Does caffeine cause mood swings?
August 10, 2007 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Does caffeine cause mood swings for you?

Recently I've been suffering from mood swings -- maybe spending a week high, and then a week depressed. Not serious, but more like ennui. I've had these in the past. In the past I've noticed that cutting out caffeine completely stopped them. But caffeine crept back into my diet, so I've just cut it out again. And the mood swings have gone again.

I know that caffeine can make people irritable, and cause palpitations etc, but I've not read about it causing mood swings. Is there any research mentioning this? Does it happen with you?
posted by long haired lover from liverpool to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Longtime caffeine addict here (pot of coffee every morning, 2-3 liters of Coke throughout the day). From personal experience, it does have an effect on mood, but not the way you describe -- I crash emotionally whenever I go without caffeine for an extended period of time (>12 hours).
posted by Doofus Magoo at 5:14 AM on August 10, 2007

I have the same problem. However, I've found out that the mood problems only occur when I drink it regularly (e.g. for every breakfast/afternoon break); having a cup from time to time is ok in the mood respect (just makes me jittery).
Related problem: coffee makes me awfully tired if I drink more than one cup per day.
posted by The Toad at 5:15 AM on August 10, 2007

Whooooo boy, does it! I used to be a caffeine addict like Doofus Magoo. However, my insane bitchiness nearly lead to a divorce. Had a bit of an epiphany and decided to cut out the caffiene. The first two weeks were HELL. That was 11 years ago and I'm still married. Since then, I've learned that even one glass of soda or a cup of coffee is enough to set me off. So, no coffee and no soda. Tea does not seem to bother me. Neither does chocolate, thankfully. This makes me wonder if it is something other than just the caffeine in coffee and soda that is in play. I also avoid OTC meds with caffeine in them.

While I still have occasional mood swings, particularly during PMS, they are short and not nearly as intense or ugly.
posted by onhazier at 5:51 AM on August 10, 2007

I've had the same thing. Caffeine also seems to have the cumulative effect, after about two weeks of a bottle of soda a day, of making me stay up later and later. When I was in college this led to me going into this weirdly depressed, nearly nocturnal stateā€”I'd go on increasingly manic stay-up-'til-5-a.m. sprees. Additional anecdote: I started having more panic attacks this spring when I reintroduced caffeine into my life.
posted by limeonaire at 6:14 AM on August 10, 2007

Additional data point: My dad has really manic talking episodes and weeping spells when he drinks coffee. Some people are just more sensitive to caffeine, it seems.
posted by limeonaire at 6:16 AM on August 10, 2007

I think some people are just more susceptible to mood changes than most people. Things like caffeine or having a cold makes them go farther off the deep end than most people. If youre like this than healthy living is the only solution. Some people get by with tea. I wonder if the co-chemicals in coffee affect people more than just the caffeine content. I've noticed that if I take a caffeine pill not much happens, but a strong coffee can make me crazy. Not the least of which is something akin to caffeine intoxication.

It is strange that coffee is causing mood swings. I imagine you're probably sensitive to caffeine and getting severe withdrawal. Or youre just a sensitive who is getting some nasty long-term affects.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:34 AM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Judging by the answers so far, the answer seems to be yes, it can cause mood swings at least in some people. This is not surprising. It is a stimulant. I'm no neurologist, but my guess is that to have particularly bad mood swings, you either have to be really addicted, drink a whole lot, or just have brain chemistry that makes you particularly suceptible to mood swings caused by caffeine. So if you feel just fine when you don't drink caffeine, it might not be a problem. But if you experience mood swings even off of caffeine that you feel cause you any problems, you might want to see a psychiatrist. Or if you just want to be able to drink one lousy cup of coffee a day without going nuts.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:56 AM on August 10, 2007

The times I've cut out coffee from my life, I generally just felt more emotionally stable over all (after the first few hellish days were over). It was nice to be able to wake up and not have that "ugh cannot move head not working too tired ugh" emotionally detached feeling every morning, or the jittery mid-afternoon "OMG HI! I JUST HAD COFFEE! I'M HAPPY!!!!! COME TALK AND TALK AND TALK AND TALK TO ME!!!" burst followed by a crash.

It would seem odd to me to cycle through week-long swings -- my swings were definitely related directly to the immediate ingestion of coffee or the lack of caffeine in my system -- but I could definitely see a case being made that spending my days constantly swinging between exhausted and hyper is probably not so good for my overall mood stability.
posted by occhiblu at 7:57 AM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

It definitely causes mood swings in me. I had to quit for a few years because it was making me just too antsy. Chocolate, tea, sodas, everything. I started again just a few months ago, and so far things are much improved. In fact, coffee (in moderation) gives me a pleasant mild euphoria. I'm sure I'll need to quit again someday, but at least I can recognize the negative symptoms when I have them.
posted by malaprohibita at 8:13 AM on August 10, 2007

I guess this confirms my own worst fears. I have mood swings and I think it has something to do with the increased shots of espresso that I've been consuming the past few months. Damn.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:16 AM on August 10, 2007

Caffeine definitely causes mood swings for me. I've noticed that these are much more severe if I drink it every day, but I'm usually not too affected if I skip two or three days a week. I try not to drink it on the weekend, and I try to skip on weekday. I've always been pretty susceptible to stimulants of all stripes, so make of that what you will.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:16 AM on August 10, 2007

I agree with the OP. I often feel sad as the coffee buzz wears off. Tea doesn't have the same effect.
posted by conrad53 at 10:20 AM on August 10, 2007

Yes for me, but not week-long swings. For me I have coffee in the morning, become peppy in the early afternoon, and then completely crash.
posted by melissam at 11:14 AM on August 10, 2007

This article about Caffeine Allergy makes very interesting reading.

"Caffeine toxicity may be mistaken for bipolar disorder (1,12). Symptoms include: chattiness, repetitive thought and action (resembling obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD), restlessness, psychomotor agitation, alternating moods, anger, impulsiveness, aggression, omnipotence, delirium, buying sprees, lack of sexual inhibition, and loss of values."

I wonder how common caffeine allergy is?
posted by long haired lover from liverpool at 12:17 PM on August 10, 2007

A caffeine habit adds a few extra independent variables to your life: how often you're drinking it, how much you're drinking, what time of day, and so on. Could it be that when you're drinking coffee, you shift back and forth on one of these variables from week to week?
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:32 PM on August 10, 2007

Well, my gf has learned that if I go quiet, then it's not that she's done something wrong, it's just that my higher cognitive functions have ceased, at least until the next coffee :)
posted by flutable at 7:15 AM on August 11, 2007

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