Archives for Caffeine


My Personal Caffeine Experiment: The Results

My guesses were no better than pure chance.

Over the span of one week, I enjoyed six cups of Americano -- all on different days, of course, or else my heart would explode -- at my favorite local coffee shop. If you missed my last two blog posts, here's the deal: the coffee shop's owner thought I couldn't distinguish between a caffeinated Americano and a half-caffeinated Americano.

But I begged to differ. I know my body, and I know its reactions to caffeine. I bet him that I could indeed tell the difference. And so, the great week-long blind experiment commenced: all week, the baristas prepared cups of Americano for me without letting me in on the secret of which beans they'd used. I drank each cup and took notes.


Cup #1 (Saturday): I ordered this cup around 3 p.m. to go. I was with my husband and my sister-in-law, and we were all planning on traveling about a half-hour away for dinner with my in-laws. I drank the coffee within about an hour. Because of the stress of traveling a half hour away (one of my panic triggers), I took one Xanax. Made it to dinner unscathed, but had a panic attack on the return drive -- an unusual event for me if I've already taken a Xanax.

Prediction: FULL CAFFEINE.
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My Personal Caffeine Experiment: The Setup

I've spent the past week drinking some pretty, uh, mysterious cups of coffee.

Well, not coffee, per se -- I've been drinking Americano, which is made by adding hot water to espresso. It's my favorite coffee-like beverage.

I've been drinking cups of Americano at Alabaster, my favorite downtown coffee shop, for almost a year now. According to Alabaster's baristas, Americano has less caffeine than traditional drip coffee and less acid to boot. It's a pretty solid choice, then, for us anxious GERD-y types who insist upon drinking a coffee beverage.

But I'm not here today to simply espouse my love of Americano or of Alabaster. (Although, really, I do love both.)

I'm here to tell you about my experiment.


I've always connected caffeine intake with anxiety. And why? Well, the books and the news stories and the internet tell me it's true: caffeine intake can increase your anxiety. It increases your heart rate, which, in turn, could even produce panic in someone like me who finds a rapid heartbeat to be a triggering sensation.

When I first began getting panic attacks when I was in college, I wasn't very mindful of my caffeine intake. I drank tea, I drank coffee, and I drank caffeinated soda with every meal. (Thanks, all-you-can-eat-or-drink college cafeteria!)

Over time, however, I began to wonder: how much does caffeine affect my anxiety level and my panic frequency?
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‘Celebrating’ World Mental Health Day With a Panic Attack

Ah, yes. It's World Mental Health Day.

And what better way to celebrate than to have a full-fledged panic attack at 12:30 pm while driving home from the coffee shop?

Sigh. I honestly didn't want my "Blog Party" post to be so, uh, negative -- but I need to accept each day honestly, authentically, and for what it is.

I teach a marketing course at a local college. When I walked into the front lobby of the building where I teach, I was happy to see a nice display of mental health-related brochures and pamphlets in honor of Mental Health Awareness Week. I grabbed the "Panic Attacks" brochure (in part because the corny image of a frantic woman on the front really annoyed me) and headed off to class.

Can I teach in front of a class full of students?


Can I leave, grade papers at the local coffee shop, and chat with the other regulars?


Can I drive home from the coffee shop?

Apparently not. That's where the panic began.


It's not like I overloaded on caffeine or anything, but I do suspect my blood sugar was a little low. (Yes -- low blood sugar can trigger anxiety!) I knew I ought to eat, so I packed up my half-graded papers and walked out onto the sidewalk. Then, I saw the orange ticket on my windshield.

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Five Steps Toward A More Mindful Relationship With Caffeine

Hi. My name is Summer and I have panic disorder. Yup.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know this by now. Panic disorder with agoraphobia. (Although, admittedly, the second half of my official diagnosis is slowly fading away. Knock on wood for me, people. Please?!)

So, why in the world would a panic attack sufferer want to use caffeine -- a stimulant -- to aid in her overall recovery?

Here's why: I don't want to perceive caffeine as some sort of frightening threat. (If you missed my first caffeinated post from late last week, read it here.)

I want to create a truce with caffeine. I want to recognize that my body's reactions to this drug are completely normal. I want to train myself to be comfortable with caffeine again.

The key here is mindfulness.
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Cozying Up With Caffeine: Can Mindfulness Help?

Know this: between every sentence in this blog post, I am taking a sip from my cup of delicious half-decaf Americano from my local home-grown coffee roaster (read: NOT Starbucks, despite the photo. Their coffee tastes like cigarette butts to me.)
You might be wondering why I didn't go full decaf with my beverage today. After all, I'm a panicker. Caffeine kick-starts one of my main panic triggers: it increases my heart rate.

Boom boom boom.

So, why am I doing this? Why am I willingly drinking coffee again?

Some might argue that avoiding caffeine altogether is the best way to reduce general anxiety and prevent panic. And that very well may be true -- avoiding caffeine completely is necessary for many of us who suffer from anxiety disorders. I withdrew from caffeine completely when my panic attacks first began in college, and it helped to reduce my anxiety level.

But, then again, consider this: avoiding potential threats only amplifies them into larger, scarier threats.
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Poll For Anxiety Sufferers: Do You Drink Caffeine?

Happy Friday, readers!
For most of us, now is the time to stop thinking about work. It's almost 5 p.m. and the weekend is dangling within our reach!

If you had a rough work week, perhaps you're exhausted. And I'd love to know something about your exhaustion: do you treat it with sleep or with caffeine?

They're both perfectly viable fixes for tiredness -- but as an anxiety sufferer, perhaps you're more inclined to opt for a nap over a latte. After all, naps provide all the rejuvenation with none of the caffeine.

Or maybe not. Perhaps napping leaves you sleepier than before you started. Do you turn to caffeine, then?
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I’m a Night Owl. Should I Fight It or Accept It?

Today, I slept until 10:40 am.


At the moment, I don't have a steady 9-to-5 gig, so the consequences of sleeping too late aren't financial. They're just annoyingly...biological.

You see, I've been diligently trying to train my body to wake up earlier. I have this wonderful soon-to-be-husband with whom I'd like to sync sleep cycles. Last night, he went to bed at 9 pm so he could wake up at 6 am for work.

Five hours later, after organizing my counter, putting away dishes, and listening to a few podcasts, I finally settled down to sleep at about 2 am.

I want to be a morning person. I really do. In fact, I blabbed enough in December about wanting to be a morning person that my fiancé bought me the Philips Wake-Up Light for Christmas. It's this nifty little bedside alarm clock that slowly lights up like a sunrise. A half hour before your programmed wake-up time, the light glows dimly. Then, each minute, it kicks itself up a notch. When your alarm finally comes on (buzzing or bird sounds, in my model's case), the now-bright light should make it easier for you to rouse yourself from sleep.

Should. Should.

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Is It Time to Ditch Caffeine? Part II: Monitor (and Moderate) Your Consumption

Last week, we looked at some of the pros and cons of quitting the caffeine habit. Too much caffeine can rev up your body's physiological response and create a fertile breeding ground for panic.

But then again, completely abstaining from caffeine is liable to train you that the substance, even in low doses, is a threat.

So, moderation is key. And in order to properly moderate, you'll need to know the caffeine content of common beverages. The Mayo Clinic has a basic list here.

And if you happen to own a copy of Dr. Edmund Bourne's The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, the "Nutrition" chapter has a simple chart that outlines the caffeine content of coffee, tea, and over-the-counter medicines. Did you know that brewing a cup of tea for five minutes will produce nearly twice as much caffeine as brewing it for only a minute would? Did you know that instant coffee generally has less caffeine than percolated or drip coffee? Or that coffee has more caffeine per cup than tea?
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Is It Time to Ditch Caffeine? Part I: Weigh the Pros and Cons

I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages a few months before I graduated from college. After years of drinking one coffee and at least two or three sodas per day in the school cafeteria, I quit cold turkey. (And I wouldn't recommend this method of quitting to anyone!)

And then, I enjoyed two weeks of tension headaches and constant sleepiness. I was a groggy-eyed wreck. My dorm room bed was my new best friend.

But when the withdrawal effects wore off, I was a new person. My overall anxiety level decreased, I had a more steady level of energy throughout the day, and it became easier to fall asleep (and stay asleep) at night.

Of course, I was a little slower to wake up in the morning. And, on some afternoons after class, I would fiercely need a nap. But that's okay. I was (and still am) content with that. When practical, I prefer listening to my body (by napping) over fighting against my body (by stuffing it with caffeine until I feel energized again).

Are you thinking about kicking the caffeine habit? Are you trying to figure out when and how you'll attempt it? Take a look at some of the possible pros and cons of quitting below.

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