Caffeine and Stress…How Are They Related?

Recently I’ve been crazy busy lately. Everything is quickly piling up, including full time university, exams, physiotherapy placement, working part time and trying to keep up with my fitness and my personal life. This is the main reason you guys haven’t been hearing from me as frequently, so I do apologize! I know I promised an article on back pain, but I have had another topic on my mind lately that I want to touch on first: Does coffee stress you out? And cause you to drink more coffee? The answer, put simply: yes…depending on who you are.

In simple terms, coffee can cause your body to release hormones called cortisol (Harris, 2007). These are the hormones that are linked to stress. Cortisol isn’t always bad, as it helps to keep you alert, awake and is released when you’re exercising (which we all know is good for us). It can, however, cause you to feel increasingly stressed, fatigued, emotional (which can cause impaired decision making) and anxious.

Luckily (or not so luckily) depending on how you look at it… your body can build tolerance to the effects of increased cortisol as you increase your coffee intake. This, however, also causes the caffeine to have less of an effect on you, ultimately requiring you to drink more in order for it to cause the energizing effect, which is why, I’m sure people drink coffee in the first place.

The reason I am writing this article is because recently I had bought a new pre-workout, which I found to be linked to increased anxiety. This also may be correlated with the fact that I was having this pre workout and coffee daily, as I had to be “awake enough to study for my spinal exams”, which again, contributed to the cycle, as exams=stress. On the days I would consume this pre-workout I had noticed that I overreacted at little things, worried even more about the larger things, and was more prone to panic attacks. Touching on panic attacks, caffeine consumption has been linked to causing unexpected, unexplained panic attacks in high-anxious individuals (Pané-Farré et al., 2015). I now am contemplating whether or not these new panic attacks are related, and if I am one of those vulnerable individuals.

So where does this take us? Well, I am now on day 3 of a caffeine detox, have not felt stressed (despite having reasons that normally would set me off), have not had any panic attacks, and feel surprisingly alright, although I am missing Pumpkin Spice Lattes….t’is the season to be a white girl!

Has anyone else had a similar experience? Have you noticed increased anxiety? Or even just attempted a caffeine detox? Let me know!

References

Harris, A., Ursin, H., Murison, R., & Eriksen, H. R. (2007). Coffee, stress and cortisol in nursing staff. Psychoneuroendocrinology32(4), 322-330.

Pané-Farré, C. A., Alius, M. G., Modeß, C., Methling, K., Blumenthal, T., & Hamm, A. O. (2015). Anxiety sensitivity and expectation of arousal differentially affect the respiratory response to caffeine.Psychopharmacology232(11), 1931-1939.

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