Caffeine and Mental Health

Caffeine – The Good and The Bad

Often people who have ADHD will self medicate with caffeine because of its stimulating effects, its ease of access, and acceptance by society. Caffeine has an effect on mental health; it perks up the mildly depressed, makes the anxious more anxious, and might take the edge off of ADHD. Caffeine is a mild stimulant and stimulants are used to treat ADHD. Caffeine in low doses can also take the edge of minor depression but is not advised for those suffering from anxiety. Caffeine and its relation to mental health is interesting because of the enormous consumption caffeinated beverages in the the US and and around the world.

A recent study of caffeine and mental health in 2011 shows that the risk for depression may decrease as coffee consumption increases. In a 10-year cohort study of more than 50,000 older women, researchers found that compared with those who drank 1 cup or less of coffee per week, those who drank 2 to 3 cups per day had a 15% decreased risk for depression. Those who drank 4 cups or more had a 20% decreased risk. The risk of suicide also decreased in another study up to 7 cups per day; however, over 8 cups, the risk increased.

The chemical adenosine accumulates in the brain when it is awake and active. The cells in the basal fore-brain are responsible for wakeful arousal and have adenosine receptors that inhibit them. It’s as if they are moving really fast and then the adenosine attaches to them and slows them down causing sleepiness. They actually inhibit them by releasing a second messenger in the cell which increases the activity of certain genes, leading to a long lasting effect that sustains sleep for hours. Caffeine belongs to the xanthine chemical group. Adenosine is a xanthine that is naturally occurring in the brain which is used as a neurotransmitter at some synapses. Because of their relation caffeine looks a lot like adenosine to nerve cells and therefore binds to the adenosine receptors in the basal fore-brain. The cells can then no longer sense adenosine because the caffeine is taking up the receptors. Instead of slowing down the nerve cells the opposite occurs and stop the person from getting tired. Here are some interesting facts about caffeine and mental health.

Some Studies Find Caffeine Good For The Body

Caffeine is not as addictive as most believe; caffeine is a considered a safe substance most of the time. On rare occasion death can occur from a caffeine overdose. The amount of caffeine considered to be an overdose varies by a person’s size, age, and gender but in general, doses of greater than 10 grams can be fatal in adults. A typical cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, so you’d need to drink more than 85 cups to consume 10 grams. While some stimulants such as nicotine are considered addictive, you aren’t likely to become addicted to caffeine if you consume it in moderation. Between 200 mg and 300 mg of caffeine, the amount in 2 to 3 cups of coffee is considered a moderate amount and is generally considered safe for most adults. Routine consumption can lead to adverse reactions in some people if they don’t get that morning cup of coffee. Those symptoms can include headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and muscle pain. Caffeine has many positive side effects. Caffeine’s effects last long after you finish that cup. It takes 5 to 6 hours for your body to eliminate just half the caffeine in a cup of coffee which is why having a cup in the afternoon can affect your sleep. In people who are more sensitive to caffeine, the effects may last even longer and is ill advised for those suffering from an anxiety disorder to consume caffeine.

Some studies have shown that moderate consumption of caffeine may reduce your risk of diabetes, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and mitigating the effects of Alzheimer’s disease; just to mention a few. Over the years there has been conflicting research about caffeine but overall it does seem to have some positive effects on the body. Caffeine also helps the body absorb headache drugs more quickly bringing faster relief. Adding caffeine requires less medication for the same effect, reducing the risk for potential side effects and possible drug addiction. Some skin care products contain caffeine because it has been shown to help make skin smoother and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Coffee has been known to reduce the risk of strokes by nearly 25%

There is conflicting research on caffeine and pregnancy but experts say pregnant women would be wise to moderate their intake. Some studies have linked a high intake of caffeine to increased risk for miscarriage and decreased fetal growth, but a cause and effect relationship has not been established. The American Dietetic Association recommends getting less than 300 mg per day, the equivalent of up to three cups of coffee. When a woman is breast feeding it should be known that babies can get a dose of caffeine from their mothers’ milk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “A morning cup of coffee is not likely to harm your baby, but too much caffeine can cause problems, such as poor sleeping, nervousness, irritability, and poor feeding.” We have posted several articles on this website that have shown the possible link of stress during fetal development and generalized anxiety disorder. Even though caffeine is considered safe during breast feeding, mothers might wish to be overly cautious about what they consume during their pregnancy as well as their emotional well being before and after the birth of their child.

Caffeine seems to affect men and women differently. A recent study found that men have a greater response to caffeine than women; however, another study suggested that this might not always be a good thing. Researchers found that caffeine tended to harm the performance of men in collaborative, stressful situations (such as an office environment), but it improved the performance of women. Caffeine also affects you as you age in that your body takes longer to process the caffeine and eliminate it from your system. So if you are use to your “morning Joe” enjoy; but don’t over do it especially if you are prone to anxiety, and always take special care of how you treat your body and what you consume during and immediately after a pregnancy. Keep an eye on what you take into your body, realize that caffeine can have a positive effect on your mental health if taken in moderation for moderate depression and should be avoided if you are predisposed to anxiety.

this article on caffeine and mental health is for informational purposes and not for diagnosing or treating any mental illness