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Can Caffeine Cause Panic Attacks?

author image William McCoy
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.
Can Caffeine Cause Panic Attacks?
A cup of black coffee on a desk. Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

For some people, consuming a caffeinated drink such as coffee won't have any side effects. Others, however, can experience a long list of changes to their body and mind, especially if they drink multiple cups. The causes of panic attacks and panic disorder, which describes those who have frequent attacks, can vary greatly. In some cases, caffeine can trigger a panic attack.

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Shaking, Shortness of Breath and Fear

Although many people experience varying degrees of general anxiety, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 6 million Americans have panic disorder. When you have a panic attack, you can experience symptoms such as uncontrollable shaking, dizziness, shortness of breath and sweating or chills. Panic attacks can also generate strong fears of death or loss of control, and you might also feel as though you're choking.

Genetic and Emotional Causes

The causes of panic attacks and disorder aren't set in stone. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that while the issue can run in families, experts are unsure of exactly what causes it. In addition to genetic causes, the American Psychological Association notes that panic attacks can also result from stress. For example, a person might have a panic attack due to a particularly stressful state of mind, perhaps after the loss of a loved one.

Caffeine's Link With Panic Attacks

The APA notes that because the cause of panic attacks is largely speculative, it's possible that some people can experience an attack after consuming caffeine. The organization also reports that the physiological changes that result after consuming caffeine can lead to a panic attack. For example, if you experience an accelerated heart rate as a result of your caffeine intake, you might mistakenly believe you're having a panic attack. The panic you experience can then lead to an actual panic attack.

Skip the Caffeine

Caffeine has several potential side effects, including a rapid heart rate and anxiety, that can be problematic to those who experience panic attacks or disorder. As such, MedlinePlus suggests that limiting your intake of caffeine or removing it from your diet entirely might lead to fewer attacks. Your body doesn't need caffeine to function, and its stimulating effect can be problematic, especially if you consume more than 300 milligrams per day.

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