64% of Americans over 18 drink coffee at least once a day. It’s safe to say that the most popular non-alcoholic drink in the U.S. is coffee. No wonder why you can see a coffee shop on every corner of the street. When you drink coffee because it makes you feel alive, you’re ready to start your day, or it gives you a boost to get over the overtime at work. 

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 feel like you need stronger and more coffee, right? In this article, you will learn more facts about coffee: 

  • 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? 
  • If it is advisable to stop drinking coffee

Before anything else, here’s what you should know about caffeine: everyone reacts differently to caffeine. 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, while some do not need caffeine to get through the day. It’s going to be different for everybody. If you’re a coffee lover and are worried that too much coffee drinking can affect your mental well-being, you should read this.

What Does Caffeine Do?

Caffeine acts as a stimulant of the central nervous system. That is why 15 minutes after drinking coffee, you feel alert, more awake, have increased energy, and more concentration. That’s why many of us drink coffee to start our day or deal with sleepiness after lunch at work. 

Just like any food or beverage, having too much of something is never good. Caffeine has its unpleasant side effects, too, like gastric problems, rapid heartbeat, jitters, irritability, anxiety, and may cause sleeping problems. 

It’s Not Just Coffee That HAS Caffeine, There’s More

Caffeine is not only found in coffee; it can be found in other beverages and supplements as well. One cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine. It is better to know which ones contain caffeine. Here’s what you should 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, especially for the kids. For instance, one can of Coke contains 29 mg of caffeine, while mountain dew of the same amount contains 55 mg of caffeine. 
  • Chocolate: Chocolate is a great source of caffeine. It can be hot chocolate, a chocolate dessert, or a chocolate drink. 
  • 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 pre-workout supplements that contain caffeine and green tea for optimal performance during workouts. 

Caffeine Tolerance: Drinking a Cup of Coffee Doesn’t Seem to Affect Me Anymore; What Does It Mean?

As mentioned earlier, everybody reacts differently to caffeine consumption. Some are particularly sensitive, and some are not. Here is the reason why others react too much to caffeine, while for others, it does not affect them anymore. The body has adenosine receptors, and this is where caffeine binds to. Each person has a different genetic build-up; for some, it may bind well, which the coffee will take effect. While some, the receptors are not that “sticky” that caffeine does not have any effect on them. 

Build-up of Tolerance

If you consume caffeinated beverages on a regular basis, you may build up a tolerance. This is what you call caffeine tolerance. Once the body builds up caffeine tolerance, the body will start to manufacture extra adenosine receptors because the existing receptors in the body are already clogged with caffeine. 

There are other persons who drink more caffeinated drinks when they feel like it doesn’t take effect on them. 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 tolerance. 

Is Too Much Caffeine Intake A Risk Of Depression?

Many people ask if there is no correlation between too much caffeine consumption and if it increases the risk of depression. The truth is, there are no proven studies to back that too much caffeine can produce depressive symptoms. In fact, it’s the opposite. 

Research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that those who drink one or more coffee per day have a reduced risk of depression and decreased risk of suicide. Studies suggest that caffeine may increase the dopamine levels in the brain, which makes a person feel happy. 

To Those With Existing Mental Health Disorders Like Depression

However, to those individuals who have existing mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, intake of too much caffeine may worsen it. For instance, a person diagnosed with depression may already have sleeping problems, drinking too much coffee may worsen it. The lack of sleep may worsen the condition. 

People with depression who are having problems falling asleep should consider limiting caffeine intake and seeing improvements in the sleeping patterns. Abruptly stopping the consumption of caffeine can also worsen depression, and the withdrawal symptoms may be unpleasant. 

Caffeine Withdrawal

Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include fatigue, headache, low energy, anxiety, poor concentration, irritability, and depressive mood. The symptoms can last for 2-9 days. If you regularly drink caffeinated beverages, do not stop abruptly; rather, do it gradually. For instance, if you consume 3 cups of coffee per day, start to cut down with 2 cups of coffee a day and schedule them appropriately. 

Can Caffeine Cause Anxiety?

Drinking too many caffeinated beverages can result in caffeine-induced anxiety, again this will depend on your tolerance. However, those with existing anxiety disorders who consume caffeine may have worsened anxiety symptoms. If you have a history of anxiety or panic attacks and consumed caffeine in excess, it could trigger another anxiety attack. It is better to see a mental health professional if you’re concerned with this.

Effects Of Caffeine On The Mental Health

As mentioned earlier, coffee, caffeine, tea, etc., may have a positive impact on a person’s mental well-being. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Caffeine can block receptors to bind with chemicals that cause feelings of fatigue and depression. Having your caffeine fix can improve alertness, but having too much, you can feel negative effects like:

Negative side effects of having too much coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages: 

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Unable to sleep at night
  • Stomach upset
  • Urinating all the time
  • Muscle twitching
  • Rambling words
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Unable to relax
  • Increased anxiety

Is It Advisable To Stop Drinking Coffee?

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; the same goes for food. You can’t have ice cream every day for three times a day, right? So this is at your discretion. 

Others may experience feelings of decreased alertness and unable to function well every day without the caffeine fix. The lack of dopamine and adrenaline can make others feel weak. The worse is there can be a lack of concentration that may affect your everyday performance at work or school. 

However, if you have an existing mental health concern and are experiencing negative effects of too much caffeine consumed, maybe it’s time to think and cut back on the caffeinated drinks. Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can negatively affect quality sleep. Caffeine can affect the natural rhythm of melatonin and cortisol levels in the body, which are the natural sleeping hormones of the body. 

Final Thoughts

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 seem to stop drinking coffee, talk to a therapist at Kentucky Counseling Center. Perhaps it’s not the coffee, and it might be a sleeping disorder, so talk to your therapist about this as well. 

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