Coffee Withdrawal as a Mental Illness

by Bill Brenner on June 14, 2013

Get this: The latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), has added caffeine withdrawal to the list of mental illnesses.

Ridiculous, you say? I did at first. But on further reflection, it makes sense.

Mood music:

Those who know me are well aware of my ability to consume large amounts of caffeine. I drink coffee all morning and, when possible, I switch to Red Bull in the afternoon. I know it’s an addiction, but I gave up just about everything else, so I cling to it unapologetically.

But I have quit it at various times in the past, and I remember what the first few days were like. The headaches. The fatigue. The depression. Yes, I did feel depression.

It makes perfect sense. Consider that when you suffer mental pain, it usually becomes physical pain, and vice versa. If you’re deprived of a substance you’re addicted to, you will fall into a depression. I was depressed as hell when I first gave up flour and sugar, and the real cigarettes I eventually replaced with e-cigs. With that in mind, the APA’s move makes perfect sense.

But I do feel the need to throw cold water on the idea that the sufferer should be treated like a victim. A lot of articles about this topic drop lines like “It’s not your fault.” The thing is, it is your fault.

True, I wasn’t necessarily in my right mind when I chose to binge eat and get tanked on bottles of wine. I certainly wasn’t in a healthy mental place when I sought comfort in cigarette smoke. But each time, I had a choice: I could do it or not. I gave in to weakness each time, and when I gave up the other things and suffered withdrawal, it was indeed my own damn fault.

That’s fine by me, since these experiences make us human and, ideally, we come out stronger and in better control of our actions.┬áBut let’s see this for what it is: mental illness triggered by one’s inability to control the intake of addictive substances. A self-inflicted wound.

From there, the APA’s move could lead us to some useful action items for dealing with the withdrawal.

Coffee

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Val November 22, 2013 at 2:59 am

Thanks, I am an avid coffee nut, and found this refreshing.

Bob K. April 27, 2014 at 2:20 pm

So, ha ha, this will be funny if DSM-V is widely accepted. For instance, if you are jailed with a physical chemical dependence, the police have to treat this as a medical issue and act appropriately. So, if you have a caffeine addiction, are they obligated to give you caffeine while you’re being held? I would think so.

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