Caffeine-Induced Anxiety Disorder is characterized by intense feelings of fear or worry due to excessive or persistent caffeine intake over a long period of time. Caffeine is a very common substance used heavily in the United States. From the plentiful amount of soda products to the large scope of coffee shops in the US, daily caffeine consumption is a way of life for many Westerners.

Caffeine affects our bodies by stimulating our sympathetic nervous system. These neurons allow us to experience what is called “fight or flight mode”. This is a large reason as to why people drink caffeine in the morning, to help “perk them up” and to get them energized for the day ahead of them. However, too much caffeine consumed over a long period of time may increase one’s risk for developing caffeine-induced anxiety disorder.

Too much caffeine may make you jittery, nervous, and simply “on edge”. Most “pre-workout” nutritional supplements used for athletes contain high amounts of caffeine in them to help greater stimulate their sympathetic nervous system to get them prepared for competition.

Though caffeine may be very useful for athletes training for a game, college students studying for a test, or merely consuming it as a morning ritual, caffeine has the potential to cause some very severe long lasting effects. Someone with caffeine-induced anxiety disorder may experience symptoms very similar to that of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Symptoms of Caffeine-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Someone suffering from this condition may have difficulty falling or staying asleep. This may be due to their sympathetic nervous system overpowering their parasympathetic nervous system. In such a case, it may cause them to have difficulty with relaxing in general as they may find themselves being “jumpy” or nervous most of the time.

People with caffeine-induced anxiety disorder may be very irritable or experience intense bouts of anger. They may also experience panic attacks insofar as their anxiety is abysmal enough. Like many other substances, people will likely gain a tolerance to caffeine after consuming it daily over a long period of time. So, someone with caffeine-induced anxiety disorder may find themselves inclined to increase the amount of caffeine they consume as time goes on. This will likely exacerbate their symptoms of caffeine-induced anxiety disorder.

They may also find it difficult to cope in their day to day life depending on the severity of their condition. For instance, maintaining relationships may be quite challenging due to their irritable or anxious nature. Someone with caffeine-induced anxiety disorder may experience very severe withdrawals if they were to abruptly stop consuming caffeine. This may entice them to continue consuming it.

Below, you will find some more common symptoms of caffeine-induced anxiety disorder:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Quick to anger
  • Feeling “on edge”
  • Unable to relax

Causes of Caffeine-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Excessive and consistent consumption of caffeine is one of the causes of caffeine-induced anxiety disorder. This, as well as genetics and environment are likely to be very significant causes of this disorder. For instance, if someone has a family history of mental illness, especially with anxiety disorders, then they may have a higher chance of developing caffeine-induced anxiety disorder insofar as they are consuming large amounts of caffeine.

Beverages such as soda, coffee, and tea contain caffeine in them. These beverages are easily accessible and popular in the West. The easy access and inexpensiveness of these products makes it virtually effortless to transition from a causal coffee drinker into a full blown caffeine addict. Though this is an extreme example, it it still quite common among many people.

If someone were to have a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness by having a family history of it, then they may need only experience a traumatic event of some sort for them to develop full blown caffeine-induced anxiety disorder. The traumatic event can be literally anything that they person deems to be traumatizing. So, there is a great deal of subjectivity when it comes to traumatic events.

Though we do not know the exact cause of any given mental disorder, there is an overwhelming consensus among most mental health professionals that believe both genetics and one’s environment play very significant roles. This, as well as consuming excessive amounts of caffeine over a long period of time is likely to be the cause of caffeine-induced anxiety disorder.

Caffeine-Induced Anxiety Disorder Treatment

There is no treatment that is specifically designed for caffeine-induced anxiety disorder. However, reducing the amount of caffeine you consume, engaging in talk therapy, and/or taking psychiatric medication may be able to significantly reduce some of the symptoms associated with this condition. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help treat anxiety disorders such as GAD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others.

Reducing the amount of caffeine you consume is very important for someone with this condition. However, this does not mean that you should simply stop consuming caffeine altogether. Instead, you should talk to your doctor or therapist to figure out what the best course of action is for you. They will likely help you figure out how to ween yourself off of caffeine. But the specifics will depend on many different factors, such as how long you’ve been consuming caffeine, how much, how severe your anxiety is, etc.

CBT may be very advantageous for someone suffering from this disorder as it will allow them to understand how to improve their behavior and how to better cope with their strong emotions. Besides CBT, anti-anxiety medication may also be able to help someone with this condition. However, this is something you will need to discuss with your doctor first.

If you think you may have caffeine-induced anxiety disorder or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms outlined in this article, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, she may refer you to see a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a therapist to better treat your symptoms.