The Coffee Buzz: Are You Motivated Or Manic?
Caffeine Makes Some of Us Feel 'High' and Euphoric
Many people regularly enjoy caffeinated drinks, primarily in the form of tea and coffee. These delicious beverages are associated with a famous 'buzz' that varies in intensity among individuals.
Certain people can exhibit total mood transformations after a cup of coffee, becoming energized and productive, while others claim to be unaffected by it, and thus, never become hooked (Krankl and Gitlin, 2015). If you are sensitive to caffeine, you may find that it provides you with a euphoric, focused high that is conducive to the completion of piles of tedious work and the heightened ability to converse with others.
This article will address the physiological and emotional implications of using caffeine when you are affected significantly by it.
Slow Caffeine Metabolism = A Strong Mental Response to Caffeine
Firstly, we need to target some of the biology behind pharmacokinetics (the way that the body 'deals with' foreign drugs). Why is there such a disparity in the way that we are affected by caffeine, a substance that is so commonly consumed? The answer is that polymorphisms (natural variations in our genes) can explain the majority of possible drug reactions that one may experience (Shenfield, 2004).
Caffeine is metabolised by the CYP1A2 enzyme in the liver, coded for by the CYP1A2 gene that has varying forms (alleles). Each allele combination leads to a different response to caffeine, and hence, may dictate a person's response to caffeine (Horn and Hansten, 2007).
A recent study indicates that around 30% of us are slow metabolizers of caffeine, meaning that it remains in our bodies for long periods of time, exerting stimulatory effects (Yang et al., 2010). This provides a pharmacological basis for the difference in our responses to the drug; as you have probably observed, certain people can sleep perfectly well after a double espresso, while others would be kept up for 12 hours.
If Caffeine Makes You 'Happy', You Should Quit It!
While many people complain about the classic negative symptoms that accompany caffeine consumption, few people become alarmed when coffee brightens up their morning, or when it fills them with the desire to talk and frantically clean their house. Society normalizes this unhealthy response to caffeine which renders it a common point of comedy; we frequently hear statements such as, "Don't talk to me until I've had my morning coffee," or, "I had 3 Redbulls and organized my entire house last night!"
Hence, many of us particularly responsive people keep drinking the stuff; we love how 'fast' and switched-on caffeine makes us feel, and therefore, we overlook heart palpitations/occasional panic attacks and deem those normal side-effects. We are very susceptible to becoming addicted, all while suffering negative physical and mental symptoms. We typically find ourselves having to drink more and more caffeine as we chase the optimism and 'buzzed' energy that we once achieved from a mere cappuccino.
If you are someone who experiences a strong mental response to caffeine, including talkativeness and feelings of utter rising joy, this means that you should quit coffee (and if you must drink tea, drink it in low quantities).
Why? Pharmacological responses follow the laws of duality. If a drug makes you perked-up or improves your mood, you will always suffer consequences of what is an artificial high. Not only will you have to deal with the crash, but you'll also be faced with the fact that this mini-high will be temporarily softening your view of the people in your life. Yes, that's right - if caffeine makes you feel enthralled by people and desperate to converse, you'll also be more generous and inaccurate when you judge your feelings towards these people.
A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology (April, 2018) revealed that moderate doses of caffeine positively influence peoples' feelings towards themselves and their colleagues (Unnava et al., 2018). While it may seem like caffeine promotes rapport in the workplace, it would be naive to deem it beneficial from this evidence; the problematic psychosocial implications of altering interpersonal judgment temporarily through stimulant use should not be overlooked.
By consuming caffeine regularly, particularly in the form of coffee, you are allowing yourself to become manic on a daily basis while other peoples' realities aren't changing. This is a recipe for odd, unstable behavior towards others that you probably aren't aware of, as well as temporarily seeing people through rose-tinted glasses when they will not be seeing you in such a fond way.
Caffeine Is Making You Unstable and Distorting Your Reality
Your personality and natural spark is affected by caffeine a lot more than you think, and not only when you are under the influence.
Due to the dopamine-induced mood boost that it can offer, being perked-up temporarily means that you will almost definitely either be feeling depressed and unmotivated later, or you'll be consuming a problematic amount of caffeine just to delay this come-down (Sinicki, 2014).
At the peak of my caffeine addiction, I truly believed that the drug was my 'secret' to morning productivity and a positive mood, when the reality was I just entering a temporary state of mania on a daily basis. Absurdly unstable with regards to my work ethic and my personal relationships, my opinions of people changed regularly and I struggled to discern who and what I truly liked.
During university exam season, I would arrive at the library, depressed, unfathomably tired and lacking the desire to complete any work until I drank my first coffee of the day. Without fail, it would plunge me into electric motivation and I would start to speed through 3 hours of work in an uncharacteristically optimistic trance. In this caffeinated, hypomanic state, I would also feel a lot more friendly, to the extent that I would even text people that I was trying to distance myself from, arranging plans that I would later regret and want to cancel.
Inevitably, I'd crash at around 2:00 pm and consume more caffeine; the second strong, black cup of coffee always pushed me over the edge, sometimes precipitating horrendous, dissociative panic attacks, derealization and heart palpitations. Topping up on the stimulant also reliably worsened the low mood I would have to face when I eventually came down. In the aftermath of the stimulant 'buzz', I'd be averse to socializing, groggy and incapable of achieving anything productive. More importantly, I'd regret a lot of the overly-friendly advances I'd made on people while essentially manic earlier that day, wallowing in a sense of embarrassment comparable to that of an alcoholic the day after drinking.
My life was a vicious cycle of caffeine, anxiety and depression. Although I did not realize it at the time, caffeine was robbing me of any innate motivation that I had, in addition to tricking me into thinking that wasn't fit to face people unless I was 'buzzing'. The caffeine sped me up for a couple of hours and let me power through socializing and banal tasks, but I not without impinging on my natural motivation and mental health.
It also must be noted that caffeine is known to accent a range of unpleasant, unpredictable mental health problems in those who are already predisposed. The substance is stimulatory by nature, and some level of depression always follows a dopaminergic high. Anxiety and panic disorder are also very closely linked to high levels of cortisol and adrenaline, both of which are insidious hallmarks of a caffeine addiction (Jin et al., 2016).
How To Quit Caffeine (Or Drastically Reduce Your Intake)
Hopefully, you will now realize that the disarming, 'positive' effects of caffeine are just as indicative of the substance's detrimental impact on the body as the negative ones. That is not to say that occasional caffeine is always bad; pharmacology shows us that there is often a yin and yang to a particular substance, as low levels of certain drugs can be as beneficial as they are risky.
Nonetheless, if caffeine makes you feel wonderfully wired, it is time to stop relying on it in your daily life. Despite giving you a transient personality boost, it is quite literally hijacking your brain and stealing future excitement, joy and energy from you, in addition to potentially making you appear quite manic without you realizing.
To escape the cycle of caffeine over-stimulation, temporary energy and subsequent apathy, despair and fatigue, the first thing to do is quit coffee. The amount of caffeine in a cup of black coffee can range from around 80-400mg, and it is simply not a dose that someone with the slow-metabolizer CYP1A2 allele can handle.
You can then decide whether you are going to suffer the cold-turkey caffeine withdrawal symptoms, or drink tea as a coffee replacement to soften the blow. A cup of black tea contains around 35mg of caffeine and green tea 25mg, both of which are far more gentle and well-tolerated than coffee.
The Coffee Conspiracy - A Very Interesting Watch
So, Is Tea Safe For Mania-Prone People?
Containing L-Theanine, an amino acid that works synergistically with caffeine to provide you with calm energy and no sudden crash, tea is tolerated by many slow caffeine metabolizers. Personally, I am able to drink 2 cups of tea a day, but notice that I start experiencing low-level 'buzzed happiness' if I increase this to 3-4 cups a day. It is pleasant and not accompanied by much anxiety at this level, but I now know to cut back on the amount that I am drinking if I start to experience even the smallest mood amelioration from baseline.
I choose to drink one cup of matcha tea in the early afternoon. In doing so, I can incorporate a delicious, hot drink into my day and slightly enhance my focus, without suffering any marked personality changes. Matcha tea also offers a plethora of health benefits and is truly a 'superfood', though that term is certainly overused.
The bottom line is that no one who is prone to manic mood states or sensitive to caffeine can drink coffee; the dose of caffeine it carries is too high, and it doesn't contain natural anxiolytic compounds (found in tea) that balance the excitatory neurotransmitter activity that the drug induces.
Through experimentation, you can determine whether or not you can incorporate tea (black, green or matcha) into your life without wreaking havoc on your personality and natural workflow. However, the most important thing to be aware of is that any mood-boost that you experience from even a low dose of caffeine is not only synthetic and ephemeral but also detrimental to your sleep cycle, personality and your energy levels.
A delicious, softly stimulating matcha tea that I recommend
This matcha tea is genuinely the best that I have tried, and I am someone who is very caffeine-sensitive, mania-prone and anxious. I have not once suffered a panic attack since switching coffee for this green tea, and am full of energy and natural motivation. Try it and let me know if it works for you!
Conclusion? Pharmacology Is Complex, and No Drug Is 'Totally Beneficial'
This article is only an introduction to the complex nature of drug reactions, and the limits of our own bodies and thus our emotions. There is no way to hack the body to feel motivated and bubbly every hour of the day; quitting caffeine will, however, give you your best chance in life as it will take you back to your natural sleep rhythm, sense of motivation and childlike interest in the world.
The struggle is being brave enough to quit caffeine in a world that is so focused on constant productivity. While it may seem like a risk when there is a 2-4 week withdrawal period, a more authentic and stable future is definitely worth some temporary suffering. Once the withdrawal phase is over and you have greatly reduced your caffeine intake for a few weeks, you are guaranteed to feel more stable and naturally brighter, albeit in a softer, less manic way. You will also be far more in touch with your body (appetite, natural sleepiness) and your emotions (how you truly feel about your colleagues, your friends and your work).
We so readily consume alcohol and caffeine because they are considered acceptable by society, without realizing that they can be as damaging as illegal narcotic drugs. In doing so, we suffer from a plethora of unnecessary symptoms and side effects, as well as distancing ourselves from what our bodies truly want and need.
Jin et al. (2016). The Relationship of Caffeine Intake With Depression, Anxiety, Stress and Sleep in Korean Adolescents.
Journals.sagepub.com. (2018). Coffee with co-workers: role of caffeine on evaluations of the self and others in group settings - Vasu Unnava, Amit Surendra Singh, H. Rao Unnava, 2018.
M, K. (2018). Caffeine-induced mania in a patient with caffeine use disorder: A case report. - PubMed - NCBI.
Pharmacytimes.com. (2018). Get to Know an Enzyme: CYP1A2. [online] Available at: https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2007/2007-11/2007-11-8279 [Accessed 21 Jun. 2018].
Shenfield, G. (2018). Genetic Polymorphisms, Drug Metabolism and Drug Concentrations.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 Lucy