Caffeine Withdrawal: Latest Silly Mental Illness in DSM-5

There are multiple wellness-boosting properties in coffee, but – let’s be honest – that’s not why you drink it! Sure, studies have shown that a diet containing moderate amounts of coffee can prevent certain diseases, such as breast cancer, but the real reason people are drinking this product everyday is for the caffeine boost. You may have even heard people say that they cannot function in the morning until they’ve had their caffeine fix. However, if you’re one of these people, be warned; your mental wellbeing may be at stake.

This is according to the American Psychiatric Association, which has monitored caffeine addiction as a potential threat to people’s mental health. In fact, the association’s newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has added caffeine withdrawal as a mental illness. If you suffer from caffeine-buzz, the DSM-5 – which has been criticised for over-diagnosing conditions – states that you will experience at least five or more symptoms after drinking 250 mg of caffeine. This translates to two to three cups of brewed coffee.

So what exciting symptoms may you experience after just a few cups of coffee? The symptoms listed under “Caffeine-Related Disorders” are restlessness, nervousness, excitement, insomnia, flushed face, gastrointestinal disturbance, muscle twitching, rambling flow of thought and speech, tachycardia or cardiac arrhythmia, periods of inexhaustibility, unintentional motion, and diuresis, which is a frequent need to urinate. In the DSM-5 caffeine withdrawal has been listed as a shiny new category, including symptoms such as fatigue, loss of focus and headache.

According to Dr. Charles O’Brien, who chairs the Substance-Related Disorder Work Group for the DSM-5, ‘Caffeine is a drug, a mild stimulant, which is used by almost everybody on a daily basis, but it does have a letdown afterwards. If you drink a lot of coffee, at least two or three [eight ounce] cup at a time, there will be a rebound or withdrawal effect.’ However, several experts are critical of the DSM-5’s inclusion of caffeine withdrawal as a mental illness, stating that as caffeine withdrawal does not lead to long-term consequences that consistently disrupt work and social relationships, it does not work in the same way as other mental illnesses.

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