I’ve been having panic attacks since I was a child.
They got worse during my early teenage years and finally peaked while I was in high school. At the height of my panic attacks, I was having about two per week my senior year, which is a lot.
Panic attacks are scary, draining, and life-changing. I learned how to cope with the episodes—and sometimes I could bring myself back from one—but I couldn’t quite figure out how to stop panic attacks.
This one thing I was doing made me realize how to stop panic attacks.
How to Stop Panic Attacks: Stop Drinking Coffee
Yes, you read that right.
I love coffee. I come from a line of coffee lovers. I started drinking coffee when I was about 12 and continued to drink it throughout high school. I’d go to school with a big travel mug full of coffee and pretty much finish it by the time I got to school.
After experiencing a debilitating illness two weeks after I graduated at the age of 16, I was forced to stop drinking coffee for a while. Even after I recovered, I found that my body was too sensitive to the caffeine to tolerate much of it.
My illness cultivated an awareness in me of my body as well as the way certain foods and drinks made me feel. Thus, I became aware of coffee’s impact on my anxiety and learned how to stop panic attacks simply by not drinking coffee.
I haven’t had a panic attack since.
How I Coped Without Coffee
I had headaches in the beginning when I stopped drinking coffee, and I didn’t immediately replace it with an alternative.
However, I started drinking tea at some point after that, which not only replaced coffee as a warm snuggly beverage in the morning but also helped keep me full and eventually helped me lose the 50 pounds my illness made me gain.
Once the headaches subsided, I was free from coffee’s grasp.
I don’t crave coffee ever, but I do love the smell of coffee and will take tiny sips of my fiancé’s coffee when he has it. However, I never have any more than that and I certainly have never had my own cup of coffee since I was 16. I’ve learned that coffee is a powerful drug that can make crazy things happen.
And so I gave up coffee and learned how to stop panic attacks.
My Life Without Panic Attacks
If you’ve never had a panic attack, there’s no way for me to fully describe it. Every person will likely experience panic attacks differently, therefore everyone will have different coping mechanisms. This is just what worked for me.
Before I stopped drinking coffee, the only way for me to bring myself back from a panic attack was to stop whatever I was doing and get out. One morning at school I felt the onset of a panic attack. My arms and face started tingling. I lost vision for a few moments. I started sweating and hyperventilating.
I got up and walked out of class, across the parking lot, and walked two hours and twenty-one minutes home to my house. Panic attack avoided.
Other than that, there wasn’t much I could do when it came to how to stop panic attacks. I had someone suggest deep breathing to me, but that seemed to only make it worse (I’m sure I didn’t know how to breathe correctly). I know different people have different techniques that work for them. Mine is limiting my caffeine intake.
So What Else Has Caffeine in It?
Caffeine is sneaky and is present in different things besides coffee. It is also in:
- Black, green, oolong, and white tea (herbal teas are fine, though)
- Chocolate, cocoa, baker’s chocolate, hot chocolate, anything chocolate
- Decaf coffee (has about half the caffeine of regular coffee)
- Certain sodas such as Pepsi, Coke, and Diet Coke
- Conventional energy drinks (make your own natural version here)
- Certain medications such as headache medication (Excedrin) and even menstrual medication (Midol)
Limiting my caffeine intake has helped keep me panic-free for the last decade and I feel very fortunate to not have had another panic attack since my teenage years.
Caffeine’s Effect on the Body
After learning about caffeine’s effect on the body, it’s no surprise that it was triggering my panic attacks. Caffeine such as that contained in coffee has been shown to trigger a “fight or flight” response, increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
Coffee can also cause many other negative effects, including dizziness, trouble breathing, muscle tremors, anxiety, and irritability. Although people drinking “moderate” amounts might be ok, we know that everyone reacts differently to certain substances. It all depends on how you feel.
I’m not against coffee by any means. In fact, research has shown that coffee is beneficial for many people for a variety of reasons. The fact is that I just know it’s not beneficial for me.
As someone who had panic attacks for nearly a decade, learning how to stop panic attacks from happening was important to me. By adjusting my caffeine intake and listening to my body, I was able to isolate a pattern of drinking coffee and having panic attacks.
How to stop panic attacks, for me, was eliminating coffee from my diet. I miss coffee sometimes, but I definitely don’t miss panic attacks.