How that Iced Coffee Might Be Affecting Your Mental Health
In recent years, iced coffee has often been humorously stamped as a part of gay culture. And although there are no actual statistics on the proportion of gay men who enjoy iced coffee, I can confirm that this article was written while sipping one.
Jokes aside, one of the counselling intake questions I ask people is if they consume caffeine regularly. I ask this question right alongside questions about other substances–and there’s good reason for this. While caffeine’s prevalence in many people’s everyday lives can make it seem like a neutral fixture, it’s important to remember that it’s actually a powerful psychoactive substance.
So what are the ways caffeine might be affecting your mental health? Read on to learn what research suggests are the potential benefits and drawbacks of that iced coffee you might be sipping.
Potential mental health benefits of caffeine
➡️ A number of studies suggest that caffeine measurably increases cognitive performance, both helping to speed up reactions, and sustain attention.
➡️ Over the longterm, caffeine has been associated with a lessened risk of depression.
➡️ A study found that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day was correlated with a 50% reduced risk of suicide.
➡️ Coffee may help consolidate learning.
➡️ Reduced risk of cognitive decline has been associated with consumption of caffeine.
➡️ Research suggests that caffeine may inhibit memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Potential mental health issues associated with caffeine
➡️ Caffeine may bring on restlessness, anxiety, agitation, nervousness, headache, rambling speech, and digestive issues, or what the DSM-5 calls “caffeine intoxication.”
➡️ Caffeine delays the onset of a hormone that helps you sleep called melatonin. A study found that caffeine consumed three hours before participants’ typical bedtime led participants to stay up 40 minutes later on average.
Another study found that caffeine taken up to six hours prior to sleeping can interfere with sleep.
➡️ Caffeine dependency is more common than you might think. The DSM-5 even has a condition called “caffeine use disorder.” The DSM-5 lists symptoms such as being unable to quit using caffeine, craving, suffering withdrawal after stopping, and using more than intended.
Caffeine withdrawal occurs when people skip a dose of caffeine and experience headaches, fatigue, depression, and trouble concentrating.
➡️ A review of eight studies found that caffeine aggravated symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder. This means that people with underlying mental health issues may be more susceptible to the negative effects of caffeine.
Questions to ask about caffeine and your mental health
Each person will be affected by caffeine differently. This is why it’s important to become aware of how you’re feeling when you consume caffeine.
Ask yourself the following questions to help decide what balance of caffeine intake might be optimal for your mental health:
1. Are you feeling alert and focused after you consume caffeine?
2. Are you feeling jittery, anxious, and unfocused after you consume caffeine?
3. Do the side effects of caffeine differ for you at different times of the day?
4. Does caffeine consumed in different ways (e.g. coffee, tea, or an energy drink) affect you differently?
5. How is the quality of your sleep on days when you have caffeine later in the day?
6. What is your mood like when you do or don’t have caffeine? Is this different depending on the time and amount of caffeine you’ve had in a given day?
These questions about your caffeine use are just one piece of your overall mental health. If you’d like to dive deeper into improving your mental health, get started by booking a free consultation with one of our counsellors using the button below.