He Stopped Drinking Energy Drinks And Coffee. The Result? No More Anxiety

September 14, 2015

If you suffer from anxiety and you drink coffee every day, there's a good chance caffeine is the main culprit. This is a great article that all coffee drinkers should read...

coffee causes anxiety
Photo via anxietycage.com

Written by Hamza Sohail for Primal Logic

When I suffered my very first panic attack, it was from a combination of several different factors. The main factor that pushed me over the edge and made me experience that attack was caffeine. Now, what happened is that, I used to drink energy drinks on a regular basis, and my caffeine tolerance was pretty high. I was used to having different types of caffeine sources like coffee, energy drinks, and pre-workout supplements throughout the day, and I was fine with that. On this specific day, I decided to try a new energy drink.

I still remember, it was a Mountain Dew brand energy drink. I didn't bother to take a look at the nutritional information and see how much caffeine I was about to ingest. I must've had some caffeine earlier in the day (as I normally do), so it was probably still running through my system. Needless to say, I drank the whole can of Mountain Dew Energy, and the next four hours of my life was the worst thing I've ever experienced. I felt like I was about to faint.

I could not breathe. My heart was racing. My face was turning white like a ghost, and I felt like my body was overheating. I vomited several times hoping that emptying my stomach would get the caffeine out. It actually got so bad that I called the ambulance. I thought I had overdosed on caffeine.

The EMTs came and they were coaching me and trying to give me advice. The advice they gave me scared me so bad because they said if I don't get control of myself I will pass out and when I wake up I'll be right back into the panic attack. Of course, that advice did nothing to help me in the moment, it actually made me experience more fear and panic. I fought so hard to stop myself from passing out because I thought I was going to die, basically. Long story short, I ended up going to the emergency room and the doctor that was there came and told me that, "You're okay, you're fine.(Yeah right!) You've just experienced a panic attack." This was my first interaction with anxiety and panic attacks.

"Ever since my first 'heat rush' and panic attack I haven't been the same."

Ever since that day, caffeine has been a major trigger of anxiety for myself. I have learned to control it, but it took me many months to figure out how. After leaving the emergency room and experiencing that terrifying feeling for four hours, I just decided to cut the caffeine out of my system cold turkey, so I just let it go. I did not even touch caffeine. In fact, I began to fear caffeine.

I felt that it was a very dangerous chemical and that I got lucky, in the respect that, you know, I was okay afterwards.This fear caused me to just stay far, far away from caffeine. Anytime I thought of caffeine or looked at caffeine, it brought back the feelings that I experienced during that panic attack episode. While I was struggling, trying to understand this constant feeling of anxiety and fear, I also started to feel the withdrawal symptoms from quitting caffeine cold turkey. I've always heard of these withdrawal symptoms, but I never experienced them.

Let me tell you, it's the worst thing, after a panic attack, that you could ever experience. My vision would literally start shaking. It would feel as if the whole world was going through an earthquake, and I was the only one that could experience it. I felt lightheaded and as if I was fainting. I had extremely bad headaches, unbearable headaches.

All of this was going on while I was feeling heightened senses of anxiety. I thought I was going crazy. I felt tingling sensations in my head. I felt like I had a fever. I felt crazy things. I let go of caffeine and, maybe after four months, my body normalized and I started to feel a lot more like my old self.

"It's not the normal feeling I feel everyday which then leads to panic because my brain thinks something's wrong."

How I Continued Down the Path to Find a Legitimate Answer

The anxiety was still there, but the withdrawal symptoms from caffeine had gone away. After that, I started to realize that it's not healthy to have a fear of caffeine. Yes, I know I overdid it. Yes, I know I took too much caffeine. Yes, I know I got lucky, but, at the same time, I cut it out of my system. As a form of healing, I started eating healthier.

I started to research about caffeine and I learned a lot about how that chemical works and interacts with the brain. I actually watched several documentaries on caffeine and learned a whole bunch of information, which helped me get a better understanding of what was happening. After educating myself on what caffeine is and how it interacts with the body, I created a system for myself to gently reintroduce it into my body, into my life without going overboard the way I did before. Now, caffeine is a stimulant. It is a drug, but the way that our society perceives it, it's just a normal drink that you have every day.

But like any drug, it does have certain side effects, and it does have certain things it does to the body. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it does mimic certain feelings that an anxiety attack or panic attack also can produce. For instance, it can increase your heart rate, and it can increase your temperature. Your body can easily associate the similarities between the way you feel with anxiety, and caffeine and mesh them together. That's why sometimes, when you have caffeine, and your heart starts beating fast, your body starts thinking, "Okay. Now is the time to trigger a panic attack," and then you start feeling really bad anxiety and all of the effects. However, if you go ahead and you treat it as a drug and not just as a regular drink, you can still have it in your life and not have to worry about anxiety..

"Instead of having bad thoughts flying through my head at warp speed, those thoughts are more manageable now."

How I Live Life With Caffeine, and Leave Anxiety Trailing Far Behind

What I had to do was learn when it was okay for me to use caffeine. Now, normally what I do is I'll have caffeine, but I'll have it in the earlier part of the day. On occasion, I will have it in the evening, but for the most part, it's earlier in the day because I know that I can burn off that caffeine before it's time for me to sleep. Lets use this morning's cup of coffee as an example.

I know that if I take this cup of coffee, I'm taking it right before I do any kind of work, exercise, or something that requires me to be alert, so I'm going to be using the energy that I get from it. Also, another thing that I do is, before, I would just drink coffee whenever I felt like it. Now, I prepare my body beforehand. I make sure that my body is adequately hydrated by drinking water.

Once I know that my body is hydrated (I know I'm hydrated when my urine is nearly clear), I then drink the coffee. I've completely cut out energy drinks because I don't feel that I need those in my life. I've read plenty of horror stories about them severely harming people. They have a lot of chemicals in there, and that four-hour panic attack I had pretty much removed the thought of me ever consuming another energy drink again. I do just fine with coffee, and tea now.

I do not need the Red Bulls. I do not need the Mountain Dew energy drinks, and I do not need Five-Hour energy.

The other thing is that once you prepare your body beforehand with water, you're adequately hydrated and your body is prepped. When you have anything with caffeine it will naturally dehydrate you a little bit. The dehydrating feeling can make you feel upset and nauseous on occasion.

So, by hydrating yourself beforehand, you are significantly reducing the chance of these feelings coming across as you have countered the effects of the dehydration. The other thing that I've done is instead of having extra strength espresso and all these lattes with potent shots, just pumping up the caffeine, I make sure to ration off my caffeine. I'll go ahead and just have a small cup of coffee. Even better, I'll have a small cup of decaf coffee. This way, I can control in detail how much caffeine I want to introduce into my body.

From what I remember, you can have roughly six cups of decaf coffee, and those six cups will have around the same amount of caffeine as one cup of regular coffee. In a way, it's actually better. You can drink more coffee, and you can still get the kick of the caffeine, but you can control it a lot better. This has been extremely helpful in allowing me to balance caffeine with my anxiety. So what I've done effectively is to use caffeine only when I know there is an actual purpose for it. I no longer enjoy it running through my veins unnecessarily.

Here are some more things I've done that help me enjoy caffeine without the anxiety.

Previously I used to wait for my beverage to cool down and then I would gulp it as fast as I could. This would give me a huge caffeine punch and would raise my anxiety through the roof! I eventually learned to sip it slower. By taking my time and sipping slower I am able to regulate the amount of caffeine entering my body over time. Instead of one huge rush I get a steady stream of caffeine. It helps me stay 'awake' for a longer period while keeping my anxiety really low.

On the days where I am already feeling anxious I just skip the coffee altogether! Looking back at myself in the past, when I would feel anxiety I ignored it and drank coffee anyway. This was a recipe for disaster and made me experience full blown panic attacks. So now if I feel anxiety, I just skip the coffee and work on lowering the anxiety first. If my anxiety is kicking in i'm usually alert enough not to need any caffeine anyway!

This story is from Primal Logic, a great blog for anyone who wants help with anxiety and panic attacks.

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