Do you feel incomplete without your daily morning coffee?
On days that you skip it your tired self thinks: ‘if only I got up five minutes earlier’. Because if you did, you would’ve had that cappuccino you now so desperately crave.
You may be use to saying: ‘sorry, I haven’t had my coffee yet!’ as your go-to excuse for being tired or irritable at work. A co-worker might even remind you it’s time to go on your break (meaning it’s time to spend that $4 on coffee), because neither of you are feeling alert enough.
In extreme cases, you may even get an actual headache if you skip a coffee break or two.
Sounds dramatic, right?
Well, it’s actually not. If this sounds anything like you, then sorry sweetie, you might have some caffeine dependency issues.
As caffeine addictions have become so common and symptom-causing, caffeine withdrawal is now officially diagnosable. Before you freak out, I’ll explain what a caffeine addiction encapsulates so you know when to spot it. Caffeine — an actual drug — has the power to greatly affect our brain and our performance levels. Acting as a stimulant, when consumed it makes us feel more alert and therefore less tired. Due to this, the parts of the nervous system that caffeine targets leave us craving more in order to regain that sensation. This is where the dependency factors can lead to symptoms if we stop consuming it altogether.
What are these side effects, you ask?
Almost every coffee addict experiences no less than two symptoms during their withdrawal phase (some of which can last for over a week!).
According to the DSM-5, the official diagnostic manual for diagnosing mental illnesses, if we consume too much caffeine, and then suddenly we stop, our body can go into withdrawal mode. In this state, we can experience throbbing headaches, changes in mood, difficulty with concentration and fatigue like symptoms. Some people even get so addicted, they feel flu like side effects such as aches, pains and nausea. Even vomiting in extreme cases of withdrawal. In others, cravings and increased hunger levels can also occur. The symptoms themselves generally happen within twelve to twenty-four hours after not having your daily caffeine hit.
No wonder the DSM-5 has picked up caffeine withdrawal as a genuine illness.
So how is it treated?
Despite the health benefits of drinking coffee, and the fact that some studies say 4 cups of coffee a day is good for you, it’s never a good sign when you become so addicted to something that withdrawal from not having it hurts. This is especially true for pregnant women, or ill patients who may be told by their doctor to cut down.
If you haven’t been told by your doctor for external health reasons to ‘quit,’ then of course getting your daily coffee fix in order to eliminate these symptoms is the easy way out of withdrawal. However, if you want to eliminate the chance of experiencing withdrawal in the future, the medically advised way is easing coffee out of your daily routine.
I know it’s such a sad thought for my fellow coffee enthusiasts. But let me tell you: slow and steady minimisation is the recommended way to beat a caffeine addiction. While doing so, low intensity workouts, such as yoga, are known to help out with some of the withdrawal side effects such as tiredness and achiness.
Don’t get me wrong… By no means am I saying study approved recommendations are incorrect. Nor am I suggesting we should all cut out coffee from our day to day life, if we don’t actually need to. As each individual is different in their tolerance and consumption of coffee, the ‘addiction’ level (and therefore the solution) is assessable on a case by case basis. In fact, casual coffee drinkers might not feel many (or any) symptoms at all when they don’t consume it.
But, if you’re part of the population that may have a genuine caffeine addiction (I’m talking about an obvious addiction to coffee consumption, partnered with withdrawal systems), then I’m sorry to say — you might classify as an actual caffeine addict, and it might be time to re-evaluate your beverage consumption.