Does Caffeine Cause Panic Attacks?

We could (if we really wanted to) shorten this post to one word.  


I will attempt to explain why I doubt if caffeine causes panic attacks along with the difference in a panic attack and an anxiety attack.

I am quite aware of all the millions of post online that assure you that caffeine causes panic attacks. The vast majority of those post are written by people who have never dealt with either a panic disorder or an anxiety disorder. Whether they have or not, I disagree with them.

Caffeine and Panic Attacks

Let’s start here:

Anxiety is usually defined as feelings of worry, being nervous, general unease about something that is about to happen that you are afraid of the outcome.

And anxiety can either seem to stay with you constantly, or it can come in attacks.

Panic attacks, on the other hand, are sudden and you generally have no idea why or what caused it. Sudden meaning with no sign or period of time you feel something out of sorts.

Panic Disorder Panic Attack Symptoms

  • Heart Pounding
  • Sudden Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Definite feeling of detaching from life and reality
  • Difficulty catching a breath
  • Sense of dying and terror
  • Chest discomfort or all out pain

These are the main symptoms of a panic attack, but there can be more or less. See what The University of Health Sciences at Berkeley has to say here:

What Are Panic Attacks

Panic attacks come with an intensity that’s difficult to explain. They are so severe that you could think you are about to die, or just evaporate from being.

I never thought I might die during a panic attack — I thought I was in the process of dying and that’s two different things.

Now that we sorta know the difference in Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder, let’s move on to caffeine.

Caffeine Is A Stimulant

Caffeine in soft drinks and coffee is the most used mood altering drugs in the world.  

Why is Caffeine So Popular?

Because the stimulants in caffeine can heighten your concentration, your memory, and your alertness.  It’s addictive by itself, but guess how most of us drink it?

Most of us take it with sugar.  And that sugar really turns on the effects, plus sugar has its own addictive qualities along with the capability to trigger anxiety attacks.

Anxiety and Caffeine

Diagram of body with main symptoms of caffeine overdose listed
****Interesting Fact: All of the caffeine overdose symptoms can be anxiety symptoms

I really enjoy my coffee.  Some days far too much.  

Sometimes I don’t even notice the effects of it. Sometimes it’s hours later.

When I do notice the effects of caffeine it’s usually causing me to be severely anxious.

So, it really depends on how you personally quantify your anxiety and panic attacks.  

Drinking too much coffee (more than you are accustomed to) can give you a bad case of the jitters and bring on a severe case of anxiousness.

But Caffeine Isn’t Likely To Cause A Panic Attack

A panic attack is caused by something triggering a memory deep within your brain that immediately stops all of the regular functions of your body and gets you geared up to either run or fight.

The problem then becomes that you can’t find anything to run from or fight as the symptoms increase.  Then you naturally go into a fear mode, which turns up the panic mode.  What a vicious circle that is!

To Summarize

An Anxiety Disorder and a Panic Disorder are two different animals that both originate from the same place:

Deeply buried memories of something that frightened you. It could be anything from someone making a face at you as a baby to combat situations, and plenty in between those.

Anxiety is something every person experiences at some time in their life. Normal anxiety isn’t the same as an anxiety disorder. However, both have triggers that could include caffeine.

Neither is the same thing as a panic attack, and even though medically it could possibly be turned on by drinking coffee — I say no.

I say from my own experience that caffeine does not cause a panic attack that is the result of Panic Disorder.

I do, however, say that if you are dealing with Panic Disorder, keep a journal, drink more coffee, and see if you have a panic attack. Or drink less and journal the effects of that?

What about you? Do you have or have you had full blown panic attacks? Do you think caffeine is a trigger? Why not let us know in the comments below?

Categories Anxiety

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