An excessive intake of caffeine is suspected to raise the level of anxiety and stress. So, let’s find out whether caffeine can really increase the level of anxiety, or it is just another speculation not backed by enough scientific evidence.
Caffeine is actually a naturally occurring xanthine alkaloid that can stimulate the central nervous system. In fact, it considered a psychoactive substance by many, due to its effects on the central nervous system, and its ability to alter mood and alertness.
People basically drink caffeinated beverages to increase mental alertness, and combat fatigue and drowsiness. However, recent studies have pointed out that excessive and prolonged use of this organic compound can have several adverse effects on the body, and anxiety is one of them.
Can Caffeine Induce Anxiety Attacks?
Anxiety is basically a condition, where an individual experiences nervousness. Anxiety attacks are usually characterized by sudden and intense periods of nervousness, fear, and apprehensions. An excessive intake of caffeine can increase the level of anxiety in people, who do not have any anxiety disorders. But, it can induce anxiety or panic attacks in an individual who is already suffering from an anxiety disorder.
In general, it can stimulate the central nervous system by affecting the level of brain chemicals. It basically suppresses the chemical, known as adenosine, that acts as a tranquilizer. Adenosine is known to slow down the activities of the nerve cells, and thereby induce drowsiness. Caffeine blocks the action of adenosine, by binding with the adenosine receptors. But unlike adenosine, it increases the activities of the nerve cells. This is the reason why it can increase mental alertness. However, the same action can raise the level of anxiety, and can cause some other side effects.
After consuming caffeinated beverages, some people can experience an increase in their heart rate to the extent that they may feel their heart pounding or racing. At the same time, caffeine can induce nervousness, which can also increase the level of anxiety. It can also stimulate the adrenal glands to release stress hormones. The excessive secretion of stress hormones over a period of time can cause several problems, including anxiety. This compound can also trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response of the body. The excessive use of caffeine, and the over-stimulation of ‘fight or flight’ response can eventually raise the level of anxiety.
Dangers of Caffeine
The excessive intake of caffeinated beverages can exacerbate anxiety and stress in individuals who are already suffering from an anxiety disorder. Caffeine can increase the likelihood of experiencing panic attacks by such individuals. It can also cause insomnia, which can further aggravate the problem of anxiety and stress.
However, it is not the only factor that can trigger an anxiety attack. In fact, there are several other factors, such as a poor diet and lack of enough sleep, which can induce panic attacks. So, the effects of caffeine on the level of anxiety can depend on such factors as well. People predisposed to anxiety disorders can experience symptoms, like increased heart rate, nervousness, sweaty palms, tremulous, etc, after consuming caffeinated beverages in excess.
It is important to keep in mind that the effects of caffeine are not same for all individuals. Every individual responds differently to this substance. Moreover, the amount of caffeine that can be tolerated without experiencing any adverse effect can vary from one individual to another. In general, it should be taken in moderation. People with anxiety disorders on the other hand, should better avoid the food and beverages that contain a high level of this organic compound, or talk to their physicians in this regard.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.