Researchers from our Department for Health need volunteers to help them explore whether caffeine and physical activity might be useful tools to help people manage their mood.
The focus of the study is bipolar disorder, but it will also include people with depression and a control group of people with no mood disorder.
The call for participants coincides with World Mental Health Day - Wednesday 10 October 2018.
PhD student Samantha Eden who is leading the work explained: “Caffeine and physical activity are often used for the management of mood or energy level by people in general, including those with mood disorders such as bipolar.
“What we eat and drink and how much activity we do have important effects on our mood, but there hasn’t been much research into the interplay between caffeine, activity and mood.
“Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world, but because it’s so commonplace it’s often not seen as a powerful drug. It can be perceived quite negatively and some people with mood disorders have been advised to avoid it, but we don’t know enough about the real risks and benefits.
“Knowing this could help to understand whether it could be used as a cost-effective self-help technique – alongside medication and psychotherapies – for people with bipolar.”
The researchers need volunteers for three study groups: people with bipolar, people with depression and people with neither condition – so anyone aged 18 or over can apply. After screening interviews, participants will take part in an individual interview and/or seven days of lifestyle monitoring – wearing an activity tracker and completing daily questionnaires and diaries.
To take part or for more information, email S.L.Eden@bath.ac.uk or call 01392 724595.
The research is supported by the University's Alumni Fund.
Learning from James' story
James, 26, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder II four years go. He noticed a connection between his diet, physical activity and his mood. He now takes steps to help manage his mood symptoms through these.
He explains: "It was through trial and error really that I found out that caffeine and the physical activity I was or wasn’t doing influenced my state of mind. It’s taken some time, but I’ve finally managed to work out what works for me. On a day-to-day basis I use caffeine as a motivator, giving me some get up and go, but not to the point that I’m reliant on it. It increases my focus and gives me energy and it’s something I really enjoy. I eat really clean and healthy foods – no fizzy drinks and very few sweet treats and I don’t drink any alcohol.
"For me, I think caffeine kind of replaces those ’naughty’ high-sugar things that make my thoughts go into overdrive, make me more anxious and irritable. I don’t measure things out but I know 1-2 cups of coffee spaced throughout the day, one in the morning and one in the early afternoon is my limit. I know if I have had too much caffeine as I struggle to sleep and my body becomes quite twitchy. I’m also a very active person. As I work as a landscaper/gardener – I’m always on the go and I also try to go to the gym most days. I find that I feel at my best when I am really active.
"When I spend a large percentage of the day sat down and I don’t go outside it really affects my mood in a negative way. I become irritable and fidgety and overthink everything and can easily fall into a bad place. Don’t get me wrong, some days I do find it hard to be motivated and active but even something as small as taking the dog out for a walk really helps lift my mood. So yeah, caffeine and physical activity are really important in the management of my moods. This is what works for me but I can’t say it’s a rule of thumb, as everyone is different, but I think it’s really important for all of us to look closely at simple things we often forget about, such as how food and drink can have implications on how we function day to day."