Effects of Coffee on Adults With Aspergers

Had an interesting revelation today.

As an adult with Aspergers who is also determined to actually earn some money and be successful in business, I find myself constantly tinkering with and re-calibrating my diet for maximum energy and resources to use during the day. Generally speaking, like so many other autistic people, I find myself the most centred, peaceful, stable and consistent on a very low-carb diet, usually some variation on phase 1 Atkins. However, while living on a low-carb diet, I find my energy levels - already naturally pretty low and easily depleted - drop quite low by the end of the work day, and I begin to be very grumpy, anti-social and unpleasant etc as I approach aspergers burnout for that day.

A few years ago while reading up on Atkins, I discovered that black coffee was permissible, and so gave it a try. At first the taste was not what I was used to - but it grew on me, and now I love it. And more than that, I found that every time I drank it, I got this huge energy boost, I was able to tap resources I previously had not had access to (although, as always with Aspergers, they presented their bill later and I had to rest rest rest and recover). I soon discovered that, while the effects of the coffee lasted, I was able to act much closer to neurotypical, which in my line of work was very very helpful indeed. And coffee is addictive.

At the beginning of the past school year (Sept 2017) I began having a huge black coffee twice every day, and the effects were fascinating. It was as if the coffee was allowing me to stretch my limited resources like elastic, to stretch them and stretch them to the point that I could function for the whole work day as a neurotypical person. Of course, I would practically curl into the foetal position by the end of the day under the covers in a dark, silent, tidy room. But in all brutal honesty, it was so nice to experience what it is like to work a normal day without battling against the constant social awkwardness brought on by the low-energy slump that running out of resources as an Aspie causes. 

The past 2-3 weeks I have been experiencing stabbing stomach pains, and after experimenting around with multiple different things, have discovered today that the coffee and constant amping-up of my body and mind with it to be the cause of the pain. I have used black coffee to stretch my inner resources and am now experiencing what it feels like to teeter on the very edge of that breaking point where my body starts waving a little while flag and saying 'no more or Im going to start to break'. 

So today I didn't have my morning coffee, and I can feel the healing starting already, I am feeling much happier and relaxed, and am going to lay off it probably for the rest of the week.

However, I'm not going to lay off it completely. My experience has taught me that coffee, if treated like a mood-managing medication, can be incredibly helpful. If treated like a pleasurable indulgence it can be a little dangerous because it is so addictive, and the body can only take being driven into hyper-mode for so long. I expect going forward I will use black coffee as an on-the-spot treatment if I feel myself falling backwards into a low-energy slump at an inconvenient time. The rest of the time I'm going to lay off it to allow my body and mind to actually recover from the excursion into hyper-mode (something I have been neglecting to do recently).

Has anyone else had similar experiences with coffee?

  • wow what a super power! Have you even drunk yerba matte?

  • these are great story snippets, thanks. I don't think it's a vice, myself, if it's done in moderation, just like everything else. I don't have any trouble stopping for stretches of  time either. Recently I had food poisoning and had to stop for close to a month. One thing interesting: My blood pressure went way down with out it. And I snored a bit. 

  • I have been drinking coffee always. Or if not always, then for longer than I can really remember.

    It's my only vice - if it even is one! 

    It's as much a part of day as anything and things are just no good without it. Most likely I am dependent, which is the normal state of affairs for me. Occasionally I've decided to go decaff and brave the withdrawal! 

    But these virtuous episodes ever lack permanence.

    I drank more when I was young, less when I was a bit older, and now a bit more.

    I drink ground, from beans. I was never allowed instant as a child. When no longer a child, I was excited to try! 

    But it was a bit disappointing Confused 

    I drink Farrer's No. 1, brewed in this house since 1997! 

  • I had a tox screen for something else (health related after hospital admission) that came back with a caffeine level equal to the LD-50 for caffeine, that was back in my twenties, drinking a 100g jar a day while working in an IT hardware role (and playing a lot of Doom, Quake and Counterstrike multiplayer).  Needless to say the doctors at the hospital were far from amused, but they were even more shocked that it seemed to have no effect on me and I could drink a cup before bed and sleep like a baby. 

  • I used to drink a lot of caffeine. And by a lot, I mean a lot! The amount I consumed daily at one point was insane! I did this for years with coffee and cola, both together seemed to give me energy and lifted me up, made me feel this kick which got me through the day. At that time my Gran whom I was very close to was suffering from cancer and I think it was a bit of a crutch for me having all that caffeine.

    But it took its toll. Age 24 I started feeling unwell and this got stronger and started to affect my day to day life. It turned out I had Diabetes, not really surprised. And then at 26 I started to get constant belching, abdominal pain and issues in that area and that turned out to be stomach ulcers which I had to have removed.

    I'm now 27 and feeling much healthier since having a healthier diet. I eat way better now and am drinking only tea and sometimes a special treat of maybe lemonade. I miss the caffeine, I miss that buzz it gave me, but it isn't worth the danger it now presents to my health.

    I drink a lot more healthy stuff now and am feeling much better physically and mentally. I do feel I'm missing that crutch now but I'm trying hard to find others way to support myself during the more difficult times.

  • Same.  It makes me shake and that's about it.  I have noticed many stimulants don't work on me.  I personally prefer Ginseng to Coffee if looking for a concentration boost.  I usually go for the Red Kooga tabs but only take a bout a quarter of a tablet each time.  It boosts concentration for me and gives me better focus.

    I am awaiting ADHD assessment, but have heard that people who are almost immune to stimulant common effects tend to have ADHD or ADD.  So they don't work on me for the most part.

  • Caffeine doesn't have an effect on me from what I've noticed. I drink only cola so it's possible I've become immune to any adverse effects from it? Don't know. It gives me a lot of energy though and it's very much needed.

  • I don't have spoons today.....but just wanted to say how happy and connected I feel to you, due to your post above.  Thank you.

  • I love the smell and taste of coffee but the caffeine doesn’t have any effect on me.

    This was confirmed when I did a 23andMe genetic test a few years ago. One of the things the report said was that I am likely a “slow caffeine metaboliser”, meaning I don’t get a buzz or hit from it.

    I’ve read a lot about possible health benefits of drinking coffee though, so I have an espresso every morning.

  • I like coffee but it's hard to have just one or two....The caffeine buzz is nice but when the buzz stops and I crash I feel drained and struggle to get through the remainder of the day.

    I avoid caffeinated drinks now.

    Try to avoid is more appropriate!

    I try to drink only water, or tea, sometimes milk but never too much!

    I've always had a sensitive stomach....GI problems are commonplace for me. I used to think it was just a me thing.

    Now I realise a lot of autistic people of all ages suffer from GI discomfort as I do. Mine is inflammation according to my doctor, caused by chronic anxiety.

    Coffee is lovely. I love it. But I get rid discomfort shortly after consumption.

    I try to stick to a diet plan, the same foods and drinks.

    If I can. But drinks like coffee give me energy and I feel on top of the world after drinking coffee....It's a slippery slope!

    I've got chronic gastritis and IBD which I don't think helps with the coffee and pain connection either.

  • A paper published in 2022 by Hours, Recasens et al. states "... according to the scientific literature, 50 to 70% of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also present with comorbid attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). From a clinical perspective, this high rate of comorbidity is intriguing...."  I suspect that many autistic adults (previously Aspergers or "high functioning" ASD) fall in that category. Until a few years ago, a dual diagnosis of ADHD and ASD was quite rare, then the " diagnostic rules" changed, and there is even talk of having Autism with ADHD (sometimes referred to as AuDHD) as a new diagnostic entity in the next DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by clinicians.)

    Caffeine increases the production of dopamine, which acts on the same receptors as many of the stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD. There is a paper [Ágoston C, Urbán R, Horváth Z, van den Brink W, Demetrovics Z. Self-Medication of ADHD Symptoms: Does Caffeine Have a Role? Front Psychiatry. 2022 Feb 3;13:813545. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.813545. PMID: 35185656; PMCID: PMC8850715.] which reviews the research in this area, and which may be worth reading if you are interested.

    I stress that I am a social worker, not a clinician; I have studied some psychology including some very basic psychopharmacology. As a result, I am probably still confused, but at a higher level!

    Disclaimer: This is for information only - you are advised to contact a health professional before changing your medication, including self-medication.

  • I am autistic with ADHD. As a kid, undiagnosed, in year six I used to take a Thermos of strong black coffee to school, and I have been self-medicating ever since.  There is an overlap between autism and ADHD (according to some writers up to 60% co-morbidity) so the caffeine may be working on your concentration and impulse control in the same way as ADHD medication. Of course, caffeine is a stimulant that works for NTs too.

    I find that I don't get a "buzz" from coffee. I once had two double espressos and two Jolt colas in an hour, and promptly fell asleep! At one point I was drinking twenty cups of coffee a day - my concentration improved, but no other physical effects I could notice - My blood pressure and pulse were normal, etc. The same dose would have had my NT colleagues climbing the walls. Your mileage may vary ...  if you are experiencing symptoms, check them out with a health professional.

    The NIH in the USA have a paper on their website that describes how caffeine increases the production of stomach acid, and this may account for discomfort. [Nehlig A. Effects of Coffee on the Gastro-Intestinal Tract: A Narrative Review and Literature Update. Nutrients. 2022 Jan 17;14(2):399. doi: 10.3390/nu14020399. PMID: 35057580; PMCID: PMC8778943.] But as I say, it would be a good idea to take medical advice.

  • Well I doubt it's my Aperger's. But coffee gives me projectile diarrhea.

  • I love coffee, fore-ever a-men, for all the same reasons as you. The focused erergy boost feels so good and "the zone" so easy to enter.

    I also have had the similar experience with the gut issues when I was in my 20//30s. You. can work your up to an ulcer unless you...

    • switch to french roast which is not as acidic.

    • have the coffee only with/or just after food, even just a nosh (this is why we get a little biscotti on our demitasse saucer.)  

    •Mix in something soothing for the stomach. I use 2 parts coffee 1 part oat milk. (Its a big cup), 

    I have my 2 big cups of coffee right after b'fast and lunch. This is good because usually meals are the break in my day while busy with projects, so a cup after a meal adds octane to the engines.

    I had to quit drinking coffee during menopause, though. that was tough. Well past that now, I've gotten back my Caffeine mojo, baby.

  • I had an unusual craving for coffee this morning - probably only happens a couple of times a year.    I've had 2 large mugs full, each with 3 sweeteners, no sugar and some milk.     

    The experiment begins...... Smiley

  • Like you I have experimented with diet. Especially pre diagnosis. I found that coffee almost instantly spikes my anxiety. It seems that the heart rate increase it causes is misinterpreted by my brain, which then accelerates it further to the point of borderline panic attack. Took me quite a while to reach this conclusion. It's exhausting as you say, followed by aspie crash!

    Now I only drink tea, mainly decaf, and only decaf coffee.

  • Hi Jimi,

    Very interesting and thoughtful post.

    I love coffee; I have every type of Tassimo Pod that's available. My least favourite drink is espresso; I do have them sometimes in the morning, but I much coffee with milk or cream. I have spells of drinking tea instead of coffee, but I've never had any ill effects from coffee abstinence. That said, I also like to drink water too.

  • Coffee, Red Bull, Tea?

    It's all brain-energy for me. Slight smile

  • Goodness.  This is interesting.  I can't function without my black coffee... but err yes, I get incredible stomach pain too.  Don't know if they are linked but perhaps I should try a weekend without and see what happens.

  • I drink coffee every morning, and it does help boost my brain-meat, but I can't have more than 2 cups of coffee a day because it sets off my IBS, alas... Also, have you ever tried L-theanine? It's a nootropic that boosts concentration and works better with coffee - I add it to my morning coffee.