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What is Caffeinism?

Updated on November 22, 2011

What is Caffeinism? Are you an addict?

Is it a new religion, based on placing your faith (and money) in Starbucks to help you get through daily life? Is it practiced by Hollywood mega-stars who will soon be bouncing on the couches of talk show hosts nationwide promoting their system of belief? No, not quite. But caffeine has become embedded into our culture to such an extent that we consume it in blind faith, often ignoring the consequences.

“Although infrequently diagnosed, caffeinism is thought to afflict as many as one person in ten of the population.”

by JE James and KP Stirling, in the British Journal of Addiction

Coffee Addiction - Scrubs Style

Caffeinism Defined

  • "A condition resulting from a very high intake of caffeine and characterized by anxiety, mood swings, sleep disruption, and other physiological and psychological abnormalities. Abstinence following high intake can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as severe headaches. A caffeine intake of more than 600 mg per day may produce depression and other harmful effects. Caffeine intoxification is recognized as a medical condition in the USA." Oxford University Press
  • "a morbid condition caused by caffeine (as from excessive consumption of coffee)" Mirriam-Webster Dictionary
  • “Caffeine-induced psychosis, whether it be delirium, manic depression, schizophrenia, or merely an anxiety syndrome, in most cases will be hard to differentiate from organic or non-organic psychoses…." The Caffeine Web
  • "a toxic condition caused by excessive ingestion of coffee and other caffeine-containing beverages" GreenGonzo Dictionary
  • "Symptoms range form minimal reactions to severe psychotic states, which may include irrational behavior, disruptions in attention, lack of focus and comprhension, mood changed, lack of organizational skilss, abrupt shifting of activities, delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia." Ruth Whalen, MLT

Caffeinism and ADD/ADHD

I had never heard the term caffeinism until just the other day. I was reading a book about AD/HD called "Driven to Distraction," by E. Hallowell and J. Ratey. The authors were discussing conditions that can mask and/or mimic the symptoms of AD/HD (distractibility, issues with short term memory, inability to sit still). The list included things like anxiety, chronic fatigue, psychosis, and caffeinism which the author defined as excessive intake of coffee and soda.

Are You at Risk?

If you think you may be a little excessive in your caffeine intake, take the following test. It will survey your total daily intake from all sources and based on the personal results, show you where you may be at risk.

Calculate your risks here: Caffeine Awareness

Me, Myself and Caffeine

Are they kidding? Sure, anything in excess is not good for you. I knew that I should be drinking that healthy 8 glasses of water a day instead but could it really be that harmful? Is it true that coffee and soda (which I drink continuously through the day) could be the reason I can't get anything done because I can't remember what it is that I am supposed to be doing? My beloved coffee could be at fault when I want to jump out of my skin and scream when something is boring me? Could this be what has caused me, a somewhat well educated person with a nice IQ to do really stupid, flaky things on a regular basis?

Here are some illustrations.

  • Just this morning, I stopped at the ATM, got some cash and drove away. It was not until I went to pay for my very large coffee that I realised I had left my card in the ATM.
  • I have quit at least a dozen jobs out of sheer boredom.
  • I drove without a license for years -not because I was rebelling against the system or trying to hide from authorities - but because I forgot to mail in the renewal form.
  • I did it again when we moved to a new state. First, I couldn't remember to go to the DMV to get it transferred. Then I tried to go, but had to leave several times because I could not tolerate stand in the line like a robot for another minute.
  • I carry two set of car keys with me so I won't lock myself out of my car.
  • I chronically lock myself out of my house when I take my oldest daughter to the school bus in the morning. I once had to pry open a narrow basement window and carefully maneuver my 8-months-pregnant belly through it to get into the house, where I had left my younger daughter napping.
  • I start brilliant organizing projects, novels, children's books- but never finish them.
  • I jump from topic to topic when I am talking. Sometimes I interrupt myself mid-sentence to change ideas. I often don't finish my ... you get the point!

You would think that with all the caffeine in my system, I would walk around wired all day and be unable to sleep at night, but I am not. I could take a nap right now, just lay my head down on the keyboard, even though I am, at this moment drinking coffee.

If you and I met tomorrow at Starbucks, you would think I was a calm sort of person. And you would be mostly right.

I should add that I quit caffeine during my three pregnancies, so in theory, I should know if I was "clear minded" without it.

I don't know. I really can't remember.

What was my point anyway? Seriously, I distracted myself with my own ranting.

YES! I just took a ten minute break from writing this and now I remember.

All of this could be the result of caffeinism.

And, if you read this far you probably have a nice healthy attention span.

Unfortunately, the only treatment for caffeinism is to stop ingesting caffeine.

I'm not making any promises...


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    • DanaTeresa profile image

      Dana Strang 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Came across this while looking through the hubs on your profile page. It might just give me the boost I need to drastically cut back on caffeine. I drink nearly a pot a day of coffee. At one point I was down to 2 cups, and I just keep going back to it. I have severe ADD syptoms. They are exhausting! I have not responded to any ADD meds or have horrible side effects. Maybe I should just cut the coffee?! It would help my persistent acid reflux too... It is amazing how we will continue do things that we know are horribly bad for us if we the even the tiniest pleasure from it.... Time to cut back coffee. But not tomorrow. :/

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      6 years ago from Connecticut

      Yes, I think it is rampant among hubbers! Glad you enjoyed this!

    • jimagain profile image


      6 years ago from Hattiesburg, Mississippi

      Judging by all the comments, it seems caffienism is rampant among Hubbers. And that's only the ones that could remember long enough to dash out a few hasty comments before lapsing into advanced state of amnesia.

      Great Hub. Just the right blend of facts with enough humor to keep caffiene-impaired mentalities like mine interested. Loved the humor.

      Please attribute any misspellings or or incoherent sentences to the coffee!

    • rbe0 profile image


      7 years ago from the history channel

      Mmm This Hub makes me want some coffee. brb lol.

    • profile image

      Mr. Milk 

      7 years ago

      Hi Amy,

      I've read all your post and comments and suspect we have the same destination, but took roads from opposite sides.

      I have always been a bipolar person, alternating periods of high activity

      (for example, working from monday through thursday without any sleep) and

      complete exhaustion and depression, sleeping for up to 3 days without even

      eating. The extreme of the extreme.

      I tried all types of treatments and medicines but eventually I got stuck on

      depression. On a psychiatrist we started to work on depression, then ADHD

      and mood stabilization.

      I was really feeling better when he asked me to stop with coffee. I had

      all the widthdrawal symptoms described everywhere. And then started to wonder if all

      my life the one and only problem wasn't caffeinism.

      And it was great I found your post. Although I must confess I had to read it sooooo many times. I just couldn't concentrate.. you know what I mean. So, I do think WE have ADHD and I do think coffee is making it worse. Ritalin has made wonders in my case, I just need to get over this coffee withdrawal phase to get the big picture.

      My personal experience tells me (number 3 is still a working progress):

      1) I can't do it, I don't want to do it = depression

      2) I don't know what I have (in fact, had) to do = AD/HD

      3) I need to do it. I'm doing it!! I'm dead tired. I'm zzzZZZZ = caffeinism

      Now, let's play. I can't need what I don't know. I don't need what I can't do. I can't know what I'm.. zzzzZZZZ. How about, I don't have a clue of what I'm doing since I'm too tired to know what I had to to do. Well, pretty funny, but that's been my life... for those not involved you can just replace all that with a single word: "irresponsibility".

      I'll now tell you my coffee numbers so that you can be very happy with yours.

      I drink:

      Brazilian coffee (really, really dark and strong)

      More than 40 cups a day, 1,200 coffees a month

      More than 2 kilograms or 2 liters a month

      Well, it was very funny to read "what was the point.. I don't remember..".. So, here I am, what is the point of my post? I'm to tired... you know...

      So, good luck everyone and don't give up!

      Mr. Milk

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      Thank you seakwriter! I no longer think that coffee is my problem. I am waiting to see if my symptoms go away as I am treated for chronic Lyme Disease, which can cause ADHD like symptoms. I have improved a bit with treatment so far. ADHD does run in my family, so I plan to check it out when I've recovered from Lyme.

      I hope that you are functioning better with your ADHD treatment!

    • profile image


      7 years ago


      From what you describe, we could be twins. I, too, struggled with losing things, locking myself out, being forgetful, getting easily bored. I was also a caffeine addict. Eventually I was diagnosed with adult AD/HD, and getting treated for it has made a significant difference. I hope you'll get tested to see if this biochemical condition is the cause of some of your issues. Caffeine may not be the main culprit.

    • lovelypaper profile image

      Renee S 

      8 years ago from Virginia

      I can't function or start my day without at least one cup of coffee. I'm not one to spend a lot of money on Starbucks, but prefer good ol' instant. I do love the occasional WaWa coffee w/triple caffeine if I need the extra energy. They are so good! I'm trying to replace a cup with Green Tea instead since it's healthier, not to mention a few heart palpitions that scared me to death (I shouldn't have said that). Great Hub.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      8 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi Mel - I think coffee is an acquired taste, but there are so many other sources of caffeine, so if you are sensitive to it at all , you need to be aware of where it is hiding! I'm not a Starbucks fanatic myself. I like a standard cup of coffee or a regular Coke. Yes, we certainly all have our own vices to deal with!

    • mel22 profile image


      8 years ago from ,

      I never could stand the taste of coffee,and I don't understand how anyone could become dependant on something so horrid tasting. I also don't understand the fad of espresso and luxury coffees of Starbuck's and other places that were becoming bigger than mere fads 4 some people. To each his own , I guess !

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      9 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks Kelly! I'm glad you enjoyed this!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I often joke but it is absolutely true, caffeine is the only drug I do but I love caffeine. This is one of my favorite topics. Thank you for sharing.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      9 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks John! I won't even try redbull, because I know myself - I will love it too much!

    • johnmce profile image


      9 years ago from Brighton, UK

      I definitely had an unhealthy dependance on red bull a few years ago. That stuff is deadly! You get the rush of the caffine (and whatever else) and the sugar as well. Nice post as ever amy

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      9 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi prasetio, you're right, they do go togethr for many people. Coffee is just one of the many sources of caffiene in our diets. Not everyone is affected but it in the same way. Thanks for reading!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      9 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I'm not smoker , so I stay away from coffee. As people said that cigarrete match with coffee.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      9 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks idealjanoo!

    • idealjanoo profile image


      9 years ago

      very beautiful hub

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      Yes, lucky us!

    • SweetiePie profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California, USA

      At least coffee is an innocent and happy addiction :).

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi Sally, oh, do I understand your troubles! I have trouble focusing on converstations too, but sometimes people don't notice. I hope they don't ban my beloved coffee - but I am sure it would be good for me. :)

      Uninvited Writer,

      Limiting your intake to one cup a day is hard, but if you do (I have on occasion) there is a little perk you can look forward to now and then! Once you body gets used to just one cup in the morning, every once in a while you can have an afternoon cup, and get a really nice jolt when you need it! But then you can't get hooked again. I always get hooked again.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      10 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      I'm trying to limit my coffee to one cup a day. It is very hard.

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      10 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I, too, thought the calculator was neat.  Caffeinated sunflowers?  Who would have thought. 

      According to the calculator, I consume 255 mg of caffeine per day, well below that 600 mg problem level cited by Oxford University Press.  However, I share many of your behaviors, although what they are symptoms of, I have no idea.  How about walking to the laundry room 15 steps away with a purpose, getting there, and forgetting what the purpose was?  Or being unable to see something through to completion without a huge amount of painful effort redirecting myself, because anything is capable of districting me?  Falling asleep on the phone while a dear friend pours out her heart, simply because I can't concentrate enough to follow her thoughts?  The list goes on.  Of course, it could be that I am among those who have absolutely no caffeine tolerance.

      It's not hard to imagine that some time in the not too distant future as more research is conducted on caffeinism, we could see local legislation like we are seeing with trans fats...good-bye restaurant coffee and devil's food cake.  What a sad day that would be.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      You are welcome, Robie. I think it is interesting that people can react to excessive caffeine in this way. Two cups a day is not bad at all. I am sure there are some studies that would say it is healthy. I am on my third cup already (it is only 9 am here). I routinely cut back to very little, then slowly increase, then cut back again. It's a vicious cycle!

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      Uninvited Writer, I spend my "alone time" with a large coffee at my favorite bookstore. Coffee and books go together! We share the same addicitons. :)

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      LOL SweetiePie! If nothing was addictive, like they say, life would be so simple. Good luck cutting back on coffee. It is really very difficult for me. :)

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      10 years ago from Central New Jersey

      I'm drinking a cup of coffee as I read this LOL. I only drink two big mugs a day but still manage to get distracted and lose my car keys anyway. Very interesting info on effects of caffene on brain function and mood--thanks Amyjane

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      10 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Very good hub. In addition to being addicted to books, I am also addicted to caffeinated coffee. I don't see the point in decaf :)

    • SweetiePie profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Very good points Amy Jane. Remember nothing can be addicting according to some LOL, well maybe if they read this they would learn otherwise. I too am guilty of drinking too much coffee, I am trying to cut back.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      LOL, if I could stay up all night writing and reading here I would :)

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 

      10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      ...And I'm sure HubPages plays absolutely no role in your caffeinism. Too funny.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi Cat, I was shocked at how many products they cover to calculate how much you are taking in - very complete! Thanks for reading:)

    • Kat07 profile image


      10 years ago from Tampa

      Wow, the link to the caffiene calculator is really neat! I like that site!

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      10 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi Bloggermom, thanks for reading! I am quite familiar with that type of headache!

    • Blogger Mom profile image

      Blogger Mom 

      10 years ago from Northeast, US

      I didn't really drink coffee during my pregnancies or while breastfeeding, so as soon as I weaned my youngest (about 4 months ago) I've been making up for lost time. I'm re-addicted to coffee, so much so that I get a headache by noon if I haven't had my morning cup. Love my coffee! Thanks for the interesting Hub! - Blogger Mom

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I drink maybe 2 cans of soda pop with caffeine in it. I have asthma too which it seems to help and it's not as bad as some of those medications they give for asthma. I also suffer from Lupus and so I get fatigued. If not for caffeine, just a little, I couldn't get out of bed. But just like anything else it can be taken too much. Like nicotine.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      11 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi - thank you all for taking the time to comment!

      Marisa - I had no idea that Taurine and Guarana were caffeine in disguise. How tricky of their manfacturers...

      Whitney, I go through withdrawl symptoms without soda too. I think it may actually be worse than going without coffee!

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      11 years ago from California

      amy jane

      Awesome post, thanks for the info. I know that it is true. Now where did I leave that Diet Coke?

    • Whitney05 profile image


      11 years ago from Georgia

      This was interesting. I'm glad I don't have to much of a caffiene problem. I'd rather grab a juice than a soda. Ha. My boyfriend, on the other hand, always has a soda in his hand. He actually has redrawals when he hasn't had a soda or some caffinated drink in a while.

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      11 years ago from Sydney

      Interesting Hub!  There is another Hub somewhere about the benefits of caffeine, of which there are many - it's pretty well accepted now that one or two cups of coffee a day are good for you, not bad.  However, if you have more than two cups, or if you drink other caffeinated drinks as well, you could be in trouble.

      Did you know that Taurine and Guarana are just caffeine under another name, so watch out for sodas containing those, too.  And ordinary chocolate has a lot in it as well (the expensive Swiss and Belgian stuff doesn't).

      Tea has more caffeine than some instant coffees, but a lot less than espresso.

    • profile image

      Alison Morgan 

      11 years ago

      I mostly drink tea . . . which seems more innocent . . . but I totally think I'm an addict! I drink it when I get up, all day at work, and then again after dinner.

      Plus, I've heard it has more caffeine than coffee . . .

      Interesting facts! Thanks!


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