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Can caffeine cause anxiety?

mental healthanxietycaffeinecoffeepanic attack • 1 min read • Apr 17, 2023 8:45:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith

Most people sip their morning cup of coffee without a second thought. However, it’s important to recognize that coffee—along with tea, sodas, and energy drinks—contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that can affect your physical and mental health. Consuming too much caffeine can lead to symptoms like those of generalized anxiety disorder, including panic attacks, insomnia, headaches, and nervousness.

Understanding the effects of caffeine

Caffeine affects the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s fight or flight response. When this response is triggered, the body responds in different ways, such as with muscle tension, increased respiration, heightened blood pressure, and feelings of nervousness or fear. These sensations are also common in individuals with anxiety, meaning they may be amplified by caffeine consumption. Caffeine also disrupts sleep, and long-term use of caffeine can permanently alter brain excitability. Additionally, some studies indicate that caffeine may interact with various anxiety medications, altering their effectiveness or worsening potential side effects. Therefore, if you have anxiety, limiting caffeine use may be beneficial for managing your symptoms.

How much coffee is too much?

You may not have to give up your morning cup of coffee just yet. In low doses, caffeine is not as likely to cause extreme symptoms. When you consume 4-5 cups of coffee or multiple energy drinks in a single day, however, you may start to experience problems. The timing of your caffeine consumption also makes a difference. Limiting caffeine use to the morning can reduce the effects it has on your nightly sleep.

If you are struggling with anxiety, help isn’t out of reach. Walmart Health Virtual Care provides telehealth behavioral health visits to allow you to receive talk therapy from the comfort of your home or office. We can pair you with a licensed therapist in as little as 72 hours.

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Kat Smith