If you are a consumer of caffeine, and a panic attack or anxiety sufferer, then you might consider this article an important one.
Caffeine’s effects include stimulation of the central nervous system (CNS) and stimulation of cardiac muscle. The stimulatory effect on the heart can even result in tachycardia at high doses. Caffeine has been suggested to lead to the “jitters”, headaches, irritability, confusion, muscle aches, heartburn, increased blood pressure and other effects on the body. I can’t imagine that someone suffering from anxiety would find such things very appealing.
You might be asking the question: is there really such a thing as a caffeine panic attack?
Essentially the answer is yes. In fact, four caffeine-related syndromes were recognized in DSM–IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994): caffeine intoxication; caffeine-induced anxiety disorder; caffeine-induced sleep disorder; and caffeine-related disorder not otherwise specified. The current DSM-5 recognizes caffeine-induced anxiety disorder.
While you might be able to consume caffeine in moderation, it’s important to become aware of all of the foods and drinks that contain caffeine, and to consider the level of caffeine in each of these foods and drinks.
For instance, just consider the following caffeine levels, according to the Mayo Clinic:
brewed cup 8 oz of coffee: 95-200 mg
green tea: 14-40 mg
cola: 30-40 mg
black tea: 14-61 mg
energy drinks such as Red Bull: 80 mg
Now, I used to drink at least 6-8 cups a day, before I was really effected by panic disorder. At one point, after being diagnosed with panic disorder, I gave up all coffee. Eventually, once my anxiety improved, I went back to about 2 cups a day. Two cups a day are fine for me. I find that by having 2 cups in the morning, I can then transition to a cup of green tea later in the morning, then a cup of green tea in the afternoon, and one in the early evening (though it may not be good for some folks to have any green tea even early in the evening).
By drinking water throughout the day, this helps to fill any gaps between green tea and coffee, and I find that I am not craving any other drinks throughout the day, such as juice or pop. I also notice that my energy levels are much better. There might be the odd day when I have a little more caffeine, through an additional cup of coffee, but those days have become quite rare, since I can feel the tension in my body start to increase, if I have that extra cup of coffee.
Reducing your caffeine anxiety by decreasing your intake
I certainly don’t recommend that you quit caffeine “cold turkey” but that you gradually reduce your caffeine intake levels, especially if you are consuming high amounts. The Mayo Clinic indicates that you might consider reducing your intake of caffeine if you are consuming more than 500 mg of caffeine per day (you can click here for a more detailed listing of caffeine levels than provided in the outline above). However, I would suggest that, ultimately, you have to determine your own tolerance levels to caffeine (versus what others might recommend as an acceptable level)
If you are tapering down your caffeine levels, you should remember that caffeine is a drug, so you will likely go through some withdrawal symptoms when levels are reduced or cut out.
Withdrawal symptoms have been reported in both humans and animals. Such as: headache, irritability, sleeplessness, confusion, nausea, restlessness and tremor, palpitations and raised blood pressure.
But, I’m sure that your motivation to recover from panic attacks is stronger, and you can clearly see the benefits to cutting down your caffeine intake.
How do you kick the habit or reduce your amounts of coffee?
By doing these two things:
1. becoming aware of all your sources of caffeine, and
2. having an alternative such as green tea.
Why green tea?
Because, while it has some caffeine, it’s not nearly as much as coffee. As mentioned, while a brewed cup 8 oz of coffee has about 95-200 mg of caffeine, green tea has about 14-40 mg of caffeine only.
Also green tea contains something conducive to health called theanine.
So what is the ultimate message about caffeine anxiety and panic attacks?
In sum, you should carry out an inventory of your caffeine levels and ensure that you are not getting too much. And, consider green tea if you want to consume a healthier alternative to coffee.
Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more. Mayo Clinic.
Retrieved January 28, 2013, from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/AN01211
The Effects of Caffeine on the Body
Retrieved July 10, 2016, from:
Hardwick E., Jaberi, N. & Winston A., (2005). Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine. advances in psychiatric treatment. 11, 432-439. doi: 10.1192/apt.11.6.432