Is it ok to drink caffeine when you have ADHD?
Caffeine is a stimulant, but unlike other stimulants, such as nicotine, cocaine and prescribed meds (including ADHD medication) is widely used and socially accepted.
Caffeine, whether it’s in coffee, tea, chocolate, Coca-Cola or energy drinks, like Red Bull, make you feel more alert, happy and energetic. This is because it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and you feel its effects in your body and brain.
ADHDers can have an interesting relationship with coffee, and caffeine in general. Some people love it and find it helps their ADHD symptoms. Others avoid it because it makes them anxious. Another group of ADHDers are super users and drink it large quantities – 10 cups a day wouldn’t be an exaggeration, and some people even drink it before bed to help them to sleep.
Here are some of the Pros and Cons of caffeine:
1) Helps focus and problem solving.
2) Gives you an emotional pick-me-up (thanks to the increase in dopamine production)
3) Gives you a boost of physical energy
4) Reduces sleepiness…which is so useful in the morning, if you struggle to wake up
These benefits are only short lasting, which is why it’s easy and tempting to reach for more when the caffeine benefits start to wear off.
The problem with too much caffeine when you have ADHD is that:
1) Caffeine can decrease the effectiveness of ADHD medication
2) It can cause negative health effects, such as headaches and nausea, but more importantly, anxiety (which 50 percent of people with ADHD have).
3) It can deplete you mentally and physically. For example, many ADDers get into bad habits with eating, (forgetting to eat, or not organizing time to prepare food) so they use coffee and sugar to keep them going all day. This causes a quick burst of mental and physical energy, but then results in a crash. To get out of the crash, you reach for more caffeine and sugar. This leaves you jittery; mentally and emotionally and physically exhausted.
4) Caffeine often interferes with sleep, which is important as 75 percent of people with ADHD have problems getting a good night sleep.
Caffeine in Moderation
You don’t have to give up caffeine completely. However, because moderation is key, here are some painless ways to reduce your caffeine intake.
1) Track (with no judgement) how many caffeine drinks you have each day.
2) Notice what it is that prompts you to have one. For example: a pick me up in the afternoon, an excuse to go for a walk, a habit, or a need to focus on a hard mental task, etc.
3) Look at this information and see if there something you could do instead of drinking caffeine that would help. If you get an afternoon slump, perhaps replace your big lunch for a smaller meal and then have an afternoon snack. If you need to go for a walk, give yourself permission to just go for a walk rather needing a reason, such as picking up coffee.
4) Are there some times when a non-caffeinated drink would be just as good? For example, whenever I sit down to write, I have this ingrained habit of sitting down with a hot drink. However, I realized it doesn’t have to be tea; sometimes, a mug of mint tea is just as good.
5) Drink more water; because caffeine is a diuretic and also, when we are fully hydrated, our bodies crave less caffeine.
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