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Caffeine and Depression, Beneficial & Harmful Effects

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People with depression should only consume caffeine in moderation. If you have depression, make an appointment to see a mental health professional. They can help you manage your consumption of caffeine and depression. Continue to read to find out how caffeine can benefit and harm you.

What’s The Connection Between Caffeine and Depression?

Caffeine is a stimulant that may be found in coffee and tea, as well as other foods and beverages. It gives you a burst of energy. According to research, caffeine can be helpful and harmful to people suffering from depression. One science-based clinical trial found that coffee and caffeine consumption were significantly associated with decreased risk of depression. [1] In this article, we will look at both the beneficial and harmful effects of coffee on persons who are depressed.

Depression affects millions of people throughout the U.S. The severity of depression symptoms varies from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms of depression include having little interest in activities that used to bring you pleasure, difficulty concentrating, and a lack of energy. People diagnosed with clinical depression experience symptoms for at least two weeks. 

Caffeine may help relieve symptoms of depression, but it may also make symptoms worse. More research is needed to confirm the influence of caffeine on depression and other mood disorders, but with the help of mental health treatment, you can manage your depression.

Can Caffeine Help Depression?

Caffeine is the world’s most widely used central nervous system stimulant, with about 80% consumed in the form of coffee. However, studies that analyzed prospectively the relationship between coffee or caffeine consumption and depression risk are scarce. [2] Further investigations are needed to determine whether usual caffeinated coffee consumption may contribute to depression prevention.

In North America and many European countries, coffee and tea are adults’ primary dietary sources of caffeine. Chronic caffeine consumption has several biological effects that should be considered when considering the plausibility of its potential to reduce depression risk.

At low to moderate doses, caffeine has well-known psychostimulant effects such as improved psychomotor performance, increased vigilance, and elevated arousal (lesser somnolence and greater activation). Increased sensations of well-being and energy. The known effects of caffeine are dose-dependent, but typical low doses are perceived as pleasant and stimulating.

In contrast, a reverse effect is observed with higher doses. Most individuals seem to adapt their caffeine consumption to their tolerance, so the chronic is within the range between reinforcing and aversive effects.

Depression is often treated using a combination of psychiatric therapy and medication. Some caffeine and depression research suggests that caffeine may benefit people with the disorder.
Depression is often treated using a combination of psychiatric therapy and medication. Some caffeine and depression research suggests that caffeine may benefit people with the disorder.

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Depression Disorder Statistics

A 10-year study found a connection between lower risks for suicide and caffeinated coffee consumption. Nonetheless, depression and risks for suicide are severe disorders that need proper care and treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. For some individuals, major depression can result in severe impairments that interfere with or limit one’s ability to carry out major life activities. [3]


21.0 Million

In 2020, an estimated 21.0 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 8.4% of all U.S. adults.

Source: NIMH

64%

Adults with a depressive disorder or episodes have a 64% greater risk of developing coronary artery disease. 

Source: NIH

2nd

Mental Health (Depression, grief, and behavioral conduct) is the second leading workplace concern, following only family issues.

Source: Employee Assistance Professionals Association Survey, 2017


Depression Disorder Facts Sheet

Also called: Clinical depression, Dysthymic disorder, Major depressive disorder, Unipolar depression

Depression is a severe medical illness. It’s more than just feeling sad or “blue” for a few days. If you are one of the more than 19 million adults in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling sad or “empty”
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling very tired
  • Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is a disorder of the brain. There are a variety of causes, including genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depression can happen at any age, but it often begins in teens and young adults. It is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

There are effective treatments for depression, including antidepressants, talk therapy, or both.

[4] Source: Depression – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health

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Depression and Caffeine Side Effects

Depending on your body’s sensitivity to caffeine, your symptoms might be more challenging to manage. If you decide to cut back on caffeine, these symptoms may also appear as your body goes through caffeine withdrawal depression. Too much caffeine can lead you to feel the following:

  • Jitteriness and anxiety
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Dehydration
  • Painful headaches
  • Increased heart rate

Is Caffeine a depressant? No, because it is a stimulant. For this reason, people may experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not have access to it. Caffeine withdrawal can trigger symptoms that overlap with those of depression and anxiety. Caffeine only provides a temporary boost to the nervous system. As a result, people with depression may experience a more severe drop in their mood once the effects of the stimulant wear off. People with depression should only consume caffeine in moderation.

People with depression should only consume caffeine in moderation. If you have depression, make an appointment to see a mental health professional. They can help you manage your consumption of caffeine and depression.
People with depression should only consume caffeine in moderation. If you have depression, make an appointment to see a mental health professional. They can help you manage your consumption of caffeine and depression.

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Does Caffeine Cause Depression Symptoms?

Caffeine has become a staple among working adults and students looking for energy to push through with their jobs or studies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers four regular-sized cups of coffee as generally safe. However, drinking coffee can produce side effects like symptoms of depression, restlessness, a rapid heartbeat, and insomnia.

Drinking more than four cups of coffee daily can increase these adverse effects. Some people report having symptoms like heightened anxiety, headaches, and agitation. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), used to assess and diagnose mental disorders, calls it “coffee intoxication.”

One of the most severe symptoms of depression is wanting to harm yourself or commit suicide. If you have this overwhelming feeling, seek immediate help. If you have depression, make an appointment to see a mental health professional. They can help you find a treatment plan. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of constant panic
  • Regular feelings of sadness
  • Feeling as though you are a failure
  • Inability to focus and follow through
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sudden change in eating habits that includes a dramatic weight loss or weight gain
  • Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Feeling overly tired
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Regular thoughts of death

Depression is a cyclical disorder, meaning the symptoms can come and go. It’s crucial to see a mental health professional so that you can be properly diagnosed and receive the care you need.

Some foods and beverages people with depression should try to avoid when looking to counter the effects of the condition. One of the main foods to avoid is refined sugar. Whether a person stirs it into their hot drink or eats it in a candy bar, refined sugar excites them immediately.

After the rush passes, however, people may feel depleted and lower mood than before they consumed the sugar. Other foods [5] that people with a high risk of depression should minimize or avoid include the following:

  • Artificial Sweeteners: A 2019 review found a link between using artificial sweeteners and an increased risk of depression.
  • Processed Food: Ready meals and packaged food have the same effect as sugar. Manufacturers often load these foods with salt and preservatives. A 2019 cohort study of Spanish students found that those who consumed ultra-processed foods had the highest risk of depression, mainly if they did not engage in much physical activity.
  • Hydrogenated Oils – Present in deep-fried food, fast food, and french fries. A 2019 study in mice found that the animals exhibited depression-like behaviors after exposure to a high-fat diet.
  • Alcohol: This is a depressant of the central nervous system. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to dependency and cause a hangover, significantly affecting a person’s mood.
Research into caffeine and depression has found that people experience less severe symptoms when drinking coffee. But for the best outcome and to avoid possible side effects of caffeine consumption, connect with a mental health professional.
Research into caffeine and depression has found that people experience less severe symptoms when drinking coffee. But for the best outcome and to avoid possible side effects of caffeine consumption, connect with a mental health professional.

Depression Diagnosis

To be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have five depression symptoms every day, nearly all day, for at least 2 weeks. One of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities.

If you think you may have depression, talk to a healthcare provider. Primary care providers routinely diagnose and treat depression and refer individuals to mental health professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists. During the visit, your provider may ask when your symptoms began, how long they last, how often they occur, and if they keep you from going out or doing your usual activities. It may help to make some notes about your symptoms before your visit. Certain medications and some medical conditions, such as viruses or a thyroid disorder, can cause the same depression symptoms. Your provider can rule out these possibilities by doing a physical exam, interview, and lab tests.

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Caffeine Depression Possible Risks

Not all studies agree that caffeine for depression only has positive effects. Heavy coffee consumption and a high intake of caffeine can result in side effects such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness

Can caffeine cause depression? Yes. Caffeine depressant effects can cause agitation, tremors, nervousness, and sleeplessness. All of these symptoms can impair mood. These symptoms are similar to those of the body’s “fight-or-flight” mode. This is the body’s natural response to high adrenalin or potentially threatening situations. Stimulant substances also trigger this reaction. If a person triggers this response too often by consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, it could increase anxiety levels.

Worsening Depression and Anxiety Symptoms

Several studies have also shown a connection between coffee intake and an increase in depression. According to one 2014 review in the journal Rivista di Psichiatria, caffeine consumption could make depression worse in people who already have mood disorders. The review highlighted a tendency toward increased anxiety, especially in people with postpartum depression and among those prone to panic attacks. [6]

Caffeine Withdrawal

Withdrawal from caffeine causes mild to clinically significant distress and impaired normal functioning. The severity of symptoms varies from individual to individual and most commonly include the following:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased energy/activeness
  • Decreased alertness
  • Drowsiness
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Feeling foggy/not clearheaded.

The severity of symptoms varies from mild to extreme. The incidence or severity of symptoms increased with increases in the daily dose. Still, abstinence from low doses, such as about a tiny cup of coffee daily, can also produce withdrawal symptoms.

  1. Is caffeine a stimulant or depressant?

    Caffeine is the most widely consumed central-nervous-system stimulant.

  2. Does caffeine help with depression?

    Yes. Caffeine helps with depression, but only temporarily. Studies reviewed in the meta-analysis show coffee’s anti-inflammatory properties are associated with decreased depression. Caffeine blocks mood-depressing chemicals in the brain. Caffeine blocks receptors in the brain from binding with a chemical (adenosine) that causes fatigue and depressed mood.

  3. Can caffeine make you depressed or anxious?

    There’s no clear link between caffeine and depression. However, caffeine and depression may be linked indirectly to people who are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine or who have too much caffeine. Caffeine can cause sleep problems that affect mood.

  4. Is it true that caffeine causes depression?

    Caffeine is notorious for causing jitters and anxiety, particularly at higher doses. People with underlying mental health issues may be more susceptible.

  5. What causes caffeine dopamine depression?

    Because caffeine is a drug, people can develop a dependency. Quitting caffeine and its withdrawal symptoms may offset the benefits of drinking coffee to help with dopamine depression.

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Depression Disorder Mental Health Treatment

Does caffeine help depression? Yes. Caffeine may temporarily help some people with depression improve their mood. However, it may also make symptoms worse. Never self-medicate depression, and speak with a mental health professional to determine whether or not caffeinated drinks, such as coffee or caffeine supplements, benefit your condition.

The We Level Up FL mental health treatment center can help you understand your symptoms and how to manage them appropriately. With many years of expertise and a compassionate commitment to helping people facing the challenges of depression, our goal is to help you achieve physical and mental well-being. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you!

The We Level Up FL primary mental health center stands ready to help. The We Level Up FL team can inspire a support system through our mental health treatments to make you feel valuable. You can trust the treatment backed by leading recovery specialists practicing evidence-based therapy. We Level Up FL Treatment Center offers therapy under one roof. Get comprehensive therapy for mind, body & spirit.

Call us now for a free mental health assessment! In addition, for the substance abuse or dual diagnosis approach, our inpatient treatmentinpatient medical detox, and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility. For more endogenous depression treatment resources, call us about your symptoms, and we can help you determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

We Level Up FL treatment center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

The good news is, among mental health issues, depression is one of the most treatable. Medications like antidepressants, cognitive behavioral therapy, and electroconvulsive therapy have been proven to improve depression symptoms positively.

To better understand the link between caffeine and depression and its effects on you, your best bet is to speak with a mental health professional about your depression and discuss different treatment options. 
To better understand the link between caffeine and depression and its effects on you, your best bet is to speak with a mental health professional about your depression and discuss different treatment options. 
Search Caffeine and Depression & Mental Health Topics & Resources
Sources

[1] Wang L, Shen X, Wu Y, Zhang D. Coffee, and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2016 Mar;50(3):228-42. DOI: 10.1177/0004867415603131. Epub 2015 Sep 2. PMID: 26339067.

[2] Lucas M, Mirzaei F, Pan A, Okereke OI, Willett WC, O’Reilly ÉJ, Koenen K, Ascherio A. Coffee, caffeine, and risk of depression among women. Arch Intern Med. 2011 Sep 26;171(17):1571-8. DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.393. PMID: 21949167; PMCID: PMC3296361.

[3] Major Depression – National Institute of Mental health (NIMH)

[4] Depression – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health

[5] Toews I, Lohner S, Küllenberg de Gaudry D, Sommer H, Meerpohl JJ. Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized and non-randomized controlled trials and observational studies. BMJ. 2019 Jan 2;364:k4718. DOI: 10.1136/BMJ.k4718. Erratum in: BMJ. 2019 Jan 15;364:l156. PMID: 30602577; PMCID: PMC6313893.

[6] Rusconi AC, Valeriani G, Carluccio GM, Majorana M, Carlone C, Raimondo P, Ripà S, Marino P, Coccanari de Fornari MA, Biondi M. Consumo di caffè nei disturbi depressivi: una dose giusta, non per tutti [Coffee consumption in depressive disorders: it’s not one size fits all]. Riv Psichiatr. 2014 Jul-Aug;49(4):164-71. Italian. DOI: 10.1708/1600.17452. PMID: 25174692.

[7] Chand SP, Arif H. Depression. [Updated 2022 Jul 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430847/

[8] InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: How effective are antidepressants? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/

[9] Bains N, Abdijadid S. Major Depressive Disorder. [Updated 2022 Jun 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559078/

[10] Medical Encyclopedia →  Depression – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health