Caffeine and Mental Health

Let’s face it, nowadays, almost everyone is a coffee drinker, whether it be for the taste, the ‘cool’ factor, or for that sweet burst of energy. With all of these coffee drinkers it’s expected that there are a lot of opinions on if coffee is good or bad for you. While there may be quite a bit of health benefits to what you do or do not put in your coffee, such as sugar, cream, syrups or even cinnamon, we should also consider the health benefits of just black coffee itself.

We also often overlook the benefits or impacts on your mental and brain health coffee has. Obviously, there are a few obvious effects that coffee has such as stimulation and alertness, but what about long-term effects such as those towards depression and anxiety? Not to mention, coffee, or caffeine rather, is technically a drug, so what about the effects of withdrawal on your body.

Let’s start with the good.

In recent studies, and one particularly from the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, caffeine has causes the direct response of motivation, alertness, and anti-depressive effects. This is because caffeine is a psycho-stimulant causing your body and brain to want to ‘get things going’. Further, caffeine is known for binding to adenosine receptors and blocking them. If that last sentence was gibberish to you, that’s fine: basically, caffeine stops the hormone that causes drowsiness and a lack of motivation and energy – meaning, your awake, alert, and ready to get shi– I mean, stuff done.

One last thing, coffee is a social beverage. That being said, it’s a great excuse to grab your friends that you may not have seen in a while, meet at your local coffee shop, and talk it all out. It’s a way to keep you out of your room and get you out of the house.

But what about those that battle anxiety? Is coffee good or bad?

The truth is, there isn’t a definitive answer. Those with anxiety tend to feel stress and nervousness at any given time and more often than not, feel almost a weight on their shoulders. Caffeine isn’t necessarily beneficial towards these feelings. This is because caffeine is a stimulant that increases heart rate, blood pressure and can lead to extreme levels of stress hormones in your body.

Now this doesn’t mean if you’re struggling with anxiety or stress that you should give up coffee altogether, it just means you should know your limit and stay within it.

Last but not least, have you ever tried to give up coffee? Or accidentally skipped your morning ‘spro? You might have felt a few of these things…

The number one effect from caffeine withdrawal is a headache – this is because caffeine narrows your blood vessels in your brain, with the absence of caffeine there is a sudden flow of blood to your brain which can cause a headache until your brain adapts to the change, or until your next fix.

Next is irritability. We’ve all seen those t-shirts and mugs that say something like “give me my coffee and no one gets hurt”. Well, there’s a reason those sayings fall true: without your mood-boosting beverage, you’re most likely going to feel angry or ‘moody’.

If you’re thinking of cutting out coffee, try going slow and not attempting the cold turkey technique. Also, make sure you’re staying hydrated and getting the right amount of sleep!

In the end, it’s important to know yourself and your body – what amount of caffeine you can handle and how much is too much. Because, let’s face it, you can in fact have too much of a good thing.

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