and sleep deprivation increase the bipolar individual’s tendency toward aggression. They also exhibit a low tolerance for sudden changes, things they consider to be out of their “norm,” or agitating events.

Bipolar specialists recommend no caffeine. At the very least, they suggest avoiding caffeine before bedtime. Caffeine can aggravate other pre-existing illnesses (migraine headaches, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) which may hamper valuable REM sleep. Individuals with severe bipolar symptoms may also experience hallucinations or delusions creeping into interrupted sleep cycles as well as when they are awake. This may cause bad dreams, sleep walking, or subliminal fears that carry over into their waking hours. Objectivity can become clouded and bipolar mood swings that adversely impact one’s functionality are compounded.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "Caffeine & Bipolar Disorder," in, March 6, 2016, (accessed August 9, 2022).