Recently, I’ve decided to stop drinking coffee. While I’ve always been more of a casual and intermittent coffee-drinker, coffee in all its magical caffeine glory has been a pretty handy tool, particularly when combating long days, late nights, and way-too-early mornings.
So why did I stop drinking coffee? In addition to the fun and useful jolts of energy, I also experienced some adverse side-effects, including: shakiness in hands, feeling lightheaded, dehydration, lightheadedness.
It took me a while to realize that coffee was causing these side-effects, and then even longer to make the decision to stop drinking it. I thought, what’s the harm? A little shakiness isn’t so bad.
However, I quickly realized all of these adverse side-effects were eerily similar to many I experience when I have anxiety: a certain jitteriness, inability to focus, not feeling present in my body. So, I went online to see if anyone else was experiencing anything similar. Little did I know, many people were!
In an article on Psychology Today, writer Jennifer Garam describes how she hoped quitting coffee would cure her anxiety. She explains how the symptoms of coffee and anxiety felt the same for her – and in response, how she quit coffee, hoping it would ease her anxiety symptoms.
While quitting coffee certainly did not cure her anxiety, she writes, quitting coffee did make small improvements, leave her feeling more calm, and not exacerbate her anxiety symptoms. ….Even if she still often lusts after the caffeinated beverage. Sara over at SaraLaughed.com had a different experience on her coffee detox. She struggled to get through the coffee withdrawal headaches, wasn’t satiated by tea, and did not see any huge improvements (except that she slept better off of coffee).
Sara does reflect on how she realized her coffee addiction was psychological as well as physical, saying that “Part of the reason that I missed coffee was because I associated it with my favorite parts of the day — getting to work, taking a break, or relaxing in the evening … I felt like I needed it in order to work hard, stay focused, achieve my work goals. Realistically, no amount of caffeine can do that for me, but in my mind, coffee played an integral part in achieving those things.”
In addition to personal anecdotes, I also came across formal research about the connection between caffeine and anxiety. On the Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria, Inc. website, a volunteer named Jess summarized a ADAVIC study in her article “Is caffeine contributing to your anxiety?”.
She writes, “One study specifically evaluated the effects of caffeine on those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The results of this study suggested that not only did caffeine contribute to symptoms of anxiety but also those that experience Generalized Anxiety Disorder may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others (Bruce, Scott, Shine, & Lader, 1992).” The National Center for Biotechnology Information also gave me access to a study on “Anxiety and caffeine consumption in people with anxiety disorders.“ The study found that people with more severe anxiety were indeed more sensitive to caffeine than people with less severe anxiety.
Alternatively, there are many clinical studies about the positive side-effects of coffee. The Harvard University Health Blog cites several studies regarding these potential health benefits. The article asserts that coffee drinkers may have reduced risks of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, gout, cirrhosis, Parkinson’s disease, and uterine and liver cancer.
The Rush University Medical Center blog also cited similar coffee benefits, adding that coffee may reduce melanoma risk and slow the progress of dementia. What’s important to note is both of these articles emphasized the importance of drinking coffee in moderation, and how consuming coffee in excess may lead to side-effects like insomnia or acid reflux.