Caffeine Use Disorder 

Caffeine Use Disorder

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

In the modern world, caffeine has become an integral part of daily life for millions of people. However, as with any psychoactive substance, excessive and prolonged consumption of caffeine can lead to a mental health condition known as caffeine use disorder.

What Is Caffeine Use Disorder?

Caffeine use disorder (CUD) is a behavioral disorder 1 Meredith, S. E., Juliano, L. M., Hughes, J. R., & Griffiths, R. R. (2013). Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda. Journal of caffeine research3(3), 114–130. https://doi.org/10.1089/jcr.2013.0016 characterized by the excessive and problematic use of caffeine-containing products, leading to significant distress or impairment in various areas of an individual’s life.

Caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and certain medications, is commonly used to combat fatigue, increase alertness, and enhance cognitive performance. However, excessive and prolonged consumption of caffeine can lead to dependence and negative consequences, giving rise to caffeine use disorder.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) includes caffeine use disorder as a research category 2 Addicott M. A. (2014). Caffeine Use Disorder: A Review of the Evidence and Future Implications. Current addiction reports1(3), 186–192. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-014-0024-9 under “Conditions for Further Study.” It means that the disorder is recognized as a potential issue, but further research is needed.

Prevalence Of Caffeine Use Disorder

The prevalence of caffeine use disorder can vary depending on the population studied, cultural norms, and definitions used. Studies have reported varying rates of prevalence, often ranging from around 0.2% to 30% 3 Addicott M. A. (2014). Caffeine Use Disorder: A Review of the Evidence and Future Implications. Current addiction reports1(3), 186–192. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-014-0024-9 among general populations.

Research on gender differences in caffeine use disorder is somewhat limited but suggests that there might be some variations. Historically, men have been associated with higher caffeine consumption levels 4 Knapik, J. J., Steelman, R. A., Trone, D. W., Farina, E. K., & Lieberman, H. R. (2022). Prevalence of caffeine consumers, daily caffeine consumption, and factors associated with caffeine use among active duty United States military personnel. Nutrition Journal, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-022-00774-0 . Some studies 5 Dillon, P., Kelpin, S., Kendler, K., Thacker, L., Dick, D., & Svikis, D. (2019). Gender Differences in Any-Source Caffeine and Energy Drink Use and Associated Adverse Health Behaviors. Journal of caffeine and adenosine research9(1), 12–19. https://doi.org/10.1089/caff.2018.0008 suggest that women might be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine due to differences in metabolism and hormonal fluctuations.

Caffeine Use Disorder Symptoms

The common 6 Ferré S. (2013). Caffeine and Substance Use Disorders. Journal of caffeine research3(2), 57–58. https://doi.org/10.1089/jcr.2013.0015 caffeine use disorder symptoms include:

  1. Excessive and frequent consumption of caffeine-containing products
  2. Unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control caffeine intake
  3. Dependence on caffeine to function normally
  4. Tolerance, needing more caffeine to achieve the desired effects
  5. Withdrawal symptoms when caffeine use is reduced or stopped
  6. Continued use despite experiencing negative consequences on physical or mental health, social life, or daily functioning.

Causes Of Caffeine Use Disorder

Research 7 Evans, J., & Battisti, A. S. (2019, March 13). Caffeine. Nih.gov; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519490/ associates the following factors with the development of caffeine use disorder:

  • Excessive and prolonged consumption of caffeine-containing products
  • Using caffeine to cope with stress or fatigue
  • Genetics: Individual differences in caffeine metabolism and sensitivity
  • Mental health conditions: Anxiety, depression, etc.
  • Personality traits: Impulsivity, sensation-seeking tendencies
  • Social and cultural influences: Societal norms, cultural practices
  • Peer pressure: Influence from friends or social circles
  • High-stress lifestyles: Reliance on caffeine for alertness

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Caffeine Use Disorder And Mental Health

Caffeine use disorder and mental health are intricately related 8 Jee, H. J., Lee, S. G., Bormate, K. J., & Jung, Y. S. (2020). Effect of Caffeine Consumption on the Risk for Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders: Sex Differences in Human. Nutrients12(10), 3080. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12103080 . Excessive caffeine use can lead to anxiety, mood disturbances, impaired concentration, dependency, and interference with existing mental health conditions. Withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and irritability, can also occur when attempting to cut down caffeine intake.

On the physical side too, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to sleep disturbances, digestive problems, increased heart rate and blood pressure, headaches, and muscle tremors.

How Caffeine Exacerbates Mental Health Symptoms

Caffeine use can enhance existing mental health conditions 9 Bergin, J. E., & Kendler, K. S. (2012). Common psychiatric disorders and caffeine use, tolerance, and withdrawal: an examination of shared genetic and environmental effects. Twin research and human genetics : the official journal of the International Society for Twin Studies15(4), 473–482. https://doi.org/10.1017/thg.2012.25 . For individuals with anxiety disorders, high doses of caffeine may worsen feelings of nervousness and restlessness, potentially triggering panic attacks. Additionally, excessive caffeine consumption can disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to insomnia, affecting individuals with sleep disorders.

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In cases of bipolar disorder, caffeine’s stimulating effects may potentially trigger or exacerbate manic episodes. For individuals with depression, while moderate caffeine intake may temporarily uplift mood, excessive consumption can lead to withdrawal symptoms and worsen depressive feelings.

Read More About Bipolar Disorder Here

Furthermore, in individuals with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, high caffeine doses may intensify psychotic symptoms and increase agitation and anxiety. For some with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), caffeine can provide temporary relief due to its stimulant effects on attention.

Read More About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Here

But excessive use may lead to overstimulation and worsen symptoms in the long term. While caffeine can improve alertness and cognitive performance, excessive consumption can result in jitteriness, irritability, and a negative impact on overall mental well-being.   

Diagnosis Of Caffeine Use Disorder

The diagnosis of caffeine use disorder symptoms follows the criteria outlined in DSM-5. To be diagnosed, an individual must meet specific criteria and experience significant impairment or distress due to their caffeine use.

The diagnosis should be made by a qualified healthcare professional after a comprehensive assessment, which includes a clinical interview, substance use history, physical examination, and assessment tools 10 Sharma, P., Shivhare, P., Marimutthu, P., Sharma, M. K., & Murthy, P. (2020). Patterns of Caffeine Use and Validation of Assessment in Psychiatric Population: An Implication in Primary Care Setting. Journal of family medicine and primary care9(10), 5252–5255. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_698_20 (like Caffeine Dependence Questionnaire (CaffDQ), Caffeine Use Disorder (CUD) Questionnaires, etc.). Differential diagnosis 11 Richards, G., & Smith, A. (2015). Caffeine consumption and self-assessed stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England)29(12), 1236–1247. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881115612404 and medical history are also considered to rule out other potential causes.

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Caffeine Use Disorder Treatment

Common measures 12 Evatt, D. P., Juliano, L. M., & Griffiths, R. R. (2016). A brief manualized treatment for problematic caffeine use: A randomized control trial. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology84(2), 113–121. https://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000064 associated with caffeine use disorder treatment include:

  • Gradual reduction of caffeine intake under medical supervision
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy to address habits and triggers linked to caffeine consumption
  • Behavior and pharmacological therapies in severe cases to manage withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, and related mental health symptoms
  • Support groups or counseling to provide emotional support and coping strategies
  • Lifestyle adjustments to improve sleep and reduce stress
  • Development of coping strategies surrounding caffeine use
  • Regular monitoring and follow-up to track progress and prevent relapse

Tips To Recover From Caffeine Use Disorder

Consider the following tips 13 Lin, Y. S., Weibel, J., Landolt, H. P., Santini, F., Garbazza, C., Kistler, J., Rehm, S., Rentsch, K., Borgwardt, S., Cajochen, C., & Reichert, C. F. (2022). Time to Recover From Daily Caffeine Intake. Frontiers in nutrition8, 787225. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.787225 to recover from caffeine use disorder symptoms:

  • Gradually reduce caffeine intake to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Stay hydrated and opt for decaffeinated alternatives.
  • Engage in regular physical activity to boost mood and energy.
  • Practice relaxation techniques to manage stress and anxiety.
  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule to improve restfulness.
  • Seek support from friends, family, or support groups during the recovery process.
  • Replace caffeinated beverages with herbal teas or water.
  • Focus on a balanced diet to maintain energy levels naturally.
  • Avoid caffeine triggers and find alternative coping strategies (like diet plans, physical workouts, etc.).
  • Be patient with yourself and celebrate progress, no matter how small.

Takeaway

The impact of caffeine use disorder extends beyond physical health, with adverse effects on mental well-being, including anxiety, mood disturbances, and impaired concentration.

Recognizing the symptoms, seeking professional help, and implementing gradual changes in caffeine consumption and lifestyle can aid in managing and recovering from this disorder, ultimately leading to improved overall health and well-being.

At A Glance

  1. Caffeine use disorder is a behavioral disorder characterized by excessive and problematic consumption of caffeine-containing products.
  2. Caffeine use disorder and mental health are inversely related, as is physical health.
  3. The causes of caffeine use disorder can be attributed to stress, beverage habits, etc.
  4. Common caffeine use disorder symptoms range from sleep disturbances to anxiety and mood disturbances.
  5. Diagnosis of caffeine use disorder symptoms follows the criteria outlined in DSM-5.
  6. Caffeine use disorder treatment involves gradual reduction of caffeine intake, therapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments.
  7. Tips for recovery include reducing caffeine intake gradually, staying hydrated, practicing relaxation techniques, and seeking support.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can consuming caffeine for breakfast every day lead to caffeine use disorder? 

Regularly consuming caffeine for breakfast alone is unlikely to lead to caffeine use disorder, but if it becomes excessive and problematic in other aspects of life, and may contribute to the development of the disorder.

2. Is caffeine use disorder listed in the DSM? 

Caffeine use disorder is not formally listed as a standalone disorder in the DSM-5; instead, it is included as a research category under “Conditions for Further Study.”

3. Is caffeine use disorder a common mental health disorder? 

Caffeine use disorder is not as prevalent as other well-established mental health disorders (like depression), but it can still affect a significant number of individuals who struggle with excessive caffeine consumption and its consequences.

4. Can caffeine make you act differently?

Yes, caffeine consumption can lead to changes in behavior and mood due to its stimulating effects on the nervous system.

References:

  • 1
     Meredith, S. E., Juliano, L. M., Hughes, J. R., & Griffiths, R. R. (2013). Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda. Journal of caffeine research3(3), 114–130. https://doi.org/10.1089/jcr.2013.0016
  • 2
     Addicott M. A. (2014). Caffeine Use Disorder: A Review of the Evidence and Future Implications. Current addiction reports1(3), 186–192. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-014-0024-9
  • 3
     Addicott M. A. (2014). Caffeine Use Disorder: A Review of the Evidence and Future Implications. Current addiction reports1(3), 186–192. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-014-0024-9
  • 4
     Knapik, J. J., Steelman, R. A., Trone, D. W., Farina, E. K., & Lieberman, H. R. (2022). Prevalence of caffeine consumers, daily caffeine consumption, and factors associated with caffeine use among active duty United States military personnel. Nutrition Journal, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-022-00774-0
  • 5
     Dillon, P., Kelpin, S., Kendler, K., Thacker, L., Dick, D., & Svikis, D. (2019). Gender Differences in Any-Source Caffeine and Energy Drink Use and Associated Adverse Health Behaviors. Journal of caffeine and adenosine research9(1), 12–19. https://doi.org/10.1089/caff.2018.0008
  • 6
     Ferré S. (2013). Caffeine and Substance Use Disorders. Journal of caffeine research3(2), 57–58. https://doi.org/10.1089/jcr.2013.0015
  • 7
     Evans, J., & Battisti, A. S. (2019, March 13). Caffeine. Nih.gov; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519490/
  • 8
     Jee, H. J., Lee, S. G., Bormate, K. J., & Jung, Y. S. (2020). Effect of Caffeine Consumption on the Risk for Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders: Sex Differences in Human. Nutrients12(10), 3080. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12103080
  • 9
     Bergin, J. E., & Kendler, K. S. (2012). Common psychiatric disorders and caffeine use, tolerance, and withdrawal: an examination of shared genetic and environmental effects. Twin research and human genetics : the official journal of the International Society for Twin Studies15(4), 473–482. https://doi.org/10.1017/thg.2012.25
  • 10
     Sharma, P., Shivhare, P., Marimutthu, P., Sharma, M. K., & Murthy, P. (2020). Patterns of Caffeine Use and Validation of Assessment in Psychiatric Population: An Implication in Primary Care Setting. Journal of family medicine and primary care9(10), 5252–5255. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_698_20
  • 11
     Richards, G., & Smith, A. (2015). Caffeine consumption and self-assessed stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England)29(12), 1236–1247. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881115612404
  • 12
     Evatt, D. P., Juliano, L. M., & Griffiths, R. R. (2016). A brief manualized treatment for problematic caffeine use: A randomized control trial. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology84(2), 113–121. https://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000064
  • 13
     Lin, Y. S., Weibel, J., Landolt, H. P., Santini, F., Garbazza, C., Kistler, J., Rehm, S., Rentsch, K., Borgwardt, S., Cajochen, C., & Reichert, C. F. (2022). Time to Recover From Daily Caffeine Intake. Frontiers in nutrition8, 787225. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.787225
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