How Does Caffeine Affect Borderline Personality Disorder?

Coffee is the most popular beverage on the planet, with around 2 billion cups consumed daily all around the world. Coffee has both positive and negative effects on the human body and can worsen and/or improve certain mental disorders. People with Borderline personality disorder (BPD) may utilize caffeine as an escape, but in many cases, it just brings more anxiety to the individual.

Caffeine appears to impact some people more than others, and it can affect anyone, regardless of their mental condition. In this article, we'll discuss how caffeine affects someone with BPD.


Borderline personality disorder is a mental condition characterized by rapid mood changes, unstable self-image, unstable relationships, dissociation, and self-harming behaviors.


Caffeine and mental disorders

Caffeine is a famous stimulant most often found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate. It is the most consumed psychoactive drug on the planet, thanks to its stimulating properties. Caffeine interacts with adenosine in the brain; When adenosine binds to certain receptors, it interacts with the release of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Coffee prevents you from feeling sleepy by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. This makes you feel more alert and awake.


Caffeine has both positive and negative effects on the body and mind; it can increase metabolism and reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, it can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine. However, caffeine can also increase blood pressure and lead to insomnia. Lastly, caffeine is a drug, which means that it is addictive, and that is where BPD starts to play a role.


BPD and caffeine

As you may know, people with BPD are often prone to addiction, and like any other addiction, caffeine may heighten already heightened emotions. Since people with BPD often experience inner turmoil, this can be used as an escape.


Since people with BPD are more susceptible to addiction, they are more likely to experience caffeine overdose, which can cause migraines, extreme nervousness, hypertension; heart and chest problems, nausea, and shortness of breath, among various other health issues. The precise effect of caffeine on mental disorders is still unknown. However, the most prevalent indication is that people with BPD report feeling more anxious after caffeine consumption.


How does caffeine affect BPD?

Anxiety can be a symptom of certain disorders or a disorder in itself. It is characterized by an intense and persistent feeling of dread, recurrent worries, and fears regarding everyday circumstances. Anxiety is both a mental and physical disorder; psychosomatic symptoms of anxiety include nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, trembling, muscle tension, and headaches.


Anxiety can be both a symptom and a comorbid disorder of BPD; between 75 and 90 percent of people with borderline meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can be a generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety. Anxiety is an incredibly invasive symptom/disorder which can have a detrimental effect on the sufferer’s daily life.


Caffeine and anxiety

As mentioned above, caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors, causing the central nervous system to release adrenaline and dopamine, better known as the fight-or-flight hormones. Fight or flight is the body’s response to a threat; we either fight the enemy or run away from it. There are other additions to this response, such as freeze and fawn, which are trauma responses. The first one consists of not being able to move/speak when in shock, while the fawn response is when the person adopts an appeasing behavior to avoid confrontation.

Caffeine can have an adverse effect on anxiety. This is because of its overstimulating nature. Caffeine can cause side effects such as jitters, heart palpitations, and gastrointestinal problems, all very similar to anxiety symptoms.


Caffeine can both worsen and help maintain the disorder; someone dealing with anxiety may struggle with fatigue, so they will drink coffee to feel more awake, which will, in turn, make them feel more anxious. This will prevent them from falling or/and staying asleep, which will cause more fatigue, and so the cycle continues.


Caffeine and depression

Major depressive disorder (MDD), what we all know as ‘depression’, is a mood disorder. Characteristics of MDD are a persistent feeling of emptiness and lack of interest, along with fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and suicidal thoughts, which are also symptoms of BPD. Depression is often comorbid with BPD, as between about 38 and 71 percent of people with depression also have BPD and vice-versa.


Caffeine has been demonstrated to lower depression and even suicide rates. This is especially true for women. The research found that drinking 1 to 4 cups of coffee a day reduced suicidal ideation in women. Unfortunately, the same result was not found in men. This is especially important because suicidal ideation and completion are common symptoms of BPD. Additionally, coffee contains certain acids that help reduce inflammation of nerve cells, which may relieve the discomfort caused by depression.


Does caffeine affect BPD?

Caffeine has an effect on the main symptoms of BPD; it can worsen anxiety but can also decrease the incidence of depression and suicidal ideation.


You should pay attention to your symptoms when you drink coffee; do you feel jittery? Do you get heart palpitations? How does your stomach feel? Do you have any sleep disturbances? If caffeine impacts your daily life in the negative ways named above, then maybe you should reduce (or better eliminate) caffeine from your diet. A smart way to integrate caffeine responsibly would be to mix decaf and caffeinated coffee together, so to get the “experience” of coffee without the caffeine-induced side effects. Another smart choice is to drink caffeine-free beverages that still give you energy, like ginseng tea or maca root.


Finally, the best thing to do is to ask your general practitioner what to do when it comes to coffee intake. They will be able to help you make a tailored decision.