Does Caffeine and Alcohol Make Your Anxiety Worse? Here’s What the Studies Show

Emmy Schneider-Green
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Morning isn’t morning without a cup of coffee, and evenings are better with a glass of wine to wind down. Is this your stance?

If caffeine and an occasional alcoholic beverage act as bookends for your day, you’re certainly not alone. Habitual as that coffee and cocktail may be, have you ever wondered about the links between caffeine and anxiety? Or worried about the link between alcohol and anxiety?

For those of you already freaking out at the mere idea of giving up either – relax. We’re certainly not here to tell you to forever ditch your morning cup of joe or the occasional glass of wine or cocktail.

But if you suffer from anxiety, as many of us do, it’s worth looking at the link between alcohol and anxiety as well as caffeine and anxiety.
 
 

First Off, How Do You Know If You’re Dealing With Anxiety?

Anxiety is a serious condition that can hugely affect your quality of life. But anxiety is also a term we throw around a lot. What is the technical definition of anxiety and how do you know if you suffer from it?

According to the Mayo Clinic (which also points out that occasional stress and anxiety are a normal and natural response to life), anxiety is intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.

There are multiple conditions that fall under the umbrella of “anxiety.” These range from specific phobias to social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder.

Basically, if you’re feeling nervousness, tension, an impending sense of doom, increased heart rate, constant worry, or physical symptoms like troubled sleeping and digestion – you’re dealing with anxiety!
 

 
 
And you’re far from alone. The club of anxiety sufferers is a huge one: 40 million Americans (just Americans – almost a quarter of the population!) suffer with anxiety on a regular basis.

If you suffer with occasional or chronic anxiety, know there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. Getting help with your mental health – via a therapist, doctor, or both – is one of the most empowering ways to show yourself radical self-love.

Need some instant anxiety help? Use These 5 Mantras for Anxiety to Rewrite Your Anxious Thoughts
 
 

What Do You Need to Know About Caffeine and Anxiety?

Of course there are many factors that can contribute to your anxiety. The news, social media, or stressors about your employment, health, or relationships can all create and worsen anxiety.

But what about what we’re putting into our mouths? Is that delicious and seemingly innocent latte making you more anxious?

After all, caffeine is a drug. A delicious, energizing, and total legal one of course. But your cup of coffee is changing your brain – that extra pep in your step isn’t imagined!

The bottom line is caffeine and anxiety interact for everyone in different ways. For example, a cup or two of coffee might not do anything but wake you up, whereas it might send someone else spiraling into anxiety.
 

Caffeine and anxiety interact for everyone in different ways.

 
Have you ever had one cup too many and felt a racing heart, jitteriness, upset stomach, headache, or extra stress? Caffeine can mimic the feelings of anxiety.

While there’s no specific rule or exact measurement of ‘safe’ vs. over-consumption of caffeine, caffeine and anxiety have been linked in several ways. Anxiety can arise from overdoing it on caffeine (generally recognized as four or more cups a day or more than 400 milligrams), caffeine withdrawal, and caffeine-related disorders.

If you’re on certain medications, or simply more sensitive to caffeine, you may need to keep your intake much lower. When in doubt, ask your physician and always pay attention to the physical symptoms in your body when consuming caffeine.

Still need a morning kick? Here’s Why Elixirs Are the Best Coffee Replacement (According to A Woman’s Health Coach)
 
 

Does Alcohol Make Anxiety Worse? What’s the Link Between Alcohol and Anxiety?

Many of us enjoy a glass of wine after a long day or look forward to happy hour with friends.

But as with caffeine and anxiety, the link between alcohol and anxiety definitely exists – and the severity varies from person to person.

How can you tell if your occasional cocktail or beer is totally fine, or if your alcohol and anxiety are linked?

Just like with coffee and anxiety, we’re not telling you to pour all your wine down the drain. But you don’t need us to tell you that, like caffeine, alcohol changes your brain in very real ways.

Though alcohol is a sedative, meaning it creates a relaxing effect that can make your stresses seem to fade away momentarily, this does comes with a catch.

If your alcohol consumption is more than moderate – two drinks a day for men or one for women or older people – it can cross the line from a relaxing wind-down to a more serious problem. One that might create anxiety or worsen it as the sedative effect of alcohol wears off.
 

 
 
Another link between alcohol and anxiety is the connection between social anxiety, which many of us deal with, and alcoholism. Around 20% of those with social anxiety disorder are also dealing with a dependency on alcohol.

While turning to a little “liquid courage” may seem innocent in stressful social settings, this can develop into a more serious problem if you start feeling like you have to have a drink to navigate social situations.

Long-term heavy drinking and alcoholism can often lead to worsened anxiety, not to mention severe damages to the liver and brain, and can ultimately even cause death. If you suspect you or a loved one are dealing with alcoholism, don’t hesitate to reach out to a treatment center or get in touch with your doctor to get help.
 
 

Both Alcohol and Caffeine Have Been Linked to Anxiety: Here’s the Bottom Line

We all like hard and fast dietary rules, but when it comes to the links between alcohol and anxiety and caffeine and anxiety, it really is a more complex issue.

The bottom line? Listen to your body and take note of how it reacts to caffeine and alcohol. If you feel great from a cup of coffee in the mornings and a glass of wine here and there, it’s not off limits!

But if you find your anxiety is getting worse, cutting out alcohol and caffeine for other potentially healthier habits (at least temporarily) isn’t a bad idea.

Ultimately, getting more in touch with the mind-body connection, learning to listen to your body, and tuning into your own mental self-care is never a bad idea. We’ll always raise a glass to that!

All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.

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Emmy Schneider-Green

Emmy is a passionate vegan foodie and fitness nut with a wanderlust spirit. When she’s not coaching her fitness and health clients or traveling around in her old renovated RV, she’s writing content on food, environmentalism, holistic health, and travel, or lifting weights, to show through bodybuilding the power of a plant-based diet and lifestyle.

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