Caffeine Withdrawal As A Mental Illness? Really?

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?

Brietta Mengel/Health Care Savvy

(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?

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  • SnarkyEyeCanB

    There is no doubt in my mind that caffeine addiction is the most overlooked and non-diagnosed health issue of our time. We’ve been lulled into a false sense of security about caffeine’s health dangers by advertising…millions of dollars just from Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts alone…to consider coffee this benevolent daily elixir that we are entitled to and must have to feel well. WRONG.

  • Kristina S.

    I may not agree with the classification as a disease, but this may help spread the idea to people that they should think carefully about consuming too much caffeine. I quit caffeine when I realized it gave me headaches, not to mention depleting calcium and causing dehydration. Keep your coffee, just ditch the caffeine. But if you want to save money, and improve your health, switch to water. Have a healthy breakfast or fruit to wake up, and avoid the late morning crash.

  • Reasonable?

    If you medicalize a condition, you can medicalize and monetize subsequent solutions.
    DSM-5 is key component of step 1 of this process.
    I’m sure that Caffiene Withdrawal is not the only example of this phenomenon in the text.

  • dcrunnergirl9

    omg. i believe it. caffeine withdrawal definitely affects my daily living. :/