If you’ve ever had a headache or felt shaky after skipping you’re a.m. coffee, you may wonder if you’re experiencing withdrawal. And while one caffeine-free morning doesn’t mean anything, if the symptoms last and negatively impact your life, you may have caffeine withdrawal.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) added the disorder to its list of mental illnesses in the latest version of the organization's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly referred to as DSM-5). Symptoms include headache, fatigue, drowsiness, depression or irritability, difficulty concentrating, and flu-like symptoms such as nausea—however, these things must interfere with your day-to-day life in order for you to be diagnosed.
"Caffeine is a drug, a mild stimulant, which is used by almost everybody on a daily basis,” Charles O’Brien, M.D., who chairs the Substance-Related Disorder Work Group for DSM-5 told the New York Post. “But it does have a letdown afterward. If you drink a lot of coffee, at least two or three cups at a time, there will be a rebound or withdrawal effect.”
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Almost no one would dispute that the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are real. However, some experts question whether they're truly severe enough to be added to the DSM-5, saying that ultimately they're temporary.
“The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are transitory, they take care of themselves,” clinical psychologist Robin Rosenberg, Ph.D., told the International Business Times. “It’s just a natural response to stopping caffeine, and it clears up on its own in short order."
Regardless, if you're thinking of cutting back on the caffeine in your diet, it's best to taper off slowly and gradually rather than quit cold turkey. If you can't imagine getting through the day without your daily jolt of caffeine, experts recommend trying to drink it at irregular intervals and limiting the amount you consume as close to 100 milligrams as possible (about 1 1/2 8-ounce cups of coffee).
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