Depressed? Drink More Coffee

by Bill Brenner on September 29, 2011

People often shudder over the amount of coffee I down each day. Even after I point out that it’s the only vice I have left, they still look at me like I’m nuts. But I’ve found new allies at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

My new academic friends say those who drink two or three cups a day have a 15 per cent lower incidence of depression than those who rarely do so. Their point of view is captured nicely in this article from  , medical correspondent for The Telegraph. He writes:

Although they emphasised the study did not prove that caffieine protected against depression, they noted that there appeared to be a “dose-dependent response”. That is, those who drank the most coffee tended to suffer the least from depression. For instance, those who consumed drinks containing 550mg or more caffeine a day – equivalent to four or more cups – had a 20 per cent lower risk of depression than those who barely drunk any.

Michael Lucas and colleagues looked at more than 50,000 healthy women, whose average age was 63, and followed them for a decade. They estimated their caffeine consumption in all types of drink, via questionnaire, and then looked for new cases of depression. Writing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, the authors noted that in the study group “cases of depression decreased in a dose-dependent manner with increasing consumption of caffeinated coffee.”

Some personal perspective…

Binging on a $35 bag of McDonald’s junk between work and home and walking through the door in a zombie-like state, feeling like the lowest of the low.

Realizing that I HAD to have a glass of wine at the end of the day or, better yet, all afternoon on a Sunday, the glass filled to the brim.

Dreaming up all kinds of ways to hide the money I was spending on both. In other words, lying to everyone about what I was up to — including myself. [More on that in The Liar’s Disease]

That was the real self-destructive stuff. I kicked the first habit by cutting all flour and sugar from my diet and putting all my food on a little scale. The second one was easier to kick, because even at its worst, that addiction was far less damaging than the flour-sugar kind.

I’m both sober (from alcohol) and abstinent (from compulsive overeating) and I work the 12 Steps of Recovery.

But quitting coffee? No way in hell I’m going to do that.

I drink it all day. I like it strong and bitter, and if there are grounds spinning in a circle at the surface, I’m fine with that. Even when I put cream in, it still looks black to the naked eye. I love it so.

My favorite routine is to get up at 4 a.m., brew a cup and let it seep into my bloodstream as I look out the living room window, sitting in my favorite chair, watching the sun come up. By 9 a.m., I’m on the second cup.

I prefer Starbucks, though Peets and Panera brew some good stuff as well.

On some of my work-at-home days, I can be found in the Starbucks up the street, using the place as my own caffeinated office.

When traveling, one of the first things I do is find where the coffee is at. By the way, there are a lot of great coffee shops in Washington D.C.

Why the obsession with coffee? Well, the easy answer is that I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and chances are I’m always going to latch onto something. The trick is to latch onto the things that are most harmless to me, my family and everyone else. Caffeine is one of those things.  Sure, there’s the risk that I’ll overdo it and end up in an emergency room with my heart trying to rip its way out of my chest.

When I was around 20, I thought a great way to lose weight was to drink as many cups of black coffee as I could squeeze into a day. It was good for weight loss, but that kind of weight loss is only temporary. And breathing into a paper bag to calm down at the end of the day got old fast.

What works for me now is to sip slowly. Guzzling is the path to heart palpitations, so I avoid that.

Sometimes, when I’m on the road, I switch over to Red Bull in the afternoon. I’m not as big a fan of the stuff, but it helps to dull the edge I get from seeing all the free booze and food flowing around me.

Yes, I’m letting something control me. Yes, I’ll probably have to stop someday. But not today.

Of all the addictions I have, it remains the least harmful. And if it keeps me away from the stuff that really pushes my life into a downward spiral, so be it.

Besides, I have some Harvard smarties backing me up.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin C Brenner September 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

The key, though, is how those Harvard smarties define “cup”. I’m pretty sure it’s not the 20 ounces you use for “a cup.” 😉

Dave Marcus September 29, 2011 at 11:55 am

Its always nice to see my fixations have a basis in science….. I am however NOT happy with the choice of theme music. Crue has been dead to me since Neil’s douchbaggery with drinking-and-driving and his attitude toward it.

juliebooth September 30, 2011 at 9:10 am

I am RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. I’m off all the booze, weed, nicotine, benzos, sugar, white flour and dairy… Coffee? NEVER. (OK, never say never)….. I love the stuff though. My husband gave me a NESPRESSO a few years ago…. HEAVEN.

colleen miles January 8, 2012 at 8:41 am

did you know it can stop an asthma attack in a pinch? Also works well on ADD and ADHD peeps!

Pakistani1414918 April 14, 2013 at 1:50 am

It’s basically a drug that you are artificially using to feel positive without realizing this can cause other problems such as dehydration, ocd, anxiety. Drugs is definitely not the answer to depression. I drank coffee for many years and suffered through all this and it didn’t help me with my depression at all only gave me problems. Giving it up is a milestone. Definitely harmful, only to be realized when a lot of damage has been caused by it.

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