Introverts, that cup of coffee may be doing more damage than you think

Say it isn’t so. Introverts, we may need to lay off the coffee.

Psychologist Brian Little, in his book, Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, writes that introverts perform less efficiently on tasks after drinking two cups of coffee.

Extroverts, on the other, carried out tasks more efficiently after drinking the same amount of coffee.

Why can’t life be fair?

For introverts, this deficit is magnified if the task we’re engaging in is done under time pressure and is quantitative, writes Little.

This means a meeting at work that involves rapid-fire discussion of budget projections, solving a math problem on a timed test, or any kind of data analysis might turn out worse for us if we’ve had some caffeine.

Why caffeine affects introverts and extroverts differently

The reason why caffeine affects introverts and extroverts differently basically has to do with our differing levels of neocortical arousal in the brain, according to Science of Us. In other words, it comes down to how alert or responsive we are to our environment.

In general, introverts are over the optimal level of arousal — meaning, we’re more easily stimulated — and extroverts under the optimal level.

This means that consuming any kind of central nervous system stimulant, such as caffeine or even recreational stimulants, will move us further away from our optimal level of performance.

Likewise, being in a crowded, noisy room is overstimulating to us and has the same effect.

So what’s an introvert to do?

Try saving the coffee for later in the day, suggests Science of Us. Or at the very least, don’t ingest caffeine right before something important, like a big meeting at work, a final exam at school, or a first date.

If you want to wean yourself off coffee, do it slowly, suggests Brenda Canas, health coach and owner of Simply Serene Wellness.

Quitting coffee cold turkey will take a toll on you. Depending on how long you’ve been drinking coffee and how much you’ve been drinking, you may experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches, restlessness, and irritability.

Try drinking a mix of half decaf and half regular coffee for three days, then move to a mix of three-fourths decaf and one-fourth regular coffee for a day, suggests Canas. After that, drink only decaf.

If you must have some caffeine, try drinking green or white tea, says Canas. Both teas have less caffeine than coffee, and you get the added benefit of powerful antioxidants that support your health. If you crave the warmness of coffee but don’t want any caffeine, drink rooibos or other herbal teas.

For more ways to get energized as an introvert, see Introverts: 7 healthy ways to get energized {plus smoothie recipe}.

To be honest, I probably won’t give up the one cup of coffee I drink every morning to get me going. But I’ll pass on that second cup.

Image credit: Deviant Art (agnsun)

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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert


  • STR says:

    I’ve never consumed a cup of coffee in my life, so it’s nice to hear that I’m in a minority with benefits…

  • cherrytime says:

    Maybe it’s time to rethink being an introvert then, lol! I can’t function without a very large coffee in the morning at the very least. A 4-6 cup day is a productive day full of getting things done…

    Maybe I’m a quiet, thoughtful extrovert with a rich inner life who prefers books to parties? Do those kind of extroverts exist?

    • Hey there! This can vary, some introverts do find this happen and some don’t. It all depends on how your body reacts to it. Get curious and listen to your body’s response when you do drink coffee. I find that when I stress out and I have had a cup of coffee, the combination of adrenaline and caffeine gets me flustered and I mess up. If coffee doesn’t have this effect on you, it doesn’t mean you aren’t introverted, you’re just less sensitive to caffeine than other introverts! I hope that helps. 🙂

  • Brian Andersen says:

    Never was a big coffee drinker but have been guilty of consuming WAY to much soda. When I started laying off soda for health and budgetary reasons caffeine naturally went with it. The first couple weeks were unpleasant to say the least but over time I’ve noticed a more consistent, albeit slightly lower, level of energy during the day. Also, since I’m not amped up I react to pressure in a more constructive way. But as with all things, individual results may vary. I still indulge the occasional Diet Coke but it doesn’t own me. Good luck to those who are considering such a change.

  • Michaela says:

    When I was still new to coffee drinking, I found that the added caffeine in my system actually decreased my levels of environmental stimulation…kind of like giving a hyper kid Ritalin to help them crash. To this day, I still get a sense of calm and quiet when I consume coffee – whether that’s how my body processes caffeine or it’s a result of a long-standing habit aimed at reducing anxiety, who’s to say?

    • Same for me! I’m definitely introverted, but whenever I drink coffee/caffeine before something important or a social event it helps me feel more relaxed and puts my overthinking-everything-I-say on hold.

  • Mike Hatch says:

    I bet it also has a lot to do with how your body metabolizes caffeine.