The Dangers of Caffeine for
Over forty research studies have shown
that excessive caffeine can be harmful to your health.
Here are just a few of the effects
that caffeine can cause in the general population:
-- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
-- Flushed face
-- Twitching or trembling
-- Distracted thoughts and speech
-- Physical agitation
-- Mood swings
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
That's right. They are "fight or
flight" reactions designed to protect you from harm. Excessive amounts
of caffeine can trigger the body's fight or flight response even though
no real danger exists.
This overactive fight or flight
response can contribute to anxiety.
Caffeine Provokes Anxiety,
Insomnia, and Panic Attacks
Caffeine holds a special danger for anxiety sufferers, and particularly
for people with panic disorder.
Studies on caffeine and anxiety
sufferers have shown that caffeine can:
-- Increase anxiety in anxiety sufferers.
-- Cause insomnia (lack of sleep can
promote panic attacks in people that are susceptible to panic attacks).
-- Provoke panic attacks in people
that have panic disorder.
Caffeine -- One of Several
Anxiety disorders are caused by several triggers, such as stress
overload, poor diet, environmental factors, genetics, and negative
thought patterns working together over time.
Keep in mind that caffeine is not the
only thing responsible for causing panic attacks. It is only one of
Don't expect your panic attacks or anxiety to go away completely simply
by eliminating caffeine. Many other triggers can also contribute to
panic attacks, which is why it's important to live, think, and act in
ways that create an anxiety-free lifestyle.
How caffeine affects you on a particular occasion depends on how many
other potential triggers are present and how intense they are.
For example, two cups of caffeinated
coffee may not increase your anxiety level when you're sleeping enough,
eating well, and relaxing regularly.
However, the same two cups of coffee might provoke a panic attack on a
day when you slept five hours the night before, skipped breakfast, and
experience a great deal of stress at work.
Consider Eliminating Caffeine
Because caffeine has been shown to provoke panic attacks in people with
panic disorder, many specialists suggest that people with panic
disorder eliminate caffeine from their diets entirely.
In many of these studies, the people that did not suffer from panic
disorder did not experience a panic attack after consuming large
amounts of caffeine. Only the ones suffering from panic disorder did.
And it took less caffeine to affect
the anxiety sufferers than the control group.
The choice is up to you. Some people find that the improved feelings
resulting from eliminating caffeine far outweigh any benefit it
If you do quit caffeine, make sure to
taper off slowly and under the advice of a physician to avoid
withdrawal symptoms, such as headache and fatigue.
Effect of Caffeine Varies by
Caffeine does not affect all people the same way. It's important to
"know thyself" and tune in to the effect caffeine has on YOU.
The way to do this is to slowly
decrease or eliminate the caffeine in your diet and note if there's any
difference in how you feel and act.
Find a level of caffeine that works for you without causing increased
anxiety. (Do this under a doctor's supervision.) Because caffeine's
effects vary by individual, only you can decide what's too much for you.
Sticking with Caffeine? Make
Moderation Your Motto
For those of you that decide to keep caffeine in your diet, make
moderation your new motto. Here are several tips to help you reduce
your caffeine intake and enjoy it more safely.
-- Reduce Portions
Do you really need three cups of coffee to enjoy the flavor? Try one
instead. Do you really need a full-sized candy bar at break? Eat one
bite-sized candy bar instead.
-- Keep Other Anxiety Triggers in Check
Look at the BIG picture when you're considering how much caffeine to
have on a given day. Before grabbing that extra caffeinated beverage,
consider how many of these other anxiety triggers are present first and
decrease your caffeine intake accordingly:
-- Excessive stress
-- Physical symptoms (overactive fight or flight response)
-- Less than eight hours of sleep
-- Lack of regular aerobic exercise (thirty minutes or more at least
three times a week)
-- Ignoring anxiety instead of addressing it immediately
-- Shallow chest breathing
-- Ignoring or "stuffing" undesirable feelings
-- Negative, obsessive, or "dead-end" thought patterns
-- Taking medications that, contain or interact with, caffeine
-- Eat a Protein with the Caffeine
Excessive caffeine can drop blood sugar levels and create a "roller
coaster" effect of physical symptoms. Eat a piece of cheese, nuts,
chicken, or other lean unprocessed meat with your caffeine to help
minimize adverse effects.
-- Read the Medication Label
Caffeine is present in many over-the-counter medications, such as pain
relievers, medicines for migraine headaches, and antihistamines for
colds and allergies. Many prescription medications also contain
Ask your doctor about alternative products that do not contain
caffeine. If changing medications is not an option, make a special
effort to reduce the caffeine you consume in other items while you're
taking the medication.
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Repich is the Founder of the National Institute of Anxiety and
Stress, Inc. An anxiety educator, teacher, and former anxiety
sufferer, she created the Conquer Your Anxiety Success Program, a
simple, action-oriented "how-to" course that has helped thousands
across the globe conquer their anxiety.
for Creating a Healthy, Anxiety-Free Life"
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