Here’s a topic that’s brewing up a lot of discussion. It is estimated by the National Coffee Association that 80% of Americans drink coffee. So it’s no wonder people are curious as to whether that hot cup of “Joe” plays a contributing role in anxiety and panic attacks? According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), coffee, when consumed in excess, can play a role in exacerbating anxiety. Attacks can be induced by the consumption of many types of nervous system stimulants, particularly caffeine, which can be found not only in coffee, but many other beverages and foods as well – teas, sodas, and chocolate just to name a few. Once consumed, caffeine can take several hours to be excreted through the urine, and can trigger a number of different panic attack symptoms including fast or irregular heartbeat, restlessness, anxiety, and depression.
According to Psychology Today, for coffee drinkers who are prone to panic, it is recommended that your daily consumption of caffeine not exceed 250 to 300 milligrams, or roughly three to four cups of coffee per day. But if you drink a cup of coffee, and you immediately begin to feel the effects from the caffeine – say you experience a quickened heart rate or pulse, nervous jitters, or other forms of anxiety – most experts suggest you stay away from caffeinated drinks altogether.
With so many sources of stress in today’s society, anxiety sufferers have trouble determining the true catalyst or cause of any given panic attack, often falsely attributing feelings of anxiety to some prior activity or condition. A person who is already predisposed to anxiety who downs a couple cups of caffeinated coffee and then starts driving the car only to find a congested freeway while running late for a meeting will have at least 4 possible causes for any feelings of anxiety – the caffeine, the traffic, the tardiness, and the meeting. Controlled experiments are often necessary to attempt to isolate the problem.
Drink More Coffee
Now here’s an interesting twist. Norman Schmidt, an associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University, actually prescribes coffee as part of his treatment plan. He believes that the goal should be to help patients confront their fears head-on and learn to distinguish unfounded panic from the real thing. He essentially challenges patients to get to a point where they can drink a triple espresso without triggering an attack.
Know Your Limitations
People are wired differently. Some people who suffer from panic attacks and anxiety go on for years drinking coffee without triggering any impact on their condition. Others can have their fears sent into hyper mode from a mere sip of coffee. It’s important to know your own limitations, and adjust your behavior accordingly. Even more important is to understand that panic attacks and anxiety problems begin with unwarranted fears a sufferer believes he cannot control. If you suffer from panic attacks and you are predisposed to heightened anxieties as a result of caffeine consumption, you might find that reducing or eliminating it from your diet can ease your condition. Additionally, there are many cognitive behavioral treatment programs out there that help deal with anxiety on a more permanent basis.
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