Does Caffeine Make Depression Worse?

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Many people try to give up caffeine and claim that it is something we all should do. However few people actually give us any reason to give up caffeine – stating its bad for our health but never really with much explanation as to how or why.

However studies that demonstrated a link between caffeine and depression would offer a concrete example of caffeine being bad for us that would be hard to deny and that we would be foolish to ignore.

There is no real research however that does this, and most theories that caffeine can worsen depression are based on circumstantial evidence and hearsay. Of course it is a risk that those already suffering from depression should avoid, but for everyone else it is not something that should necessarily affect your decisions regarding the substance.

There are ways however in which caffeine and depression might be linked. For example caffeine certainly shouldn’t be taken by those who suffer from insomnia and as a stimulant it will of course make it more difficult for those who use it to sleep. Insomnia is linked to depression and can have a range of undesirable chemical effects on the body.

Another way in which the two might be linked is through stress. While stress and depression are very different, the two do often go hand in hand and stress can cause depression. Stress causes in the body what is known as the ‘fight or flight response’ which is characterised by a raise in heart rate and the release of adrenaline. This places fatigue on the immune system and gives us a jittery, nervous sensation. Adrenaline however, like caffeine, is a stimulant, and so to have both in the body at the same time would greatly exacerbate the problems, placing more strain on your body and on your immune system. At the same time it can cause you to panic more and be more on edge which can further increase stress and adrenaline.

At the same time suddenly stopping caffeine has also been suggested to worsen depression as the body is deprived of something it has become used to. This true of any withdrawal symptoms which are regularly akin to depression. As such the best way to avoid ever having these withdrawal symptoms is to avoid ever becoming dependent on them at all.

Caffeine of course has many positive benefits for the body too, and it is important to recognise these. Caffeine can help to keep us awake when we are struggling with tiredness, can help give us more concentration and focus, and has been suggested as a potential cure for certain cognitive disorders. As such, caffeine should still be enjoyed in small doses, but not overdone – and for those who already have depression or symptoms of depression it should be handled with caution.

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Adam Sinicki

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