Why Does Coffee Help Depression?

Few people would doubt that a morning cup of coffee has a positive effect on the mood. This forms the basis of its popularity across nations and civilizations. Yet it acts as more than giving a simple shot at mood elevation.

Many studies have indicated that coffee helps prevent some kind of depressions, especially mild and moderate types. Nearly, 15% of people in rich countries are believed to be suffering from this kind of depression

Research that looked into the correlation between drinking coffee and the incidence of depression suggests that the risk of developing depression drops by 8% with each cup of plain coffee taken per day.


A new line of thinking that has emerged from this study says that depression is caused by inflammation in the brain due to bad immune response. Scientists involved with this research believe that the antioxidants present in coffee may have a role in alleviating the inflammation.

The combination of antioxidants present in coffee contains chemicals such as nicotinic acid, chlorogenic acid, trigonelline, quinolinic acid, tannic acid, and pyrogallic acid.


Why does coffee help depression? Another line of thinking emerging from the same research suggests that caffeine, being a psychostimulant, alone is responsible for anti-depressive response among the consumers. It happens because the psychostimulant increases and promotes motivation and wakefulness.


Why coffee helps in depression may be because of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter, popularly known as pleasure chemicals. It controls the brain's pleasure, reward, and emotional responses. Studies have shown that dopamine may have a role in how behavioral responses get influenced by caffeine.

When a person drinks coffee, the bloodstream absorbs the caffeine and it ultimately gets transported to the brain. Eventually, it ends up interacting with adenosine that acts as a depressant in the brain’s central nervous system. Adenosine is responsible for promoting the feeling of tiredness. Curiously enough, caffeine and adenosine have structural similarity and that makes caffeine get attracted to adenosine.

As caffeine binds with adenosine receptors, it helps enhance the amount of dopamine available to bind with dopamine receptors. This happens in a section of the forebrain called the striatum, which guides decision making, reward and motivation responses, and many other perceptions and responses.

When caffeine interacts with adenosine, adenosine receptors are overwhelmed by the caffeine and stop working at their optimal level.

This leads to a number of positive feelings including increased alertness. Studies have shown that caffeine consumption leads to an increase in the availability of dopamine receptors. This suggests that caffeine may be arousing the dopamine receptors to work with increased effectiveness.

Depression & caffeine

depressed woman holding a coffee

Depression is defined as a mood disorder and nearly 15 million people are suffering from this in the US. A major characteristic of this health condition is long periods of acute sadness. If you had depression in the past, it may recur in the future. While modern medicine uses medication and psychiatric therapy to treat depression, some studies suggest that caffeine can be of some help to people with depression.

Studies have found that caffeine consumption can decrease the risk of depression. It was also found that coffee consumption can reduce depression. But the same benefits were not observed in other caffeinated drinks, hinting that there is something in coffee, and not in caffeine, that works against depression. Another study suggests that consumption of coffee lowers the risk of suicide.

Long term effects of caffeine

The two main characteristics associated with depression are lack of motivation and inability to appreciate pleasure (anhedonia). A regular intake of coffee seems to deal with the problem quite effectively as far as low and mild cases of depression are concerned. If we believe in the theory that caffeine is able to achieve this feat by binding to adenosine receptors, a regular intake of caffeine looks to prevent depressive disorder even in the long run.

Are we self-medicating without knowing?

Looking at the rage coffee has become in countries like the US, we can believe that people are self-medicating with coffee without being aware of it. In the US, nearly half a billion cups of coffee are consumed every day.

Why is there such a lust for caffeine? Is it that the antioxidants found in coffee are simply too irresistible? How would you self-medicate with coffee without being aware of it? Why does coffee help depression?

Let's look at some apparent indications. Are you drinking more than four caffeinated drinks every day? Do you take ever more caffeine to feel better and relaxed?

Are caffeinated drinks becoming less effective in perking up your mood? If you answer yes to all these questions, you can see you are self-medicating your depression with coffee without even knowing it.

Finding a balance

2 hands holding a heart shape cup of coffee

To see if you are self-medicating your depression with enhanced dosages of coffee, you can stop taking it, for an experiment. It is not easy for a coffee lover, and we know why. After a month, try noticing if you are feeling more depressed because you are not consuming coffee. If you feel you were self-medicating your depression, it’s time you took your coffee ever more seriously.

At the minimum, you can allow yourself at least three cups of plain coffee every day. The caffeine remains in the system for 5-6 hours, so try to take your next cup of coffee after the first is completely out of your system.

Why does coffee help depression? Taking a new cup of coffee soon after the previous one will increase the possibility of tolerance and addiction, meaning you will require more coffee yet you will not get the lift.

Coffee stimulates brain cells and the central nervous system by increasing the amount of serotonin and dopamine.

Besides giving a happy feeling, it’s also been found to check and prevent suicidal tendencies. However, the level of motivation and mood-boost is different for different people. This often leads to self-medication unknowingly.

Various studies have also shown that caffeine helps prevent and manage many other diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, colon cancer, among others. One major reason why coffee helps depression is that it stimulates the immune functions in all major parts of the body and maintains overall health and well being.

A healthy body and an alert mind can be the reasons for how caffeine is able to treat depression.