Mental Issues & Tea Consumption: Tea As Medicine / Placebo?


Ephemeral Spectre
Mar 4, 2004
Of the three individuals I have known closely in my life to have suffered from actual mental disorders (ranging from mild to full sectioning) they have all shared an almost maniacal consumption of tea.

I first noticed this when a new friend to me brought cup after cup of tea in huge mugs when I visited him at his house. I thought it a bit much but who doesn't like a cup of tea? I subsequently found out he was seriously agoraphobic. For no particular reason the connection struck me that there was another acquaintance who was seemingly obsessed with making tea AND thought the devil lived in his house. He was under treatment at the time but had a few unfortunate flare ups. Same thing, almost chain drinking brews and offering them every moment. The third fellow I actually mentioned my theory to and he seemed to agree that he did drink a lot of tea but also rather took exception to my pointing out that he may have issues in his head

Anyone else noticed this? Is tea representative of comfort to such a degree that it can fend off various sized head demons? After all the immediate answer, around where I live, to almost every drama is 'I'll put the kettle on'. Has a nice cup o tea become so ingrained in the english psyche that it has been imbued with imagined properties far beyond it's actual properties, so much so that it is being used (perhaps unknowingly) as some type of medicine?
Maybe its displacement activity? Instead of sitting there thinking, go make a cup of tea?
hmmm... ok...

I must admit that since being diagnosed with post-natal depression I have begun to notice that I drink a LOT more tea than I used to before I had children. Maybe the end of that sentence SHOULD be "before I became (mildly) mentally ill". You could say "oh well, you're a busy working mum, of course you reward yourself and/or prop yourself up with cups of tea all the time" but prior to having children I was already a very busy teacher, before that I was a student and at one point worked in a sales office - all jobs/states of being which might go hand in hand with high consumption of tea. However, I never used to drink more than two or three cups a day. Now I need three cups before 9am alone! And although I enjoy coffee now and again, it HAS to be tea. Possibly it is my mental health which has dictated the rise in my tea consumption?
I reckon that tea is as essential to tea drinkers as coffee is to those people who harp on about it. 'I haven't had my coffee yet so blah blah...'. I think tea's virtues are enjoyed without all the hub bub... tea is coffee's reserved equivalent in many ways but I don't think that coffee can be relied upon as a crutch to so many facets of the human condition

Post natal depression soothed by tea? Why not
I think I'm on to something
milk23 said:
tea is coffee's reserved equivalent in many ways

tea is to stoicism as coffee is to histronics? :lol:
tea is to stoicism as coffee is to histronics?

I couldn't have put it better myself... I really mean that, I had to look up the meaning of 'histrionic'. That's a keeper, maybe a t-shirt slogan... a TEA shirt...
At some point last year I realised that I was drinking more and more tea; it got to the point that I was actually feeling quite dreadful all the time (physically I mean, I've never had mental health problems). I cut right back on it and now only have around 4 cups a day. I feel much better for it. The comparison to coffee is very valid, I genuinely do struggle to do anything which requires a bit of thought until I've had my first cup of tea in the morning.
This is very, very interesting. I know that between receiving the phone call telling me my father had died and my OH getting home from work (they had contacted him too), the only thing - literally - I could, or wanted, to do was make myself a mug of tea and sit with it, staring into space.

More appropriately, I work part time as a veterinary receptionist, and when I'm doing evening surgery I will have one of three nurses on the desk with me. With two of them I'm lucky if I get a glass of squash - they just don't think about it - but when the third is on duty, she'll probably make three or four mugs, for everybody, during a 2 and a half hour surgery. And she's the only one who's on anti-depressants.
I suffer from depression and social anxiety, and drink massive amounts of tea. There is something inherently calming about it, partly the ritual of making it, and also just sitting there, drinking it.

On the other hand, my brother has many of the same mental illnesses as I do, and doesn't like tea. He's not so crazy about coffee, either, but he can drink it (which I can't - horrid stuff).

It could be a form of self-medication. The caffeine, tannins, and anti-oxidants in tea might be of benefit to those of us with particular problems, leading to a craving for them.

Or it could be cultural. Tea in the west is seen as sort of calming - it used to be recommended for shock or trauma - and we've just adopted that subconsciously into our coping mechanisms.
"Tay, tay, tay! You are always thinkin' of tay! If a man was dyin' you'd try to make him swally a cup o' tay!" (Sean O'Casey: Juno & the Paycock)

" . . . endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man's opium." (Orwell: The Road to Wigan Pier)

"Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on." (Billy Connolly)

There are hundreds of tea quotes to be found online in various places, a high proportion of them associating the drink and its rituals with calm and order.

Stories abound that tea-drinking is in decline among the young; I have frequently seen the social ritual fragmented by assertions of personal taste, as caffeinated soft drinks push their way onto the starched cloth. No good can come of this! :?
It seems that in the US, folks with diagnosed mental health needs prefer lots of coffee and cigarettes, rather than tea.
Are you all drinking tea without sugar and milk or with? If you've got sugar and milk in your cup, you might be experiencing a need for something other than the tea itself.

That said, I've noticed that my husband has switched to tea from coffee as his morning drink. (He takes it with soy milk.) But, he's drinking a wonderfully aromatic tea that almost has me convinced to give up the java (almost--not quite).
BlackRiverFalls said:
I have a cuppa on the go almost constantly... eek! :shock:

Is it down to me to break the news again? :p

Sorry, you know I don't mean it really. :oops:

I'm thinking though....maybe tea causes the issues in the first place?

Sorry if that's a bit random, I haven't had my coffee yet.
I'm of the same opinion as the Nutri-Matic Drinks Dispenser. Don't understand tea. Dried leaves in boiled water.

Though I certainly believe there is a link of sorts. Ritualistic and comforting, tea was a massive part of British everyday culture throughout the 20th Century, though coffee is by no means a modern occurrence to our shores.

I'm partially bonkers, but don't touch TEA tea. I like other herbal infusions but tea itself tastes like arse to me. :lol:
No wonder we haven't got an empire any more. You drink _coffee_ instead of Tea? I'd rather drink warm mud.
ally_katte said:
I like other herbal infusions but tea itself tastes like arse to me. :lol:

I couldn't tell you if it does indeed resemble the taste of arse, however the sour smell just reminds me of old dears' breath.
I find it a bit insipid. Give me a drink with a nice big POW of flavour. All this tea and squash nonsense, no no no!

Though I have been known to drink chamomile which smells like a stables sans manure.
I think tea often tastes pretty awful too.
I have only had a few cups of tea in my entire life, that actually tasted really nice.
I think the conditions have to be right, and everything has to be just so.
The really nice taste I'm talking about reminds me of linseed oil.
I can't face tea in the morning. Or food, come to that.

The ritual of afternoon tea seems worth keeping, though.

No starched cloth these days but a very nice Victorian china cup and saucer makes it worth doing the warmed-pot routine with a proper leaf tea. I do like a nice Lapsang Souchong but it it's a while since I could find that in the supermarket. The bags are just horrid.

Proper tea is calming to the nerves, though I think the ritual is nine tenths of it.

I do own a goldfish-bowl type electric tea-maker, which calls itself Perfect. Its idea of perfection seems to involve sparging the tea with water which has yet to reach boiling-point. The result is a bit odd. Perhaps one could get used to it but one has no intention of doing so!

Crooked finger gesture. :)

edit: "doing so" substituted for "that" in final sentence.
Slightly less tongue in cheek - I really don't like coffee. Not only do I not like the taste and the fact that, like smoking an old dog end, the taste seems to stay with you for hours, but I'm afraid one of my few :shock: :D character flaws is a serious dislike of the whole pretentious nonsense about it - no doubt I'd feel quite different if I actually liked the stuff.

I'm put in mind of Horatio Hornblower's dislike of music due to being tone deaf - well, I'm like that with coffee. My idea of hell would include that among the flames the only drink you could get was decaf coffee (the decaffeinating removing the only point I can see in drinking it!)

I do, however, like coffee flavoured ice cream. Are we weird creatures or what?
Cochise, you may like Affogato, a lovely Italian dessert of ice cream and hot espresso.
Cochise said:
I do, however, like coffee flavoured ice cream. Are we weird creatures or what?

I don't like rum but rum and raisin ice cream is my favourite. Mind you, I'm not all that keen on ice cream either, but given the choice that's my preferred flavour.
Are you all drinking tea without sugar and milk or with? If you've got sugar and milk in your cup, you might be experiencing a need for something other than the tea itself.
That certainly used to be my problem. I used to put a lot of sugar in my tea. (And I've never been any good at building stuff either. It's quite strange.) For a while it was as much the sugar as the tea itself I was craving.

I did get myself off the sugar, but I still like tea. I do still put milk in it, but I also stopped drinking straight milk in ridiculous quantities, and in tea is almost the only way I drink any milk.