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Caffeine Raises Stress Hormones
 By Dr. Neil Nedley

I continue to marvel that many patients who struggle with stress and anxiety have not yet made a break with caffeine. Due to society's acceptance of this drug, the issue is worth belaboring. The message needs to be heard—caffeine directly raises stress hor­mones, the American Psychiatric Associa­tion says caffeine-induced disorders [of cof­fee drinkers] may be characterized by panic attack symptoms that resemble primary mental disorders. Perhaps the greatest irony is that individuals may actually use caffeine to treat the results of stress-related problems.

A wake-up cup of coffee may seem vi­tal to a person struggling with stress-in­duced insomnia, yet the caffeine may be part of what is keeping the person up that night. I challenge every one of you who drinks caffeine to enjoy two weeks of caf­feine-free living. Many who have tried it are amazed at the increased quality of their lives and become convinced that caffeine was doing much more to accentuate their stress problems than to help.

The American Psychiatric Association also warns coffee drinkers of a malady called "Caffeine Intoxication." This occurs shortly after drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee within a few minutes of each other. Five or more of the signs listed in Figure 5 will likely de­velop during or shortly after caffeine use,

A caffeine addict should expect to ex­perience withdrawal symptoms such as headache, sleepiness, laziness, and decreased alertness.  They are usually most severe for only a day or two. In the following five days, they generally taper off and disappear.

Caffeine Intexification Symptoms

 Alcohol, Stress, and Anxiety

              Perhaps one of the most common self-treatment approaches for stress is an after-work drink. I wonder if this practice has taken on a new legitimacy as the result of what appears to be a strong publicity effort orchestrated by the alcohol industry to es­tablish drinking as a healthful practice. However, according to recent research, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to combating stress. Alco­hol weakens our capability to cope with stress and anxiety by lowering the level of three hormones in the brain that are needed to cope with stress in several ways. The hor­mones are listed in Figure 6.

Alcohol and Stress

               The first two hormones in the figure are beneficial in warding off anxiety. Ani­mal studies reveal that heavy drinking can lower brain levels of important hormones like serotonin and GABA that help control anxiety. These same chemicals together with another brain messenger, dopamine, when in abundance, help provide a sense of reward or pleasure. Consequently, alco­hol may not only interfere with attempts to address anxiety, it may further undermine mood by increasing the risk of depressive symp­toms.

 Animal researchers discovered that a high intake of alcohol weakens the hypo-thalamus' ability to release the key stress-activating hormone called corticotropin re­leasing hormone (CRH). Research in human subjects has linked low levels of CRH with depressive problems. This has been studied in the relatively common con­dition called postpartum depression, where women sink into a depressive mood follow­ing delivery of a child. Greater reductions in CRH following childbirth caused an in­creased risk for depression in the new mothers.

 Many may drink alcohol to seek relief from short-term stress. The reality is that the effects of alcohol are detrimental whether the stress is short-term or long-term. It can contribute to long-term anxi­ety and depression, and in the short-term it actually undermines the capability of the body to respond to stress.

DepressionFrom the book
Depression, the Way Out,
Nedley  Publishing, Ardmore, OK, 2001

Neil Nedley, M.D.,
Nedley Health Solutions
P. O. Box 1565
Ardmore, OK 73402

Toll-free: 1-888-778-4445
Phone: 1-580-226-8007
Fax: 1-580-223-2645