Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system and is often found in drinks such as coffee, soda and tea. While the immediate intake of caffeine typically provides an energy boost, the less common side effects of caffeine can be quite scary. Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, says that caffeine is the world's most commonly used stimulant. Large quantities of caffeine can decrease blood flow to the brain by as much as 30 percent and can cause severe mood swings and disorders.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, it is very common to get addicted. According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, when people don't get their usual dose of caffeine, they can suffer from a range of withdrawal symptoms. To avoid the affects, many people continuously use caffeine. Over time, your body is searching for the same high caffeine once gave, but it no longer physically responds the same. Your body will start experiencing more low points throughout the day, which can cause irritability. Irritability can lead to frustration, withdrawal from social activities and anger. Other physical symptoms can include appetite changes and difficulty sleeping.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can cause an increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. As heart rate goes up and beats faster, your body may naturally feel an anxious jolt. According to Griffiths, “Caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and panic disorders." As your heart beats faster, feelings of anxiety surface and can eventually lead to panic attacks, which are episodes of intense fear that can trigger severe physical reactions such as shortness of breath, vomiting and headaches.
Depression may occur as you are coming down from caffeine and all the stimulant effects are wearing off. You might also experience depression if you are attempting to wean yourself off of the substance or quit cold turkey. According to Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, a psychiatrist with the Mayo Clinic, depression is linked to people who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Depression can make you feel sad, confused, fatigued or restless. You may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.
The adrenal glands are endocrine glands that sit above your kidneys. They are responsible for regulating the body's main stress response through synthesizing stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. Since caffeine stimulates the excretion of stress hormones, it can overwork the adrenal glands and eventually leave them fatigued. Adrenal fatigue can cause mood swings, dizziness, low blood pressure and intense sweet cravings.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Caffeine Withdrawal Recognized As A Disorder
- Mayoclinic.com: Caffeine: How Much Is too Much?
- National Institutes of Health: The Effect of Daily Caffeine Use on Cerebral Blood Flow: How Much Caffeine Can We Tolerate?
- Mayoclinic.com: Does Caffeine Make Depression Worse?
- Mayoclinic.com: Adrenal Fatigue: What Causes It?
Lindsey Smith is an author, public speaker and nutrition coach.