Coffee and smoking: bad habits and increased anxiety

Bad habits negatively affect health – both physical and mental. Therefore, it is always worth thinking about how smoking or drinking too much coffee can affect brain activity and physiological responses. Both caffeine and tobacco can contribute to the expression of anxiety, in particular by contributing to physiological arousal. Constant excitement and a feeling of anxiety, excitement provoke neurosis. The continuous influence of stress, against the background of which bad habits often appear , only enhances the effects. 

Anxiety symptoms: are they dangerous?

Excitement and anxiety in many situations is a normal biological response. Everyone feels anxious, anxious at one point or another, whether it’s starting a presentation at the office, boarding a plane, or listening to a phone call in the middle of the night. Anxiety is an emotional response to a perceived future threat or danger. This response includes cognitive thoughts about the perceived threat, such as the uncontrollability or unpredictability of the event; physical sensations such as rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, tension. With anxiety, there may be a feeling of heat or coldness of the hands and feet, sweating. In addition, the response to anxiety can be a change in behavior – a desire to leave, to hide from dangerous factors.

Common anxiety is random, controlled, and quickly stops. Chronic or uncontrolled anxiety, however, is not a normal response. When anxiety becomes exaggerated and begins to progress, affecting various aspects of life, it can take the form of anxiety disorder, neurosis.  

Causes of neurosis, excessive worry and anxiety

Both biological and environmental factors can cause generalized anxiety disorders, which include manifestations of neurosis. For example, the presence of a close relative with an anxiety disorder who has various neuroses (not necessarily with anxiety) increases the likelihood of developing pathology. But environmental factors can also lead to neuroses and uncontrollable anxiety. These can include adverse or stressful life events or childhood trauma.

But what patients eat or drink, and bad habits in this area can also increase the level of anxiety, which can ultimately provoke neurosis. You need to be careful with caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. 

Excessive, frequent consumption of caffeine in coffee or soft drinks, energy drinks, has been shown in studies to increase the risk of anxiety, especially panic attacks. This is true for sensitive people, such as those already suffering from mental disorders, as well as in adolescents and others who are genetically predisposed to neuroses and depression. Excessive consumption of coffee is classified as a bad habits, along with more “severe” addictions – smoking and drinking alcohol.

Both caffeine and tobacco can contribute to anxiety in different ways, in particular by contributing to the physiological arousal associated with anxiety and stress. Sometimes there are situations when even one cup of coffee is too much for the body.

Effects on the brain

Caffeine acts as a brain stimulant and mimics the physical symptoms associated with anxiety such as palpitations, excitement, chest tightness, hot flashes, sweating, cold hands, and other symptoms. In addition, substances such as caffeine can biologically increase anxiety by acting on certain receptors and neurotransmitters in the brain. Caffeine acts on the brain through a variety of mechanisms. Some of these mechanisms are associated with triggering, exacerbating, or maintaining anxiety. Caffeine can influence the neuroendocrine stress response system through its effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system and the stress hormone (cortisol) in the body.

In other words, this means that caffeine can cause stress by triggering one of the biomechanisms that stimulates the production of the hormone cortisol. Then all disturbing manifestations are triggered.

Interestingly, nicotine and alcohol tend to provide temporary relief from anxiety in a person, but subsequently, as bad habits become established, an increase in anxiety symptoms progresses.

Bad habits have a paradoxical effect on a person associated with anxiety. Initially, smoking, by affecting blood vessels and the brain through interaction with nicotine receptors, provides little relief from stress. However, long-term smoking contributes to long-term symptoms of anxiety, especially when trying to quit the habit.

Alcohol and stress, medications

Similar to nicotine, alcohol is an antidepressant and can provide a sedative, calming effect on the body when consumed in moderation. At the same time, long-term alcohol consumption, even in moderate amounts, backfires and forms stress, contributes to the maintenance and exacerbation of anxiety. Against the background of alcoholism, when trying to quit alcohol, due to withdrawal symptoms, stress and anxiety increase many times over.

Stress disorders and anxiety often occur with substance use. Many people use these substances as a form of self-medication to eliminate negative emotional experiences, but the wrong doses or taking them over a long period of time will have the opposite effect.

Certain prescription and over-the -counter medications, including corticosteroids for asthma and allergies, pain relievers that contain caffeine, can also worsen anxiety symptoms. In addition, substances such as cocaine, marijuana and hallucinogens can undoubtedly contribute to the development of anxiety symptoms.  

Each person will experience unique effects from these substances. Genetic predisposition, developmental characteristics of the brain during adolescence and the presence of other psychiatric conditions are some of the factors that can determine susceptibility to psychostimulants and other psychoactive substances.

event_note December 17, 2020

account_box Winona Tse MD

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