How do you know when you're addicted to coffee?

If you want to start your day off right, what do you do?

You might need a big breakfast, a hot shower, or even a morning yoga session. But if you’re like seven out of ten Americans, you also need something more. You need a nice tall cup of coffee.

Many people can’t start their days until they have caffeine coursing through their veins. And, while tea and soft drinks are also popular beverages, coffee is most people’s caffeinated drink of choice. 

However, there’s a fine line between “morning pick-me-up” and “caffeine junkie.” Let’s try to identify it. 

How caffeine affects your body

Caffeine is a stimulant that affects your central nervous system. It also helps pump chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol around your body. Because of that, small doses of caffeine help you feel energized and refreshed. 

Some studies show that over time, your body can build up a tolerance to caffeine (1). When that happens, you’ll need more of it to get the same effect. 

Caffeine can also have some negative effects on your body. Some of these include:

  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Heart problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty socializing 

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Be aware of how your body responds to it so you can avoid the negative effects. 

What withdrawal looks like

One of the easiest ways to know whether you have a caffeine addiction is by paying attention to how your body feels without it. 

People who don’t have caffeine addictions can stop drinking it and feel fine. They might want to drink coffee for the taste, but their body isn’t craving caffeine to function. On the other hand, people with caffeine addictions can’t control how much coffee they drink. When they try to cut back, many people experience the following effects:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Decreased alertness
  • Difficulty being happy

In extreme cases, some people going through caffeine withdrawal have also reported symptoms like muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms can go on for days before they abate. 

Reduce your caffeine dependence 

As caffeine can be addictive, reducing your dependency can be a challenge. As with any drug, the first step is admitting that you have a problem and recognizing that it’s affecting your health. Once you do that, you can take steps to reduce your dependency.

Although professionals might not be able to offer much in the form of treatment options, your doctor can still offer advice. Speak with them and see if they have any suggestions. 

Doctors will often recommend adding more water to your diet. Doing so helps hydrate your body, combating some of the withdrawal symptoms. It also allows your body to enjoy the sensation of drinking. 

You can also try replacing a cup of coffee with a non-caffeinated option. For example, if you drink an average of three cups a day, try swapping one of them out with an herbal tea

Everything in moderation 

If you love coffee, find strength in solidarity—you’re not alone! And remember that just because you enjoy drinking coffee doesn’t mean that you have a problem. 

That said, if you feel yourself becoming dependant on caffeine, speak with your doctor and take steps to overcome the addiction.

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