Sixty-four percent of Americans over 18 drink coffee at least once a day, so it’s safe to say that the most popular non-alcoholic drink in the US is coffee. This is why you see a coffee shop on every corner of the street.
You drink coffee because it makes you feel alive. It makes you feel like you’re ready to start your day, or it gives you a boost to get overtime work done.
But what if a cup of coffee does not have the same effect on you? The effects of caffeine can last up to six hours, but when your caffeine tolerance has built up over time, you are going to feel like you need stronger and more coffee. This article will discuss all things related to coffee, such as the answers to the following questions:
- What is caffeine, and what does it do?
- What is caffeine tolerance, and what should you do if you have built-up caffeine tolerance?
- Is there a relationship between too much caffeine intake and depression?
- Can excessive caffeine consumption affect mental well-being?
- Is it advisable to stop drinking coffee?
Before anything else, here’s what you should know about caffeine: everyone reacts differently to it. Some may have built-up tolerance and drink up to 7 cups of coffee a day, while some may function well the whole day even with just one cup, and some do not need caffeine at all to get through the day. It’s going to be different for everybody. Read further if you’re a coffee lover and are worried that too much coffee can affect your mental well-being.
What Does Caffeine Do?
Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system. That is why 15 minutes after drinking coffee, you feel alert, more awake, have increased energy, and improved concentration. Many of us drink coffee to start our day or deal with sleepiness after lunch at work for this reason.
Just like any food or beverage, having too much of something is never good. Caffeine has unpleasant side effects like gastric problems, rapid heartbeat, jitters, irritability, anxiety, and sleeping problems.
Caffeine is not only found in coffee; it can also be found in other beverages and supplements. One cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine. It is better to know which ones contain caffeine. Here’s what you need to know:
- Tea: Tea also contains caffeine. Black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong tea contain caffeine. However, herbal teas like ginger, chamomile, and peppermint do not contain caffeine.
- Soda: Yes, soda contains caffeine, so better lay off soda at dinner. One can of Coke contains 29 mg of caffeine, while Mountain Dew in the same amount contains 55 mg of caffeine.
- Chocolate: Chocolate is a great source of caffeine. It can be in the form of hot chocolate, a chocolate dessert, or a chilled beverage.
- Energy Drinks: Energy drinks like Gatorade also contain high amounts of caffeine. Can you believe that 1 cup of energy drink has 85 mg of caffeine? That’s equivalent to two cups of coffee.
- Supplements: Caffeine can also be found in different supplements like weight loss pills and workout supplements. That’s why those who go to the gym drink energizing supplements that contain caffeine and green tea for optimal performance during workouts.
As mentioned earlier, everybody reacts differently to caffeine. Some are particularly sensitive, and some are not.
Here is the reason why others react too much to caffeine, while others are not so affected by it anymore. The body has adenosine receptors, to which caffeine binds.
Each person has a different genetic makeup. The caffeine may bind well for some, which means the caffeine will have an effect on their bodies. However, some people’s receptors are not that “sticky,” which is why caffeine does not have much effect on them.
You may build up a tolerance to caffeine if you consume caffeinated beverages on a regular basis,. This is what you call caffeine tolerance. Once the body builds up caffeine tolerance, it will start to manufacture extra adenosine receptors because the existing receptors in the body are already clogged with caffeine.
There are other people who drink more caffeinated drinks when they feel like it doesn’t give them enough kick. Some drink more coffee to have more energy and stay awake. Do you know people who drink coffee even before bedtime but still can sleep well? This is probably because they have built up a tolerance to caffeine.
Many people ask if there is no correlation between too much caffeine consumption and increased risk for depression. There are no studies to back the theory that too much caffeine can produce depressive symptoms. In fact, what existing research says is quite the opposite.
Research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who drink one or more servings of coffee per day have a reduced risk of depression and decreased risk of suicide. Studies suggest that caffeine may increase dopamine levels in the brain, the neurotransmitter that makes a person feel happy.
However, individuals who have existing mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may experience worsen their condition if they consume too much caffeine. For instance, a person diagnosed with depression may already have sleeping problems, so drinking too much coffee will make them more sleepless. The lack of sleep, in turn, can worsen the depression.
People with depression who have problems falling asleep should consider limiting caffeine intake and seeing improvements in their sleeping patterns. Abruptly stopping caffeine consumption can also worsen depression, and the withdrawal symptoms may be unpleasant.
Caffeine withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, headaches, low energy, anxiety, poor concentration, irritability, and depressive mood. The symptoms can last for 2–9 days.
Do not stop consuming caffeine abruptly if you regularly drink caffeinated beverages; rather, do it gradually. For instance, if you consume 3 cups of coffee per day, cut it down to 2 cups of coffee a day. After a few days, reduce it further to one cup. Switch to decaf (which still contains some caffeine) before completely getting off coffee.
Drinking too many caffeinated beverages can result in caffeine-induced anxiety. Again, this will depend on your tolerance level.
However, those with existing anxiety disorders who consume caffeine may experience worsened anxiety symptoms. If you have a history of anxiety or panic attacks and consume caffeine in excess, it could trigger another anxiety attack. It is better to see a mental health professional if you’re concerned with this.
As mentioned earlier, coffee, cocoa, tea, etc., may have a positive impact on a person’s mental well-being, thanks to caffeine’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Caffeine can block receptors from binding with chemicals that cause feelings of fatigue and depression. Having your caffeine fix can improve alertness, but having too much can lead to negative effects like:
- Inability to sleep at night
- Stomach upset
- Urinating all the time
- Muscle twitching
- Rambling words
- Rapid heartbeat
- Inability to relax
- Increased anxiety
Here’s the thing. No one can tell if you should stop drinking coffee or not because this is all up to you. Just remember that too much of something is not always good, so the decision is completely up to you.
Some people experience decreased alertness and cannot function well every day without their caffeine fix. The lack of dopamine and adrenaline can also make some feel weak. Going caffeine-free can lead to a lack of concentration, affecting your everyday performance at work or school.
However, if you have an existing mental health concern and are experiencing the negative effects of excessive caffeine consumption, maybe it’s time to think and cut back on caffeinated drinks. Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can negatively affect sleep quality. Caffeine can affect the natural rhythm of melatonin and cortisol levels in the body, as both hormones determine when and how much you sleep.
If you’re worried about too much caffeine consumption and are experiencing symptoms of depression or other mental issues, it is best to seek help from a mental health provider. Ask your counselor or therapist how you can overcome this. Maybe you’re having sleeping problems, and there’s a deeper reason behind it, not just the caffeine you consume.
If you have depression and can’t seem to stop drinking coffee, talk to a therapist at Kentucky Counseling Center. Our trained therapists can determine whether you really have caffeine dependence or a sleeping disorder, so book a consultation now.