What is Caffeine Induced Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety from coffee

Not all people can take coffee; in some, the caffeine can even trigger symptoms of anxiety. A small variant in the genome is responsible for this. However, their effect can be lessened by regular coffee consumption. This is what scientists from Würzburg found out together with a working group from the University of Bristol. The journal Neuropsychopharmacology reports on their work in its latest issue. Coffee is and will remain the favorite drink of Germans. According to the German Coffee Association, they had 1.3 billion cups last year

Changes in the genetic make-up are responsible for the fact that some people react with fear to a cup of coffee or tea. “We were able to show that a variant in the gene for the adenosine A2A receptor plays an important role in this process,” says Jürgen Deckert, head of the Würzburg working group. The messenger substance adenosine normally docks with this receptor in certain areas of the brain and thus triggers a calming reaction. If the receptor gene is changed, however, caffeine can displace adenosine and thus prevent its calming effect.

To do this, however, those affected have to carry the changed gene on both the paternal and maternal chromosomes. “In a study on volunteer test subjects in cooperation with Harriet de Wit's working group from the University of Chicago, we found that only subjects who had the same gene variants on the long arm of both chromosomes 22 responded to a medium dose of caffeine Fear reacted, ”says Deckert. Like the stimulant effects of caffeine, this effect was temporary; over time it subsided and was completely gone after a few hours.

The fear reaction only occurred when the test subjects consumed a medium dose of caffeine - namely 150 milligrams, which corresponds to about two cups of coffee. At a lower dose (50 milligrams) none of the test subjects reacted with fear, at a high dose (400 milligrams), on the other hand, all test subjects showed increased anxiety - according to the result of a further study with scientists from the University of Chicago. The genetic variation is only relevant for the development of anxiety in the medium dose range. “The result is not surprising. You can also find similar trends in other areas, ”says Deckert. An example: In a romance film, normally no viewer is afraid, in a horror film everyone is afraid. With the "medium dose" - a crime thriller - only those who are sensitive to it feel fear.

If you react to coffee with fear, you don't have to do so for the rest of your life. “In our most recent study, together with Peter Rogers from the University of Bristol, we looked into the question of whether the level of daily caffeine consumption of the test subjects had an effect on the gene effect,” says Deckert. The results showed that the gene effect is weaker in people who regularly consumed a medium or high dose of caffeine. In other words: "The genetic intolerance can probably recede with a gradual increase in the dose and regular consumption," says the doctor. Deckert sees the results of these studies as further evidence of how complex gene-environment interactions can be.

A few years ago, the Würzburg researchers, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Bonn headed by Markus Nöthen, identified the same genetic variant that leads to increased anxiety after consuming caffeine as a genetic risk variant for anxiety disorders. However, it cannot be the cause of an anxiety disorder on its own. "Here, additional environmental factors such as the consumption of caffeine or traumatic life events are certainly needed," says Jürgen Deckert.

These complex interactions between caffeine and other substances that have an indirect effect on the adenosine A2A receptor are currently being investigated by the Würzburg researchers in cooperation with a Münster research group led by Katharina Domschke as part of the Collaborative Research Center SFB TRR 58 “Fear, Anxiety, Anxiety Diseases”. Voluntary participants are still being sought for this. The subjects should be healthy and between 18 and 65 years old. If you are interested, you can contact us at T: (0931) 312687 or email: [email protected]

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August 6, 2010

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