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Does caffeine help depression?



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  • Does caffeine help depression?


    Depression runs in my family and I still seem to battle it now and again. I seem to be going through a bout of it. What I am finding is that I feel less depressed and pretty good for a couple of hours in the morning when I drink coffee and wonder if the stimulant helps me. If that is the case I wonder if an afternoon caffeine pill would be worth trying? I don't like to drink coffee in the afternoon. I don't think the caffeine would keep me up at night, in fact it would be nice to be more alert in the evening. I feel like I lose focus and concentration in the afternoon and evening and am ready for bed by 8pm. If I were to try a caffeine pill is there a "clean" brand/type I could take? Anything to this?

    Oh and FYI... I drink two cups in the morning.

  • #2
    Insert standard "I'm sad without my coffee" joke here.

    While caffeine hasn't had much of an impact on my moods (I've previously been on antidepressants), I've found that D3 -- or, for that matter, just being outside in the sun -- helps exponentially.

    If you want other caffeine options, how about black or green tea? Or some dark chocolate (75% cacao or better) for dessert?
    F, 44 years old, 111.8 lbs, 4 feet 11.5 inches (yes, that half inch matters!)

    **1st place sparring, AAU TKD regional qualifier, 2/15/15 - It's damn good to hit like a girl!**

    **First-ever 5K race 11/28/13: 37 minutes, 18+ seconds, no stopping**


    • #3
      I know that the smell of coffee elevates the mood. I would try carrying around the coffee beans and just smelling them when you feel low before starting to jack up caffeine intake. It impacts blood sugar levels and mood swings can be a bad idea. That's one of the reasons I usually do not drink coffee, I find it unhinges me, and sends on the up and down mood and energy trips. You actually may feel steadier energy if you give up coffee entirely. It will be hell for a couple of weeks, but then at least for me, everything gets much, much better. Well, I also try to keep of all other sugars too, since I am most sensitive to sugar in mood/energy department.
      Last edited by Leida; 08-22-2012, 05:49 AM.
      My Journal:
      When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.


      • #4
        What you are suggesting would work in the short term. You would likely feel more energized in the afternoon as you said. The problem is that caffeine as with any other drug starts to lose its "kick" and you would need to up the dose in a short amount of time to get the same effect. This could very quickly lead to burnout or adrenal problems down the road, which would just make depression even more likely.

        The best way to avoid or keep depression at bay is to eat a clean diet, get plenty of exercise and rest and be spiritually healthy. Meditation is essential here. Also having a real purpose in life. Something that you are very passionate about that you can immerse yourself in on a daily basis. It is difficult to be depressed when you are doing what you are meant to be doing. Far too many of us aren't and its a major blockage to true happiness.


        • #5
          Long ago I suffered some pretty bad depression and self-medicated with caffeine. I drank a lot of coffee in the morning and a lot of tea or diet soda in the afternoon. We're talking liters of it. It really did help immensely, but the cause of the depression was likely the lack of fat and protein in my diet. At the time I was my thinnest adult weight, I was cycling up a mountain or running every day and eating only vegetables, no meat, no carbs except what was in the vegetables, very little fat. Eventually I crashed and had to go on medication.
          Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


          • #6
            I tend to get depression as well, especially in the last several months that I've been dealing w/ mercury toxicity. Caffeine definitely makes me feel better. I got to the point that I was taking a fat burner daily just for the boost in mood. I then went on ADHD meds for awhile (I convinced both myself and my doc that I had it because I felt SO much better w/caffeine), until it made my hair start to fall out. Too much caffeine will stress your adrenals. A supplement that has worked very well for me is L-Tyrosine. I take 750mgs in the morning and afternoon, and I feel significantly perked up about half an hour later. It's also one of the supplements that's recommended for mood balance in the book The Diet Cure.
            That being said, if you decide to have caffeine in the afternoon, I would just stick with coffee. In addition to caffeine, it's got other good things in it as well, such as antioxidants, which a caffeine pill would not.

            Good luck!


            • #7
              Maybe I will try L-Tyrosine ... I have read The Diet Cure, but so many supplements made it seem a bit unreasonable. Thanks for the tip! I am afraid of adding more caffeine because of what is said above abot eventually crashing or needing more or stressing my adrenals. I do feel as though meditation would be beneficial, too. Thank you for your input and for sharing your experiences!
              Last edited by healthy11; 08-22-2012, 12:04 PM.


              • #8
                Originally posted by JackieKessler View Post
                Insert standard "I'm sad without my coffee" joke here.
                Haha... it's true


                • #9
                  I have extensive personal experience with this. My advice:

                  Coffee releases dopamine. That tends to make anyone feel more alert and better. So the first question, imo, is whether you have low-serotonin depression or low-dopamine depression. Or, if like meeee, you have BOTH! Which you totally can. ALAS.

                  This page has a great, straightforward guide to assessing how you feel and figuring out your serotonin or dopamine status:

                  Since your question is about using caffeine in the afternoon, the issue would be whether you need a dopamine boost at that time or not. This is key because you may be shifting into low-serotonin at this later point in the day. In non-depressed (lucky) people, dopamine will be up in the morning, making them alert and energized to (in evolutionary/survival terms) go out and secure resources, food, shelther etc.

                  But as the day moves through afternoon and into evening, diurnal animals like us will have dopamine fall and serotonin rise. This is so we'll chill out and be moving towards sundown and, crucially, not be dopamine-wired and sleepless. As Mark says, sleeeeeep. Sleep is very very important for depressed people as well, just because if you don't sleep, your dopamine/serotonin the next day will both be crap. Even in non-depressed people. (Which is why, one would assume, they get all cranky and feel like hell all day. Among many other sleep-deprivation induced problems.)

                  So if you have low-serotonin depression to start, or both, caffeine in the afternoon could actually deplete your already-low serotonin, making you feel more depressed.

                  However! For extra fun, if you have ADHD (like meeee) or even various subtypes of low-dopamine depression, caffeine at late afternoon or even evening/night may actually make you feel relaxed and able to sleep. (This is, they figure, because the caffeine stimulates the 'stop worrying about all that stuff!!' switch in your brain, and you are then able to go to sleep.)

                  The takeaway from this is that you're going to have to pay attention to your levels of depression v. feeling focused/happily relaxed at various times of the day. Then you'll have to try caffeine out and see what it does. Everyone is different and responds in idiosyncratic ways.

                  Black tea or matcha green tea (or yerba mate, or so on) could be afternoon alternatives to coffee too. Matcha is a much slower caffeine hit due to the theanine, I think. Cocoa powder is also caffeine-y enough for some people.

                  Anyway, good luck! Depression sucks very very hard, and I hope you continue to find solutions to help you feel better.

                  I've spent a lot of time searching for my own depression management tactics/drugs/etc, so feel free to PM me with specific questions if you'd like. You could also do a forum search, there's been a ton of caffeine-depression relief threads.

                  Oh, and since I have that conk out at 8-9pm issue myself, I find that a walk right after dinner helps a LOT. Doesn't have to be very brisk or long walk, either.
                  Last edited by Nycea Pacific; 08-22-2012, 01:04 PM.


                  • #10
                    This is really interesting. Depression (and anxiety) has been a problem for me for about 2 years now, and I have a cup of coffee every morning just because I like the taste. It never occurred to me to look into it this deeply. Thanks for all the info Nycea Pacific, especially that page about serotonin/dopamine. It looks like my problem is with the former.


                    • #11
                      Very interesting, Nycea Pacific, thank you! After reading the article I feel like I am low in both serotinin and dopamine. What causes this in the first place and can diet help fix it? I will have to learn more about this... thank you again for the info and your time!


                      • #12
                        I have recently started drinking a cup of coffee in the morning on an empty stomach about 2 hours before my first meal and noticed a big improvement in my mood, which seems to last all day. I don't feel the stimulant effects of the coffee from one cup, but I am just generally more happy, upbeat, and talkative throughout the day. I didn't notice this as much when I used to drink it on full stomach. I took a few days off this week and didn't feel depressed or anything, but was not as cheery as I am with coffee. Today I had a cup and the same positive mood came back. Is this a bad thing, like I'm lacking something without the coffee, or is it perfectly fine to have a cup a day to get these effects?


                        • #13
                          Makes sense I was able to self-medicate with caffeine so well since my depression was fixed with drugs that affected dopamine, not serotonin.
                          Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by healthy11 View Post
                            After reading the article I feel like I am low in both serotinin and dopamine. What causes this in the first place and can diet help fix it? I will have to learn more about this... thank you again for the info and your time!
                            No worries. I wish someone had told me this stuff so I didn't have to piece it together myself, lol. And there's people here who have much more life experience with this stuff than me, too. I think there's some thread called 'feeling unbalanced and confused'? Huge thread. Someone here will know exactly what it's called. I just don't have the time at the moment to search it out. There's a TON of info there.

                            In regards to your specific question:
                            As far as I can tell... causation is due to a mix of genetic vulnerability, exposure to modern crap diet and the destruction of even whole foods through various chemical shite and irradiation and so on. Modern lifestyle of high-stress and the OTHER ongoing destruction (the economy)... all of that is making everyone depressed in increasing numbers. Dopamine and serotonin are- ideally- made from the amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan respectively. If you eat protein, you eat a good bit of both since protein is just amino acid chains.

                            BUT! I know that in my case, I've eaten ten billion tons of protein daily for the last 15 years of my life. And this did very very little for my low dopamine/serotonin. For whatever reason, I can't get the tyrosine and tryptophan in, say, those hardboiled eggs I just ate, from my stomach and into my bloodstream, which will then deliver them to the brain.

                            So, you might want to try eating high-tyrosine or high-tryptophan proteins and seeing if it helps you. It might, everyone's different. It's actually a good idea (I think) for any depressed person to eat a touch more protein than other people, just because honestly, it can't hurt. I do 1g per pound of lean body mass, which is 110g for me. But imo, you really don't need more than that. On the other hand, if you WANT more? Knock yourself out, can't hurt and it's really really hard to overeat protein, in particular lean protein. (Intuitively: imagine trying to eat 500g of cookies versus 500g of salmon.)

                            I take tyrosine and 5htp/tryptophan supplements, and *this* does work. The reason why, I suspect, is because these pills are pre-digested. The amino acids are broken down entirely, so they go right into my bloodstream, and right to the brain, where they have a noticeable effect on my mood within- no lie- 2-3mins after I take the pill.

                            Someone upthread has already mentioned Julia Ross' books 'The Diet Cure' and 'The Mood Cure'. I'd read the latter first, as it is specifically about depression and it's various neurochemical deficiencies. You can probably get them from the library, and I think both are on google books, so you can check them out for free.

                            However- fair warning. I think Ross has dumb ideas about how everyone should eat 2500-3000 calories per day, and she also seems to feel that supplements and diet alone can fix even severe depression and addiction to hard drugs.

                            WELL, NO! lol . At least, not in my case. Amino acids helped me, but not enough. To correct my low dopamine/serotonin problems, I need... lets see here..

                            -All the lifestyle stuff, sleep, exercise, sunlight and fresh air
                            -A fairly low carb, high protein diet, and becoming fat-adapted helped my brain work better immensely.
                            -Eating more calories than I need does less than nothing for me, and in fact causes problems that make my depression worse. So approach this 'eat MORE MORE MORE' advice with... skepticism, lol.
                            -Maximum daily doses of tyrosine, DLPA, PEA and tryptophan.
                            -Wellbutrin, Ritalin and Trazodone, which are pharmaceutical psych meds.
                            -Coffee. I drink about 4 cups a day. I also get a fairly enjoyable buzz off, weirdly, splenda and stevia. They're both dopamine-releasers for me. But Ross lists both as psychoactive drugs, so.

                            Reminds me. Ross also demands that one quit- completely!- all caffeine.

                            I tried this. Worst effing three months of my life. Coffee in moderation is harmless for me. Your tolerances will be different, because everyone's biochemistry is as individual as their fingerprints. But coffee is not an evil devil-drug from hell, and frankly neither is alcohol (as Mark says, in moderation. )

                            So! In conclusion..
                            Lots of causes.
                            Diet may or may not help you.
                            Sunlight, exercise, spiritual wellness etc will help anyone feel better, but it's unlikely they'll be enough to cure you on their own. But try it anyway, can't hurt.
                            Try all this stuff if so inclined, and see how it affects you.

                            Broken record time... but, dude... get a mood journal to write this stuff down. No one can remember how they felt at 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm etc or how they felt at those times yesterday, last week, etc.... even if they aren't depressed to start. Writing down stuff is a pain in the ass, but it's worth it. And it gets less tedious very quickly, in my experience.

                            Someone was telling me that they used a twitter feed to tweet their moods and reactions to various stuff they tried out to themselves. That could do it, if it's easier for you. Just have a random anonymous twitter feed, it's very unlikely anyone will read it other than you. It's a timestamped record, so that would work fine.

                            Oh, and learn from my mistakes and don't spend 2+ years with the attitude that all antidepressants are evil Satan Globalist mind control pills. Because you may, like me, actually need them. And imo, life with corrected depression through pharmaceuticals is 200000% better than. You know. Suffering unrelieved depression.

                            Anyway, good luck. This stuff is tough, but there are a lot of solutions out there. Best advice, really, is to accept that it will take time, trial and error, etc. But there's so much stuff you can try and do, that I think just about anyone can find what they need to correct their depression and live a pretty happy life. You've just got to figure out what works for you.


                            • #15
                              Wow, tons of good info from Nycea Pacific! I also recommend checking out The Mood Cure, just for ideas, and for how the amino acids work. "Depression-Free: Naturally" is also good.

                              I can also attest to 5-HTP/Tryptophan and Tyrosine being mood-savers. 5-HTP seemed to alleviate my depression overall, though I did not notice changes "within minutes" of taking it, like "The Mood Cure" describes. Tyrosine helped my general anxiety, and that did work within minutes. After a while, I was able to stop taking anything. I take Tryptophan now if I get into a slump, but I don't need it often (once every month or every other month).

                              I also kept a pretty detailed journal here on MDA about my experiments and moods.
                              Depression Lies