Coffee addiction: Symptoms, consequences and how to eliminate it


In this article, I'm going to explain what coffee addiction is, its symptoms, its consequences, and how to eliminate it.

Table of contents

Our pace of life can make us feel tired, fatigued or lacking in energy at times. Many people turn to coffee for its energizing effects to cope with their daily lives.

Drinking coffee also has a social component. You've probably met someone at some point to have a coffee and chat or had a coffee after a meal with friends.

For all these reasons, it's not strange to hear people say "until I drink coffee, I'm not a person" or "I need a coffee to get through the day". Did you know that coffee can be addictive? And do you know the negative health consequences it has?

In this article, I'm going to explain what coffee addiction is, its symptoms, its consequences and how to eliminate it.

Coffee addiction
Coffee addiction

Why is coffee addictive?

Coffee is a seed that contains a large amount of caffeine, a substance responsible for addiction. Continuous consumption of caffeine can lead to dependence within a few days and become addictive.

What is coffee addiction called? This addiction is called "caffeinomania".

Caffeine would be present, although in smaller quantities, in decaffeinated coffee. In addition, it can be found in other products such as certain soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate or tea.

Next, I will tell you what symptoms must appear to consider coffee as an addiction, its consequences and how to eliminate it.

Symptoms of coffee addiction

The substance-related disorders that appear in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5 classification of mental disorders include ten substances, of which caffeine would be one.

This classification does not consider coffee dependence as a disorder, although it does consider caffeine intoxication and withdrawal syndrome upon reduction or elimination of its consumption.

The classification of the World Health Organization (ICD-11) does not refer to addiction either, but it identifies a disorder called "pattern of continuous caffeine consumption", whose symptoms would be:

  • Daily or near-daily consumption of caffeine.
  • Physical or mental impairment of health caused by consumption.
  • Consumption is continuous and evident for at least one month.
  • The health impairment would be caused either by the route of administration (which may be harmful) or by the toxic effects of caffeine.

Effects caused by caffeine consumption

Caffeine is a substance whose consumption has effects on our body such as:

  • Activation of the central nervous system. It is a psychostimulant substance that causes an increase in the level of alertness and a decrease in the feeling of fatigue.
  • It negatively influences sleep cycles and can lead to insomnia.
  • As an addictive substance, it acts on the brain's reward system, which is essential to the development of addictions.
  • Its prolonged use can cause tolerance, that is to say that the same dose no longer has the same effect and that higher doses are required.
  • It can cause depressive symptoms, anxiety and irritability.
  • At the vascular level, it increases blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Slightly improves respiratory function.
  • Reduces fatigue and tiredness and causes vasodilatation at the muscular level.
  • It can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and even ulcers.
  • It is a risk factor for infertility in women and men.
Coffee's effects revealed in brain scans
Coffee's effects revealed in brain scans (Source:

Consequences of coffee addiction

Consuming high doses of caffeine can cause intoxication, whose symptoms are, according to the World Health Organization (ICD-11):

  • Cognitive, perceptual and consciousness alterations
  • Behavioral, affective and coordination alterations
  • Preoccupation
  • Anxiety
  • Excitement
  • Insomnia
  • diuresis
  • redness of the face
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Muscle spasms
  • psychomotor agitation
  • sweating or chills
  • Nausea or vomiting

As in any addiction, stopping its use causes a withdrawal syndrome whose symptoms, listed in the ICD-11, can be:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Dysphoric mood (experiencing unpleasant emotions)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty concentrating

How to overcome coffee addiction?

Below, I offer the main guidelines for stopping coffee addiction.

1. Make the decision

First of all, you will have to make the decision to reduce your coffee consumption. If you still haven't figured it out, you can read about the harmful effects its continued consumption has on your health and the benefits of giving it up.

2. Be aware of the addiction

Secondly, once you have decided that you want to reduce and/or eliminate your consumption, you need to be aware and analyze what your addiction looks like and its extent. To do this, it would be worthwhile to fill out a self-record of how much coffee you drink. This should include:

  • Each coffee you drink per day and what type it is (if it is decaf, cut, etc.)
  • How much you take in each one
  • Where or in what situation do you consume it?
  • What time of day do you take each?
  • Finally, you can rate from 0 to 10 the craving and/or degree of enjoyment that each of the coffees you drink gives you.

3. Set realistic goals

If the goal you set is too costly, such as quitting drinking completely, you can break it down into smaller goals (for example, start by cutting down on one cup of coffee). Throughout the process, don't leave out the registration. Set realistic goals for yourself and try to achieve them.

4. Plan rewards

Of course, you'll need to reward yourself once you reach it, such as doing an activity you enjoy or cooking foods you particularly like.

5. Reduce use

By knowing how your addiction works and being clear on your goal, you can begin to work on your addiction by applying some of these tips to gradually reduce it:

  • Start by eliminating coffees that you have found to be less necessary or enjoyable.
  • If you can't live without them, at least reduce the amount of caffeine by substituting decaffeinated coffees instead.
  • If any of your drinking takes place in a social setting, i.e., you are drinking because you are going out for coffee with one or more other people, replace the coffee with other non-caffeinated beverages such as chamomile or certain teas such as rooibos.
  • Continue to eliminate or replace coffee until you reach your goal.

6. Eliminate the associated stimuli

In more severe cases, you can intervene on the stimuli associated with coffee. For example, keep the coffee pot out of sight or, in the case of total abandonment, stop buying coffee in the final stages.

7. Prepare alternatives

Another key guideline for overcoming coffee addiction is to anticipate the situations that most predispose you to consumption. You already know the situations in which you most crave coffee, so you can try to avoid them or prepare for them. For example, think about what you are going to order instead of drinking coffee.

8. Distraction and relaxation

To combat withdrawal and overcome coffee addiction, perform pleasant and enjoyable tasks and use relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing or yoga.

9. Be aware of relapse

Finally, keep in mind that with any addiction comes a relapse. Don't blame yourself, analyze what caused it and try to prevent it in the future.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative, I have no authority to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. I invite you to visit a psychologist to treat your particular case.