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Coffee and Mental Health

Posted by Erin Fischer on

I have a confession to make, I have never been a coffee drinker and honestly, it’s only since working for Barty that I have slowly gotten a taste for it, but it has to be the Peruvian Decaf blend (I joke we should rename it the Erin blend). I think partly this is due having never had good coffee, but also due to my body not being able to handle it. One of my first experiences with coffee was having a cappuccino with my dad and feeling sick after it due to the milk (I’m dairy intolerant which is accumulative, so I have never been a big dairy person) and also on edge due to the caffeine. So, I just avoided it and while I love the smell of coffee beans, I just couldn’t bring myself to drink it. But thanks to Bart I am slowly coming round, and I often enjoy a cup of it.

This got me thinking about how different people handle coffee and the impacts it can have on mental health and whether if you experience a mental illness, you should avoid it.

It turns out the real culprit is caffeine which is in lots of things including chocolate and as someone who likes chocolate, I was I was curious to know how much caffeine it had compared to coffee.  In 100grams of very dark chocolate (70%-85% cacao) there’s 80 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. In 100grms of dark chocolate (50%-69%) there’s 70mg of caffeine. And in 100grms of milk chocolate there’s just 20mg of caffeine.

Let’s compare that to coffee each coffee bean has around 6mg of caffeine in it, a shot of espresso (30ml) has 70mg of caffeine, and a standard cup (250ml) has around 100mg of caffeine in it. Of course, this varies a lot depending on the roast and how the coffee is made so there’s going to be variables.

So, if people say they can’t handle coffee due to the caffeine, but they eat dark chocolate maybe remind them of the fact that dark chocolate has more caffeine than coffee in it when you compare it weight for weight.

It is recommended that you can have up to 3 to 5 cups of coffee or up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily.

Genetics has a lot to do with how your body can handle caffeine. Some people are super sensitive to caffeine and can’t handle much (if any) at all. There are other people who can have a double shot of espresso at 9.00pm at night and it won’t affect them. In some people having 200mg of caffeine (around 2 cups of a coffee) or more a day can increase the likelihood of anxiety and panic attacks. It’s such an individual thing and only you can know how caffeine impacts you, it really comes down to your metabolism and genetics. You can also build up a dependence to caffeine over time and experience withdrawal symptoms if you decide to suddenly stop drinking coffee.

If you have anxiety, experience panic attacks, or have OCD studies have shown that caffeine increases the anxiety, and it is recommended to avoid caffeine. This is because caffeine can cause an increased heart rate, nervousness, restlessness, gastrointestinal problems, and trouble sleeping which can mirror anxiety, tricking your body. This makes it hard for your brain to register that it isn’t anxiety because it feels the same.  If you’re already experiencing anxiety, it can jump start it or increase the severity, so its best to avoid it at least on the days you’re experiencing high anxiety if not altogether.

However, if you experience depression caffeine can help decrease it and give you a boost of energy. Coffee is considered one of the best mood lifting agents due to it’s powerful antioxidants and it can not only help you fight against depression but also help you stay relaxed and calm at the same time.

What if you experience both anxiety and depression? Then it’s really a trial and error to work out if it’s beneficial, maybe a cup in the morning is all you can handle or you need to avoid it during high anxiety situations. Something to remember is that coffee can impact your sleep which in turn can impact your mental health. So maybe rethink having that coffee at night if you know it will impact your sleep or limit your coffee intake if you suffer from insomnia.

Coffee itself has many health benefits (with many of these benefits happening regardless of if it’s decaf or regular) including reducing the risk of Parkinsons, Type 2 diabetes, and liver conditions. People who drink coffee regularly overall live longer. This is despite many medical professionals over the years trying to prove that coffee can be bad for you.

There’s also the social aspect of coffee, a lot of times you meet up with friends for coffee which increases the serotonin in your brain. So many conversations happen over coffee, and we can use it to connect with people and further develop our relationships.

At the end of the day whether coffee impacts your mental health depends on a lot of things. Just remember that it’s not the coffee causing negative impacts, but the caffeine. Maybe it’s best for you to avoid it or stick to decaf if you notice it has negative impacts, or maybe it gives you a much-needed boost to keep going and you can’t imagine not enjoying at least a cup of it a day. It’s such a personal preference and one that only you can make.

Does coffee agree with you? Let me know down in the comments, I’m curious to know.

Feel free to drop by, just say, Hey Erin in strict confidence and you can be anonymous if you wish. Or, do not hesitate to leave a question in the comments below any time


Caffeine in Chocolate Vs Coffee Which has more?

Association of Coffee Drinking with Mortality by Genetic Variation in Caffeine Metabolism 

Coffee and Caffeine Consumption and Depression: a meta-analysis of observational studies 

Is Coffee Good for You? 

Coffee benefits: Caffeine makes you more social as well as active

Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes

Coffee, Caffeine and Health 

Coffee, Caffeine and Health similar articles 

Coffee, caffeine, mood and emotion 

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About Erin Fischer

Am the qualified mental health professional at Barty Single Origin. Write topical pieces with a focus on mental health. Always available on chat, Just say, 'Hey Erin'. Passionate about reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and letting people know it's A-OK to be not OK. Mental health advocate, Anxiety survivor, baker, crafter, cat lover, blogger, and always down to get a coffee and chat.


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