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What is the Connection Between Caffeine and Stress?

Article Details
  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Science and conventional thinking say that caffeine causes or compounds stress. From this perspective, the relationship between caffeine and stress verges on directly causative. Scientifically, it is known that caffeine causes an exaggerated stress response and that caffeine can disrupt sleep, causing additional stress. On the other hand, many people find caffeine comforting from a subjective standpoint and feel more able to cope with daily stresses when caffeinated, even if the effect is heightened from a medical standpoint. Given the subjective nature of stress, particularly stress from an emotional standpoint, it is very difficult to accurately determine the relationship between caffeine and stress.

Links between caffeine and stress are primarily measured in physiological responses during stressful situations, such as work. Measurements indicating higher blood pressure and increased adrenaline when under the influence of caffeine have been used to demonstrate that caffeine exaggerates stress reactions in humans. These studies show not only that caffeine and stress are related, but also that the effects of caffeine on stress can last all day. Primarily, these studies are used to demonstrate that caffeine is bad for the body because stress is bad for the body.

Caffeine and stress are connected not only through effects, but also through choice. Many people choose to consume unhealthy amounts of caffeine when under significant stress. Given the effects of caffeine on stress, this choice is thought to lead to additional stress. People who consume unusually large amounts of caffeine often find that focusing becomes difficult, making the stressful task yet more stressful. In this way, caffeine and stress become caught in a loop that can be very destructive for people in difficult situations.

An alternative perspective to the direct causative relation between caffeine and stress is that stress cannot be measured by objective scientific means, but must be considered from a subjective perspective. Many people who experience what might be termed stress experience that stress as exhilaration or helpful pressure. The physiological symptoms of stress may always be bad for the body, but the psychological experience of stress can be different depending on the person. As such, while caffeine and stress can be highly related for one person, they can be entirely unrelated for another. In fact, for some people, caffeine may reduce the subjective experience of stress.

While there is no precise science connecting stress to caffeine, there is certainly evidence to suggest that caffeine can cause stress in some people. As such, people experiencing extreme symptoms of stress who also drink large amounts of caffeine are sometimes advised to stop consuming caffeine. On the other hand, if no negative symptoms are experienced, there is no reason to stop drinking caffeine. Without the subjective experience of stress, stress cannot be said to exist for an individual even if he or she has higher blood pressure and adrenaline.

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