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Caffeine Withdrawal As A Mental Illness? Really?

This article is more than 8 years old.

I've had the headaches and grumpiness and desperate yearnings that accompany giving up my beloved daily Americano. But come on, caffeine withdrawal as a mental illness? Isn't that just a wee bit farfetched?

(Source: — click to view full version)
(Source: — click to view full version)

Apparently not. Caffeine use disorder is right there in Section III of the DSM-5, the latest edition of the bible of psychiatric disorders formally known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

"Caffeine is a drug, a mild stimulant, used by almost everybody on a daily basis," explains Charles O'Brien, MD, PhD, chair of the substance-related disorders work group of the American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the DSM. "But it does have a letdown afterwards."

Indeed, and for some more than others. (For the full rationale behind caffeine withdrawal's elevated status as a disorder worthy of further discussion, watch the video here.)

WBUR's Healthcare Savvy (which inspired this post) highlights a great graphic by Brietta Mengal that asks, "Is America A Nation Of Java Junkies?"

We certainly live in a caffeine-addicted world. (Just go to the Starbucks on Memorial Drive in Cambridge on a weekday morning, stand on the endless line and ask yourself, "Why?'")  But is caffeine withdrawal really, in any way large or small, comparable to depression, psychosis, PTSD? What do you think?

This program aired on August 13, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 




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