Caffeine Withdrawal and Depression

Caffeine withdrawal has been recognized as a medical diagnosis. The symptoms caused by caffeine withdrawal may be debilitating and cause clinical distress. Although the severity of withdrawal symptoms is generally linked to the amount of caffeine you drink, as little as one cup of coffee per day may produce noticeable withdrawal effects.

Incidence of Depression

Depression and anxiety are common side effects of caffeine withdrawal. In one study of moderate regular coffee drinkers, depression was evaluated by administering several questionnaires on the severity of depression. In the "New England Journal of Medicine," researchers report that 8 to 11 percent of healthy volunteers experienced symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

Sleep and Depression

You may experience alterations to your regular sleep pattern when you make changes to your regular caffeine consumption. Sleep problems tend to worsen the symptoms of depression. Keep in mind that fatigue, drowsiness and difficulty concentrating are all common side effects during the withdrawal period. These symptoms should pass within 2 to 7 days.

Prevention

Experts agree that an abrupt decrease in your caffeine levels is likely to bring on withdrawal symptoms, including depression. By taking a slow and gradual approach you may be able to avoid withdrawal completely. Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins Medical School, recommends eliminating one serving of caffeine at a time. You can remove that serving completely or substitute a decaffeinated version of your favorite beverage.

Cautions

If you have a history of depression, talk to your health care provider before making changes to your regular caffeine intake. Some people appear to be extremely sensitive to the stimulant action of caffeine and may experience more severe symptoms when caffeine is removed. Your doctor can help you develop a plan for decreasing caffeine consumption and for coping with possible side effects.

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