Should we switch to decaf if we’re experiencing anxiety? 🤔
If we know caffeine makes us more prone to anxiety, should we make the switch to coffee alternatives instead?
Well, you may not need to ditch caffeine completely but cutting down on your caffeine is often recommended if you’re prone to anxiety. Much of the research we mentioned focuses on coffee in larger quantities, so the occasional cup of coffee may cause you no issues.
One clinical practice study found that the patients who substantially cut down on their caffeine drinking reported the greatest improvements in their anxiety, but also other common issues – such as sleep disturbance and irritability, suggesting that managing anxiety with caffeine alternatives could certainly be an option for some of us.
However, there’s really no way of knowing how sensitive you are and what your caffeine tipping point is without experimenting with different levels of caffeine. Some may prefer to avoid the risk and opt for no caffeine at all whilst others may prefer to track things more closely. This is where keeping a symptoms diary and tracking your coffee intake may help to pinpoint if caffeine is an anxiety trigger.
Let’s be real though: for some of us, going caffeine-free just isn’t an option. We may rely on energy drinks or coffee to help keep us going through the day; particularly if we have a chronic illness and are low on spoons. If that’s you, then don’t despair, it turns out even switching your caffeine drink to the right time of day could make an impact.
“I encourage the majority of my clients to reach for the coffee at midday rather than first thing. Cortisol, our stress hormone, is already naturally high in the morning because it is the same hormone that helps to wake us up. This naturally falls during the day so having a coffee at midday rather than first thing may not have such a negative impact.” explains nutritionist Eva Humphries.
If you’re reading this and can’t keep count of how many lattes you’ve had today, then it may be important for you to gradually switch over to decaf rather than purely go cold turkey. According to the American Psychiatric Association, caffeine withdrawal is actually classed as a mental disorder and symptoms can include impaired behaviour, increased heart rate, change in blood pressure and, ironically, anxiety itself.
“Caffeine withdrawal symptoms only last one or two days in most cases” advises Eva, and If you don’t drink as much, there is no reason why you can’t just cut it out cold.
“Unless there is a habitual coffee drinking that exceeds three cups a day, I encourage my clients to go cold turkey. There’s a lot of good quality decaf coffee and teas on the market now but for a totally caffeine-free version, chicory coffee has a similar flavour profile to freshly brewed coffee whilst herbal teas are another naturally caffeine-free option” she adds.