If caffeine is the number-one reason you're able to present yourself as a functioning human being Monday to Friday at your full-time job or in front of your family, you're not alone. More than 64 percent of Americans say they drink at least one cup of coffee every single day. Whether you stick to just one cup or make sure there's enough caffeine to fuel you until it's time for bed, you might have another reason to thank your lucky stars that caffeine exists.
Health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics Caleb Backe says that many think that caffeinated drinks should be avoided when it comes to anxiety. But for some people, that's not the case.
"Caffeine helps the brain release dopamine (aka the feel-good chemical) into the area of the brain important for mood regulation," says Backe. "It also helps store dopamine in the amygdala, a part of the brain important for anxiety regulation. The chemical dopamine is usually low in people with anxiety and depression. Since caffeine helps raise the dopamine levels, it in turn helps positively affect their mood and helps them feel happier and less anxious."
While caffeine can help some people with anxiety, it can also make others with anxiety even more panicky and anxious.
Dr. Sal Raichbach, PsyD, LCSW, of Ambrosia Treatment Center, suggests that overdoing the caffeine may actually make your anxious jitters even worse.
"Moderation is key, and if you find yourself feeling anxious or nervous after a cup of coffee, it's wise to cut back," says Dr. Raichbach. "If a cup of coffee is too much, green tea is a healthier and less-caffeinated option. The benefits of caffeine occur in the lower-dose range, so starting low and working your way up is the best way to find the proper amount. Every person responds to caffeine differently."
Backe says that even for those it helps, long-term coffee consumption will still lead to burnout in people who are already depleted and deficient.
"There can be other negative side effects to overconsumption of caffeine, such as fluctuating blood sugar levels, which can raise anxiety levels and insomnia," says Backe. "Poor sleep promotes depression and anxiety in predisposed individuals. Most people are good with two cups of coffee per day. Any more than that tends to make people with anxiety even more anxious."