Caffeine Withdrawal A Real Diagnosis?


Caffeine withdrawal is now listed as a disorder in the latest version of the psychiatric diagnostic manual, the DSM-5.

The mental health professionals that questioned the inclusion of the caffeine intoxication diagnosis in the previous diagnostic manual (the DSM-IV) are no doubt questioning the new caffeine withdrawal diagnosis as well.

Symptoms of caffeine intoxication include nervousness, restlessness, stomach upset, rapid heartbeat and problems sleeping. While many coffee drinkers occasionally experience these effects after one too many cups, symptoms must be frequent and severe enough to cause problems with everyday functioning to indicate a diagnosis.

Caffeine Withdrawal

The symptoms of the DSM-5 diagnosis of caffeine withdrawal include what any coffee drinker would expect:

  • Headache
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Depressed mood

Many mental health professionals believe the caffeine withdrawal process should not be considered a mental illness. The withdrawal symptoms are a natural physical response after stopping caffeine intake, and they are temporary. Most people who go off caffeinated drinks do so gradually, which naturally softens the withdrawal effects.

The author’s of the DSM-5 argue that caffeine is a stimulant taken by an increasing number of people, who experience a letdown after its use. Many who stop using this drug have problems functioning at school or work and do not get adequate sleep, which further diminishes their functioning. By making caffeine withdrawal a DSM diagnosis, people are more likely to be aware of the problem.

The question begging to be asked is: Are there really that many people who do not know caffeine is a stimulant with addictive qualities?

It’s a Stimulant But...

For many of us, caffeine is a performance-enhancing byproduct of beverages and foods that taste good such as coffee, tea and chocolate, all of which have some health benefits such as being loaded with antioxidants. It is hard to imagine a coffee drinker who gives up caffeine wanting to be given a psychiatric diagnosis, despite any uncomfortable but expected withdrawal symptoms.

However, the addition of caffeine to water and energy drinks has resulted in an increase of emergency room visits for issues such as rapid heartbeat and gastric problems. Like other stimulants, caffeine constricts blood vessels and raises both blood pressure and heart rate. An excess of caffeine might trigger a heart attack or stroke in people susceptible to those problems.

Still, is caffeine as dangerous as other addictive stimulants?

One thing that separates caffeine from many other stimulants is that taking a lethal dose is difficult. You would have to guzzle 80 to 100 cups of coffee (about six gallons) to die by caffeine. Even if you were able to drink that much coffee quickly, what would most likely do you in is not the caffeine but having too much water in your cells, diluting the nutrients necessary for your body to function.

Be that as it may, for better or worse, caffeine withdrawal is in the DSM-5. Whatever your thoughts about the legitimacy of this new diagnosis, for the time being, it is one.

Source: Live Science

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