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Caffeine And Anxiety: What Do Your Genes Have To Say?

Written by Jim Duncan, MSW | Last updated:

We all have experienced anxiety in our lives. Some people, however, may be more likely to suffer from anxiety symptoms. Read on to find out how caffeine and anxiety are connected, and what your genes have to do with all of this.

Do You Have Caffeine Sensitivity?

Many of us happily, if not obsessively, partake in coffee culture. We stop on our way to work (or these days have it delivered) to get our particularly specialized coffee drink that costs enough for every charity organization to use it against us to solicit donations.

We joke with each other about the absurdity of it, and yet we consume. There is a reason the populace of some cities will claim that there’s a coffee shop on every corner. Hidden beneath this wave of good, caffeinated vibes, however, is that group of people who decidedly don’t drink the heavenly, roasted bean.

What is that you say? Do people willingly do that? But…it’s coffee! I’ve jokingly picked on friends or family who don’t drink it, but it turns out that some people have a legitimate reason not to drink coffee or caffeinated beverages in general.

“It makes me too shaky,” some will say or, “Coffee makes me jumpy.” What they are defining is that some people legitimately have a sensitivity to caffeine and it may be due to a gene variant and perhaps more than one.

What Does the ADORA2A Variant Gene Do?

The ADORA2A gene makes a protein that allows for brain cells to utilize a compound called adenosine that, among other things, helps make you sleepy. Caffeine will attach itself to the protein and not let adenosine into the cell. This is the main reason coffee helps keep you awake.

If you have both of the ADORA2A ‘T’ variants however, this can induce an anxiety response to caffeine IF you are not a constant user, and it’s also more likely to happen if you are female [1].

This mutation has also been linked to people with panic disorder, and it should come as no surprise that people with panic disorder tend to avoid caffeine [2]. So, it functions as a deterrent to consuming caffeine. Though, if you force yourself to drink caffeine regularly, you may build a tolerance like anyone else and the effect can go away [3].

We still have a lot to learn about the connections here, and exactly how this variant spikes an anxiety response to caffeine, but it does. Mental health is a challenging and ever-evolving area in genomics.

What Can I Do About Caffeine and Anxiety?

We know that adenosine is linked to anxiety, but we still have a lot more to learn about it. Until then, you can understand that having this variant makes you susceptible to caffeine causing anxiety.

If that’s your case, you may want to be aware and mitigate your caffeine consumption. Knowing that caffeine can do this allows you to consume it in a manner that can make an anxiety response less problematic. Sometimes, understanding is all you need in order to handle a situation.

A Gene-Based Approach To Coffee And Anxiety

The ADORA2A is just one gene that may play a role in your sensitivity to caffeine and anxiety. The truth is, there are many other genetic variants that have been linked to anxiety, with new ones being discovered every day.

Anxiety can be caused by a lot of different factors, and you may not be aware of what’s going on in your body. By knowing what your genes have to say, you can make targeted changes to improve your overall well-being. If you’re wondering if reducing your caffeine intake may help you calm your mind, you should check our SelfDecode.

The SelfDecode Anxiety DNA report analyzes over 800,000 variants to give your genetic risk score and personalized recommendations based on your genes.

Caffeine and anxiety. Can caffeine cause anxiety

SelfDecode is the only direct-to-consumer DNA company that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to give you the most accurate and science-backed results.

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About the Author

Jim Duncan

Jim completed his M.S.W. in Social Work Administration at Portland State University. He has always been interested in analyzing social issues, and he helped fund and start a program against domestic violence. He has also conducted many public speaking sessions about violence against women, and published 3 fiction novels. Inspired by SelfDecode’s mission to make precision health a reality, he decided to use his natural writing ability to help teach the world about the power and promise of genomics. His areas of interest include science-based writing,  astronomy, and genomics.


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