Can Caffeine Give You A Panic Attack?
Recently a friend of mine asked me whether caffeine can be the reason behind a panic attack, so I thought I’d share my response here, too.
So on this page, I’m going to explain how caffeine may affect you, and whether it’s likely to be the cause of a panic or anxiety. So let’s begin.
What Does The Research Say?
In general, there’s no strict evidence to suggest that caffeine can directly cause anxiety unless you’re taking huge quantities (this means somewhere over 300mg, which is usually only possible if you’re taking caffeine pills or drinking high caffeine ‘energy’ drinks).
‘Self Rated’ Anxiety May Increase
But while there’s no strict evidence to show it increases anxiety, one study by The Johns Hopkins Baview Medical Center found that “self rated” anxiety can increase once you’ve consumed over 200mg of caffeine. This could mean that there’s no harm in cutting out the caffeine if you think it’s making your symptoms worse, especially if you often consume energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, or even strong coffee.
The Effects Of Hypersensitivity
One of the main pieces of the caffeine/panic attack puzzle is the role of ‘hypersensitivity’. This occurs when you begin to notice the effects that the caffeine is having on you, and this can cause you to think anxious thoughts due to the physical sensations you’re experiencing.
These thoughts and feelings can then escalate into a full-blown panic attack fr some people. So while the caffeine itself isn’t directly responsible, it may be triggering your anxiety response based on your interpretation of what’s happening.
For example, caffeine can increase your heart rate and give you a slight ‘jittery’ sensation. But this can also be interpreted as a heart attack by an anxiety sufferer, and these thoughts can bring about the anxiety attack.
Caffeine Improves Your Focus – Which May Not Be A ‘Good’ Thing!
One of the problems that caffeine has for anxiety sufferers is that it increases your mental focus and acuity. While this is often desirable, it can also be counter-productive when you need to relax and diffuse anxious thoughts. The caffeine may actually be ‘helping’ you to focus on those jittery symptoms to a greater degree, which makes it more likely for a panic attack to occur.
Based on this information, it’s unlikely for a panic attack to be caused solely by caffeine in small doses.
But while there isn’t a direct link between caffeine and panic attacks, it still may be worth reducing your caffeine intake if you often drink high-caffeine energy drinks or lots of strong coffee.
This won’t be a cure for your anxiety, but it could reduce some of the symptoms if it’s triggering for you.
Additionally, if you’re having issues with anxiety or panic attacks (of any kind) I can wholeheartedly recommend the Panic Away method created by Barry Joe Mcdonagh. It’s one of the most successful programs around for treating anxiety, and it gives you some very effective techniques for helping you to overcome panic attacks when they happen – as well as giving you all the tools you need to feel calmer and more relaxed. I highly recommend it.