Confessing that you’re suffering from caffeine addiction will probably not raise as many eyebrows as telling someone you’re an opioid addict. After all, caffeine has antioxidant properties and it has been proven to deliver some healthful benefits. However, as the cliché goes, having too much of anything can be a bad thing – and this definitely applies when it comes to coffee.
The World Health Organization considers caffeine addiction as a clinical disorder. In the United States, at least 26% of coffee drinkers admit to being addicted to coffee and 46% say that they drink at least three cups in a day. While it is true that a cup or two of coffee may prove harmless, caffeine still affects the brain and the body. This means that regular drinking could lead to tolerance and when you start to drink more coffee, this can then result in dependence. Just like other drugs, it can also produce withdrawal symptoms once stopped.
So how do you know whether you’re having too much coffee and it’s time to slow down? Here are some points to guide you.
1. Count the cups
Americans are one of the leading coffee drinkers in the world, reportedly drinking around 400 million cups per day. Do the math and that’s more than a hundred billion cups in a year. That’s definitely a lot! So, how many cups are you contributing to this statistic? Having one to two cups a day would be quite normal but downing eight huge mugs of coffee is definitely something abnormal.
Counting how many cups you’re drinking is actually a very simple and obvious way to see whether you’re having too much but you’ll be surprised to know that so many people don’t actually track how much coffee they’re consuming. It is probably easier to count when you have to go down to the nearest coffee shop, line up, and pay for your coffee yourself but how about when you’re brewing your own Americano? Do you keep track of how many cups you’ve had? Counting and seeing the number written down can help you become more mindful the next time you have the urge to get a refill.
2. Being unable to function without coffee
If you feel grumpy without having your first dose of caffeine, you are not alone. Millions of people all around the world report morning irritability before they’ve had their coffee. But while it is quite typical to turn to coffee to get that instant energy boost and alertness in the morning, not having it should not interfere with your day-to-day life. Coffee should be a drink you enjoy, rather than a drug you are dependent on.
3. Choosing coffee over healthful meals
Would you rather have coffee than eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Even if you know that it completely makes no sense, do you still prefer coffee as a means to power you up over a delicious plate of salmon? One evident sign that you’re having too much is when you’re already skipping meals and substituting these with cups of coffee.
4. Severe insomnia and constant anxiety
The reason why you feel more alert after drinking espresso is because caffeine is a stimulant, which affects the central nervous system. This means that it definitely has an effect on your mood, brain function, and behavior.
While low to moderate doses can be beneficial giving you feelings of satisfaction and energy, consuming too much can also lead to over-stimulation and high blood pressure. This can affect your sleep patterns causing insomnia. Drinking too much coffee can also lead to feelings of anxiety.
5. Withdrawal symptoms
One reason why caffeine is considered addictive is that it satisfies the three stages of addiction: dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal. Dependence means you are already relying on the effects of coffee to function normally and you cannot resist the craving to drink a cup. Tolerance develops when you find yourself drinking more and more coffee to get the same effect. Withdrawal happens when you physically and mentally feel ill when you stop drinking coffee. Some signs of caffeine withdrawal include headaches, lethargy, and fatigue, lack of focus, depressed mood, and irritability.
Getting over your caffeine addiction
While caffeine addiction may not be as harmful as addiction to other drugs, it should still be taken seriously especially if it is already affecting your daily life. Quitting cold-turkey or totally stopping coffee immediately may not be an effective way to do so, instead, you should taper down your coffee consumption gradually. Some effective techniques include substituting a cup of coffee with a caffeine-free option, drinking more water, eating healthy, and incorporating physical activities in your routine.
If you feel that your caffeine addiction is out of control, you don’t have to deal with it alone. You can seek advice from professionals to get over your addiction.
Contact Morningside Recovery by Lighthouse to learn more about our full-spectrum of comprehensive addiction treatment programs.