Home » Expert Q & A » Impulse Control Disorders » Impulse Control Disorders: Katie Brooks

Does coffee have any influence on OCD?

  • anonymous Asks ...

    Does coffee have any influence on OCD? My brother drinks like 10 cups a day but swears it has no effect on things. I am not so sure…

  • Katie Brooks Says ...
    Katie Brooks

    Hello there-

    First of all, everyone is different. Your brother may not experience negative side effects from caffeine at this moment. It is also possible that he has been drinking coffee for quite some time and does not know the difference. That being said, over forty research studies have shown that excessive caffeine can be harmful to your health.

    Here are just a few of the effects that caffeine can cause in the general population:

    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
    • Restlessness
    • Nervousness
    • Insomnia
    • Flushed face
    • Twitching or trembling
    • Distracted thoughts and speech
    • Physical agitation
    • Nausea
    • Light-headedness
    • Diarrhea
    • Mood swings

    These symptoms make up the "fight or flight" reactions designed to protect you from harm. Excessive amounts of caffeine can prompt the body's fight or flight response even though no real danger exists. This overactive fight or flight response can contribute to anxiety.

    Caffeine exasperates Anxiety, Insomnia, and Panic Attacks.  Since OCD is an anxiety disorder, and caffeine causes anxiety, it would be worthwhile for your brother to quit or decrease his caffeine intake.  My guess is he would see a significant decrease in symptoms.   

    It sounds as if your brother is very addicted to caffeine.  Although caffeine seems to be one of the least dangerous substances, a substance it is.  Addiction is addiction.  Your brother may report not being agitated by the coffee because he is protecting his addiction and does not prefer to give it up.

    Unfortunately, you cannot force anyone to give up a bad habit, but you can educate.  It might be a good idea to refer him to a therapist who can educate him and teach him how to manage/ cope with his disorder in a healthy way.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be the most effective form of therapy for OCD.  If you have any further questions or would like to make a phone appointment please visit my website goodtherapysandiego.com.

Featured Experts