Can Drinking Coffee Affect Your Mental Health?
According to USA Today, 83% of adults drink coffee in the U.S.—the world’s biggest consumer of the beverage (Karen Fernau, 2013). Can you imagine what would happen if the coffee market suddenly plummeted? Half of the U.S would be in giant kerfuffle; productivity would dwindle and corporations would lose money with each and every passing yawn; divorce rates would increase, and children would grow up to resent their grouchy parents.
Okay, okay, a bit dramatic—but the point is many Americans heavily rely on coffee. And if you were to ask any coffee aficionado why they drink coffee they’d most likely say— to enhance energy and overall mood (some might even claim superpowers). Yet, despite the alluring mood-altering benefits that attract thousands, consumers still often wonder about the health risks of daily consumption. Although coffee brewing is considered a morning ritual for many, changing this ‘early-bird ritual’ could actually enhance your energy and mood more than you’d think.
When it comes to coffee consumption there’s a fine line, since caffeine is a stimulant that also has the potential to activate stress hormones and anxiety. Generally, doses of caffeine ranging from 200-300 mgs are not considered psychologically harmful, so staying within this range would be a healthy way of monitoring your intake.
To further put things into perspective, a 6-ounce cup of coffee has 108 mgs of caffeine, so anymore than 12 ounces (the equivalent to a Starbucks tall) might not only be excessive, but also mentally debilitating.
Consuming more than 300 mgs of caffeine can actually induce a bout of mental illness, and the latest edition of the DSM-IV classifies this mental disorder as “caffeine-intoxication.” According to the Encyclopedia of Medical disorders, “when caffeine reaches the brain, it increases the secretion of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with the so-called fight or flight stress response.”
And if norepinephrine levels rise, symptoms of caffeine-intoxication can actually mimic the following panic attack symptoms: restlessness, nervousness, gastrointestinal upset, muscle twitching, rambling speech, and sleeplessness.
A person might also experience symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. Once a person stops drinking coffee, the adenosine (responsible for regulating mental functioning) has no competition for activating its usual receptors, and may produce a sedative effect causing fatigue and drowsiness. These psychological effects are counter-productive to the prime reason why people drink coffee in the first place—to be productive. Instead of being filled with effervescence throughout the day, one might be experiencing a “crash effect” by noon.
Starting off the morning with a couple cups of coffee might, in fact, deplete energy levels, rather than augment them, and even spur a temporary episode of mental illness if intake is not monitored.
EARLY-BIRD HEALTH TIP:
Aside from monitoring caffeine intake, one of the best things you can do as soon as you wake up is to drink at least 16oz (500mL) of water before consuming anything. Water impels your metabolism, hydrates you, helps your body flush out unnecessary toxins, promotes mental functioning, and even helps with weight loss. Try drinking water first thing in the morning and see if you notice more pep in your step throughout the day.